SID For Stand Up Quilters

sidimageStand Up Machine Quilters seem to be divided into 2 camps- those who love to stitch-in-the-ditch  ( SID), and those who dislike it.  My theory about this relates to careful precision work.  Either you are a detail person and do not mind slowing down to quilt exactly in the ditch between two seams, or you feel that life is way too short to be so anal.

When I first bought my longarm machine back in 2004, I tried SIDing a few times and decided I hated it.  If a client was set on having their quilt seams ditched, I would refer them to someone who loved it.  This worked just fine for me, at least until I started doing higher end custom work.  I discovered you really needed to SID, otherwise, the machine quilting judges would correctly point out that the seams needed to lay down crisp and clean when the major seam lines are ditched.  At a large major show, the points lost could cost you the difference between placing or not, if the rest of the quilt is beautifully quilted, pieced and bound.

judge2Which brings me to this cartoon I drew that is on topic.  A well known talented quilter once created a masterful whole cloth quilt for a show competition.  Her constructive feedback comment from the judge is reflected in this cartoon below:

So I forced myself to learn how to SID.  While it is still not my favorite thing to do, I have learned to appreciate how it looks when done correctly.  Because I taught myself this skill, I approach it differently than many other machine quilters.  Here is SID, Carla style.

Supplies: Thread, extended base, rulers.

Thread: Madiera Monolon is my favorite light monofilament thread,  they used to manufacture a smoke colored mono that was wonderful, but it is no longer available.  Superior’s Monopoly is my 2nd favorite brand of mono- both Smoke and Clear.  Both brands are strong to run through large commercial machines and are not “plasticy” looking.

Color of Thread:  Since most monofilament thread comes in two colors- Smoke and Clear.  Be sure to use the clear mono on lighter fabric seams and Smoke mono on darker fabric seams.

Bobbin Thread:  I choose the color of the bobbin thread to match the area I am ditching.  Why?  If you are ditching and you change directions, there is a strong likelihood of the top tension to pull on the bottom thread, making it slightly visible. Since I am sharing what works for me, this is the lesson I learned the hard way on my machine system.  My favorite brand of thread is Superior Thread.

rulermate_a1_upper_front3Extended Metal Ruler Base- This is an add-on metal ruler base that I purchased years ago  is called a Ruler Mate.  This metal base plate really changed my SID life because it does not wobble like my old plastic extended base that shipped with my machine system.  Unfortunately, they are no longer being manufactured, however, look for them on the secondary market.

Ruler- I have a variety of rulers I use for SID, but straightmy favorite one is by Accent in Design called Fine Line Rulers.  They have wonderful pegs on top of the ruler which allow you to have maximum control.  If you happen to have arthritis, or similar issues,  the Fine Line Rulers help you to hold it in place without pain.

By the way, no one paid me to write the above product endorsements, I just love their products.  🙂

How I SID and When– I happen to SID last, after I have quilted the entire quilt.  This is just how I taught myself, and it works for me.  Feel free to SID when you like, so long as you do not quilt pleats or lose control of your quilt sandwich.  (Note: If you are a sit down quilter, then you would SID first to stabilize your quilt sandwich)

Thread Tension: I loosen the top tension considerably, and then test stitch off to the side to ensure that my tension is perfect, both top and bottom.

Slow Down:  I put on my metal extended base, too, and then slow my machine’s “cruise control” on its stitch regulator way down.  I retest the tension, grab my Fine Line Ruler, then I am ready to ditch.

The goal to ditching a quilt is to have it not be seen.  If it is noticeable or wobbly, then I would remove the wayward stitching and start again.  If you slow your machine down, you will gain control and can place the stitch where you want it.

SID example by Carla Barrett

SID example by Carla Barrett

When starting out, you may experience that SID work seems easier when done either vertically or horizontally. With time and practice, you will find you can easily SID in all directions. Here is an example of a well done ditch ( see left image).

SID the Low Side of Seam: Next tip is to carefully pick what side of the ditch you are going to stitch on.  You always want to SID the low side. Look at the photo shown on the left.  On the red/black seam, which I have ditched, the red side is the low side.  In the gold/red seam, the gold section is where I will be stitching as it is the low side of the seam.  I also will use gold thread in the bobbin and monofilament thread on top.

Tips for Precision: I quilt right handed, so another trick is to use your non-dominant hand to open the seam up as you carefully stitch.  Another tip is to use a clamp on magnifying glass to assist that you can easily see the seam.

Not all Quilts Need to Have SID:  Note that there may be a couple of reasons to NOT SID a quilt.  Obviously, if you are doing an Edge-to-Edge design or a pantograph, there is no need to SID.  Also, the quilt top maker’s pressing technique will certainly affect your decision to SID or not. If the seam flips from one side to another while pressing, then this will cause your SID to wobble to the low side.

toniquiltsAnother reason to not SID a quilt is when the pieced seams are not straight and/or if the corners/intersections do not match up.  SID would bring unwelcome attention to the quilt’s imperfections, so best to pick a quilting plan that will draw the eye away from the quilt’s flaws.

In the quilt, shown right,  I intentionally chose to not SID because the quilt was not straight.  Instead, I quilted it freehand style to draw the eye away from the imperfections.  It worked, this quilt won “Best of Show” at the County Fair.  The owner of the quilt was very happy.

To recap, my main tips are to 1) have the right thread and tools at your disposal.  2) if you SID, then take the time to slow down and 3) Do a good job or else remove it and redo, and last, Always SID on the low side of the ditch. 4) Some quilts may not need SID.

Hope you enjoy this post on SID for Stand Up Quilting.  If you would like to see more informative posts, please write and let me know.  🙂  Carla


Open Call for Quilting Mistake Images!

smallestfrogLet’s face it- we are imperfect people who make lots of mistakes in life. After all, if we were perfect, life would be perfectly boring, right?

So I am in the midst of class development for a new machine quilting class I start teaching in the Fall, called “Avoiding The Oops.”  I realized that I need more photos to illustrate some of the common machine quilting issues seen by quilters.  While I can replicate many common errors for class samples, it would be helpful if any readers had a photo to share on this topic.

Hence my “Open Call” for photos showing any type of quilting oops.  I promise you will be fully credited for your photo, if used.  To send me photos, just click on the contact link, above, and I will write you back.  Or, just leave me a comment and I will get back to you.  If I use your image, I promise to send you my helpful and thorough class handout for this class when I am finished.

copyrightbadkittyWriting this class has been fun!  Once you start listing all the various errors that can be made in quilting, you realize, from the growing length of my list, just how easily it can be to make an oops- no matter how experienced you are.

What is a quilting “oops?’  Trust me, you know it when you see it, quilt it, or view it at a quilt show.   Quilt show judge comments are another good source of quilting “issues,” that you may wish to share, too.

Carla Quilting Oops Tip– When I was a brand new quilter, way back a decade ago, one of my first lessons learned the hard way was to clean my machine head thoroughly and frequently as I worked on a quilt.  Why, you might ask?  What went wrong?

I had a client quilt that happened to be very scrappy.  It had only one or two white areas, but in quilting, Murphy’s Law often comes into play.  I knew enough as a new quilter to clean out my bobbin case frequently, and wipe down most surfaces.  I forgot to wipe under the machine head though, right next to the needle, which had a build up of oily lint.  You guessed it, this greasy oily lint decided to float down onto the quilt top, landing on the white space, leaving a mess once you touched it.

How to Fix?  First thing I grabbed was some cornstarch to soak up the oil.  Once dry, I carefully vacumned up the cornstarch, taking care not to stretch the area.  This didn’t work, so next step was some Dawn detergent, carefully applied with a q-tip.  Another failure, so on to grease removal product B, C, D, and E.  All failures.

The solution for this quilt was to remove quilting from the white fabric and surrounding area, then to carefully remove the triangular piecing with the oily stain, and to use this piece to cut a new white fabric piece.  There was no need to offload the quilt from the frame, the fix was completed while the quilt was loaded.

This new clean white fabric piece was carefully sewn back in, making sure the batting also had no oil/grease residue.  Then the space was requilted.  I kept the stained piece to show the client my oops, and then the fix- in the spirit of full disclosure.

The best part is that my fix was flawless!  You could not tell that there had been an oops, or a repair.  I used the same technique to restore the space as taught to me by a quilt restorer friend.  Anyway, I never repeated this oops again.  Plus, I learned to keep my machine head and surrounding area clean and pristine, too!

Thanks in advance for anyone contributing to my Quilting Oops list and photo gallery.  Regards, Carla






PIQF Win for Jenny!

I am so proud of my friend, Jenny Lyon, who won the 1st Runner up Best of Show at Pacific International Quilt Fest!  I have always loved her quilting, and I am especially in awe that she does it with her domestic standard machine, too.  Here is Jenny standing in front of her award winning quilt:

Here are some close-ups showing how lovely her quilting is:

This was a meaningful quilt for Jenny.  She writes,   “The quilt is based on a strong childhood memory of crouching in my Mother’s fern and Lily-of-the-Valley bed. I loved that! The smells were so beautiful and strong, there were all kinds of bugs in there and it was just a spot of beauty-sight, sound, smell and touch. I used Radiance in the center and hand dyed raw silk by Linda M Designs for the border, wool batt, every thread know to man, beads, metallics, silk inset and cotton backing. I am astounded to have received such recognition.”

Her winning quilt also had some bug motifs in the quilt. Here is one example:

Jenny also won a Bernina sewing machine, too.  How cool is that?  Visit her blog to see a picture of her new machine, as well as additional quilt pictures.  Anyway, I just wanted to share with you how excited I am for Jenny and how wonderful it is to see her work being recognized!!  Congrats, Jenny!

Quilt Tops

I often mention in my classes that new quilters should pick up eBay quilt tops in order to practice their skills.  Today, I decided to pick up a few “US-made quilt tops” and quilt them as “eBay Quilt Top” examples to show students.  I guess you could say I am going to practice what I teach.

So what did I buy?   Check out this log cabin quilt from eBay seller, jeano1961:

Look at all that lovely blank spaces to place some cool designs?

Here is a 1930’s vintage Dresden Plate quilt pattern using feed sack material in the Dresden Plates.  This beauty is in excellent shape:

Again, can you see some stunning quilting motifs in the yellow blocks?

And here is a lovely Pineapple Blossom scrap quilt:

Can’t wait to quilt them later in the year!  I will have fun designing them!

Anyone else ever buy nice quilt tops off of eBay?   Take care, Carla



Best of Show at Folsom!!

Barb shared the good news tonight that the antique kimono quilt I quilted and finished just a day before my spine surgery won “Best of Show” at the Folsom Quilt Guild in Folsom, CA.  It also won a first place, too, in the memory quilt category.

I wish I had some good pictures, but here are some snapshots of this wonderful quilt that Barb pieced and designed for her friend, Sally. Sally is planning to hang this quilt in a place of honor in her home.

This photo shows an overview of the back of the quilt:

Here is the front of the quilt, just after I finished it:

Another front view showing the silk blocks, photo transfers, etc.:

Block front:

Block Back:

Kimono Block front:

Another kimono front:

The back shot of this block:

and another kimono block back:

So, above are the pictures of this quilt showing my quilting design.  Now some detail info for machine quilters:  Notice I have lots of freehand quilting, some ruler work and 2 stencils to blend together for this quilt design.  Design elements are repeated throughout the quilt for unity.

I feel that the quilting design is cohesive, balanced, and I carefully picked the thread colors so that the quilting did not overpower the photo transfers or quilt design.  Overall, I used about 10 different thread colors.  In the center section, I curved lines to draw the eye towards the center, the focal point photo on this quilt.

My congrats to Barb on this Best of  Show win- our second together at the Folsom Guild.   My only regret is that I am still recovering from my surgery and am unable to see the quilting hanging in the show.  Hopefully, someone will send me some good quality pictures.

Oh yes, I also want to mention that the lovely silk photo transfers were done by my good friends, the Pixeladies, Deb and Kris.  If the names sound familiar, it is because they will be teaching Photoshop Elements next month on  An announcement will be made most likely within a week.

I have been recovering from my surgery the last 3 weeks, which means I lay down most of the day, interspersed with walking.  I am normally very active before surgery, so I was feeling a bit of recovery boredom the last few days.  This bit of news cheers me up!!  Hugs, Carla

Good News From Nancy!

Nancy, who lives in Lenoir, NC, USA, called me this weekend to let me know that her Morganton, NC guild show judging had taken place- and that the quilt I quilted for her won 1st place in her guild’s professional division.  Here is the quilt that won:

Here is the back:

Here is a closeup of the front.  I had some challenges with this quilt as my stitch regulator and SID  feature on my longarm went cabooey, so I couldn’t do any straight line work.

My machine was fixed after this quilt, so life is good once again!

Nancy is a very sweet woman in her 80’s.  I do enjoy quilting her quilts; she is a dear friend!  I am glad she won as there was some issues with her entering previously since she used a quilter who did not live in NC.   That “rule” has been lifted by the current board members, so Nancy was allowed to enter this year.

I do wish Nancy had internet service so she could see how much you all enjoy her quilts! One time, I read your comments to her and she was thrilled!

Happy Quilting!  Carla

News From Nancy

Remember the last quilt I did for Nancy?  Here is the “before:”

And here is the after:

Very sweet quilt.  Nancy is a doll, so she deserves nice quilting.

Anyway, Nancy called today and told me that she named this quilt after me.  I believe it is titled, “Carla’s Lovely Stitches.”    Ahhhhh….. that is so sweet!

The other news relates to her guild.  A year ago, she was told she couldn’t enter her quilts because her quilter lived out of state.  This really hurt her feelings, so she stopped showing all her quilts.

Well, the guild reviewed this ruling and changed it so she could enter this quilt and others.  So she is entering this quilt into the August show this month.

Wishing all good things for Nancy!  Btw, I have a yellow and white reproduction antique quilt pattern quilt coming up from Nancy.  I haven’t designed it yet, but will soon.  Will show pictures when I do.

How I Work

Some cartoons evolve based on a thought.  Sometimes I just sketch and freeform draw, then put the sketch away.  Here is an example of such a rough sketch:

This one is not autobiographical, I must say. LOL

Then, I redraw and fine tune my sketch into a cartoon format:

Then, my last step is the wording.  I probably will change the mirror words to reflect the theme of the finished cartoon.  In the cartoon above, I am thinking about women and their struggle with self confidence mixed with a Stuart Smalley type of daily affirmation.  I admit, it just doesn’t yet work for me.

This cartoon might evolve into a finished cartoon, or maybe not.  I have a whole file of semi finished cartoons that are waiting to be completed like the one above.

Here is another preliminary sketch:

Which then evolved into this cartoon, which poked fun at judges:

So this gives you a glimpse of how I work with my cartoons.  Most are about quilting, but others reflect what is happening in my life; like the time I had my baseline colonoscopy:

Of course, this was only funny AFTER  I had the experience.  LOL

Cheers, Carla

Local Newspaper Article

Imagine my surprise today when I opened my local paper and saw an article on a quilt I had quilted, called “Decadent Goose:”

Here is another picture of my quilting when I was working on this quilt:

This quilt was pieced and owned by Candy Brown.  Here is a full shot of the quilt after the binding:

The article says that the quilt was selected as a semi-finalist at AQS Paducah and that “Brown and quilter Carla Barrett, of El Dorado, were chosen to display the quilt, “Decadent Goose.”

There is a nice picture of Candy in her quilting studio in the article.

As soon as the article makes it online, I will let you all know.  I had my photo taken last week regarding the guild quilt for the same paper.  Apparently there will be a future article on the Guild Opportunity Quilt.

Anyone going to Paducah?    Regards, Carla

Guild Show results

I quilted this quilt not too long ago for my friend, Nancy, that lives in North Carolina.  I showed it here on the blog after I finished, but will post it again to refresh your memory:

nancy last border

nancyfinish 2

Nancy called me today to let me know that it earned a blue ribbon and a best machine ribbon in her Burke County Guild show.    Woo-hoo!  Congrats to Nancy and I!  But here is the funny part, they placed it into the “Digital” quilted category, it appears as a computerized quilted quilt.  LOL!!  My work is hand guided-similar to drawing with a pencil on paper.  No computer machine here.

Now, there is nothing wrong with well done computer quilting, by the way.  In fact, if I had an extra 10-15k lying around I might even buy one.

I guess that is, in its own way, praise.  Anyway, I am happy for Nancy, who is a lovely person, and I love to quilt for her.  That is where my joy comes from- quilting for someone who appreciates what you do.

Any thoughts, dear blog readers??