Quilting the Quilt

 

 

WHAT TO YOU WANT THE QUILTING TO ACCOMPLISH?

The first step to figuring out how to quilt your top is deciding what you want the quilting to do.  Will it quietly hold the top, batting and backing together?  Will the quilting be an integral part of the overall design?  Or will it show off another part of the quilt like a theme fabric or a design detail?  In the case of  “Friends in Rows”  I had eight rows that each deserved a quilt all its own.  It’s a round robin quilt so each row was designed and made by a different person.  The only thing the rows shared was one piece of dotted fabric that had to be used.  Only a tiny bit appeared in some rows.  Clearly, the quilting had to be a uniting force.

To give each row its due, I floated them on a solid black background and offset the rows.  The theme I chose at the beginning of the project was “flowers and leaves.”  In retrospect, I should’ve been more precise.  (Every quilt teaches something.)  The right side has a wide black border to allow for more quilting to pull it all together.

Between the rows and on the left, I quilted lots and lots of leaves.  Even though the thread is a fairly bright green, the black keeps it in the background.  The beauty of leaves is that in the real world, they’re all different.  Some seem “perfect” and others are a little misshapen or maybe even a bit chewed on.  This kind of quilting also makes for fairly easy transportation around a large quilt.

The right side required just a bit more planning.  I chose where the flowers would be so I’d know where I was going and sketched in a few basics on the bottom third with a chalk pencil.  My favorite chalk pencil is General’s Charcoal White.  It’s nice and soft, easily sharpened and a damp sponge erases it.  (These pencils are easy to find in craft and art supply stores.) In this case, because the quilt was so large, I sketched in sections as the chalk will rub off.  As I finished each section, I sketched in the next one.  The stalk and leaves were the same green as the other leaves and the petals are several shades of yellow and gold.

Even though this fantasy sunflower was largely sketched in, I didn’t follow the lines slavishly.  I made the petals on top with the lighter yellow shades and used the gold for underneath.  Had the petals been tightly thread painted, they would have stood out more, which might be more appropriate for a different top.  On this one such bright quilting could easily fight for dominance with the pieced rows.

A few tips:

  1.  Many quilters advise that going full speed keeps the flow going.  I find that a slower pace keeps me from feeling completely out of control.  Keep it at a fairly steady pace and fast enough to keep the stitching flowing, but at a speed at which you feel comfortable.
  2. If your machine has a needle down capability, use it.  You will have to stop and adjust, especially on a really large piece.  Needle down helps keep the transition from one section to the next smooth.
  3. Practice on a scrap piece to make sure your needle and thread will play nicely with your quilt sandwich.  If you keep notes on what worked with each quilt, you’ll have a good place to start with your next project.
  4. I used Aurifil 40 wt thread on this project.  My machine prefers that that I also use 40 wt in the bobbin.  Sewing machines can be persnickety about this stuff, so you may have to experiment to get the top and bottom to work well together.
  5. Relax your shoulders (they shouldn’t be up around your ears) and get up and move around often.  This activity should not be painful.
  6. And finally – a really dark background shows off your quilting.  It also shows every stray thread and bit of lint.  I actually believe that it calls to lint from all over the neighborhood to come over and play.  Keep that lint roller handy!

And this is how it turned out:

When the snow melts, I’ll get a picture outside.  There’s no place big enough to hang it inside.

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