Frayed Edges and Stray Threads
Throughout the quilting process small issues will arise even for the most experienced quilters and seamstresses. Occasionally, these issues travel into my hands as I work with various quilters, suppliers, and technicians at all experience levels. As I come across such situations, I hope to share about them here on this blog as both an educational post, as well as, a sort of business transparency.
The first post in this series will be on the topic of frayed edges and stray threads. I mention trimming threads and frays on the Quilt Preparation tab of this website, and will honestly say that it is certainly not my favorite activity when I have finished piecing a quilt and feel ready to quilt it. However, it is an important part of the process, particularly if you are concerned with a clean finish.
You see, often as we design our next beautiful quilt we, sometimes unwittingly, use a technique of color theory called contrast. Contrast involves placing two or more dissimilar or opposite colors side by side to accentuate the area, in short to make a design "pop". Particularly common in quilting is piecing colored or dark fabrics directly next to a white or cream, thus causing a stark difference between the pieces and making a highly visible design. However, this combination comes at a risk.
As you continue to work with the fabric pressing, trimming, pulling and pushing it through your sewing machine, the fabrics will continue to be loosened from the weave structure and individual yarns will begin to fray from the edges. These frayed yarns hang from the raw edges and seam lines on the backside of your pieced quilt top, at first they are not very noticeable as we often work on colored cutting mats or pressing tables during the piecing stage. However, as your pieced quilt top is pressed closely to the quilt batting in preparation of quilting, the dark colored frayed yarns become visible through the light fabrics creating a shadow or stained appearance.
The best plan of attack against these imperfections is to take the time to carefully look over the backside of the pieced work and trim any frayed yarns or threads hanging from seams. You have already committed so much time to preparing the quilt, a few more minutes spent carefully inspecting your work can save a great deal of headache down the line. While you perform this fray check look for other small imperfections such as popped seams or small gaps, as these can occur if you accidentally created a scant 1/4" seam which then further frayed. Correcting these issues here will prevent further damage or more difficult fixes down the line, which can all add up if you are sending your quilt to a professional quilter. Also take note of any additional issues with the quilt or fabric, perhaps small stains have appeared during the piecing process as you drank coffee or wine while sewing. If you aren't sure how to fix them, mentioning them up front to the quilter might result in suggestions for stain removal or corrections that you can manage and add to your toolbox of quilting knowledge and skills.
Back to frays and strays, when this issue travels to me as the quilter, I have a small tool I can use to fish these yarns and threads free pulling them through the front of the quilt on a tiny hook. However, this can be a time consuming process if there are many to correct and can result in additional charges being tacked onto the estimated quilting cost, I will contact the client and ask their opinion whether these issues will bother them and whether they are worth the additional time and cost for me to correct. If there are few (fewer than six) of these, I typically will pull them without additional charge as a certain amount of fraying or strays cannot be avoided.
Now, as I said at the beginning, I wrote this post as an opportunity to educate the quilters I work with, as wouldn't we all like to improve our quilting skills and knowledge? Also, I never want to be thought of as taking advantage of the wonderful people I work with, their business is a blessing to me but it is also business and my time has value too, so in an effort of transparency I shared this process and the possible repercussions to the cost of quilting services. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding any portion of quilting preparation.