Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Mess of Thread

This is a pretty wonky post so if you aren't into the minutiae of quilting, you may want to just scroll through the pictures.

I thought it would be fun to describe how I came to quilt (and quilt) my latest quilt. Don't you find it confusing that quilt is both a noun and a verb? I started with a very simple pattern in one of my older books. The pattern is a traditional Boston Common with some four-patch blocks in alternate rows. I chose it because I had a stack of mostly sunflower fabrics to use and the required amounts meshed well with what I had. It's also a pattern I love, so I knew I would enjoy piecing it.

I chain pieced the blocks, finishing the top over a couple of weekends. Then came quilting decisions. One reason I put this simple top together was to practice quilting with my new toy, a free motion quilting foot set. It is pretty cool. Three different feet on a base that attaches to my machine. Open toe, closed toe and for lack of a better term, big toe.

I started off stitching in the ditch along several major seam lines to provide stability. I'm not convinced when everything has been spray basted that this is a necessary step, but it gave me a chance to move the quilt around under my machine, assessing what might work for free motion patterns. I knew I wanted some curvy quilting to offset the straight lines of the design, and I wanted some of that quilting to be feathers.

Starting in the light center portion, I quilted feathers out from the center to the yellow corners. I liked the effect but had chosen a variegated yellow thread and it just didn't show up as much as I wanted it to. I let that thought percolate for a while as I quilted a leaf and vine pattern in the green squares, treating them as a border. Originally I had selected a green thread for this, but opted to keep my machine threaded with yellow, increasing visibility on the green background. Better, though still not a strong enough statement. A friend suggested I go around a second time, outlining the leaf and vine pattern. That second row of yellow quilting really helped.

For the outside border I chose piano keys for their straight lines, balancing the curved quilting everywhere else. The green thread worked well here. I used blue painter's tape along the block points to mark the keys and guide my stitching, which I carried into the green border, stopping each line where it touched the leaves. For these straight lines I switched back to a regular foot, not free motion. This provided greater control but also meant I had to stop and start over for each line. I think long-arm quilters use a ruler for this work. I hear a ruler foot is available for a domestic machine now--maybe that will be my next toy?

Red Thread!
Next came filler quilting. To make motifs pop you need to flatten the background. To accomplish this I first echo quilted my feathers twice using yellow thread, then switched to Bottom Line thread in off-white so it would not compete with my feathers and stippled the open areas. I loved how the feathers began to fill and stand away from the background but that yellow thread still blended into the background to the point of disappearing! In desperation I grabbed a spool of heavy, dark red thread and quilted over one of the feathers, figuring I could rip it out if I wasn't pleased. Not bad! I took a deep breath and over-quilted all the feathers with dark red, leaving the yellow beneath and as echo quilting. Much happier. Who would have thought?

Vines, feather, piano keys and fill
Remember the green thread? I decided to use it as filler thread around the vine, as the color blended with the background better than my Bottom Line off-white. Being thicker than Bottom Line, the green also provided a nice texture change. I filled all the spaces between the leaves on the side of the quilt next to the center, but on the side with the piano keys I opted to add filler only to a few larger spaces, between the keys. I love the effect!

All that's left is to bind and label. I'm seriously thinking of naming it A Mess of Thread--all that quilting and over quilting and issues with tension as I learned to work with my new feet! For the record, I really like them. Much better than my old clear plastic foot that wasn't so clear any more and was hard to see through and hard to see around. The metal feet are so much smaller they don't obscure my vision at all. If you've stuck with me this long, you are truly a quilting geek! Go quilt!

The back

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Picture This!

So proud of the students in the Picture This! class last weekend. In spite of challenges with the fusible web on Friday, they persevered and produced the truly marvelous parade of chairs seen above! 

The second day we worked on creating a landscape for the chairs and boats to live in. Everyone learned several new techniques, including the most fun way to make trees from Tree Bits! I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of anyone's tree, so take my word for it, they look amazing.

It is really cool to see how the fabric choices affect the mood of the scene. Even before any stitching is done, the pieces begin taking on perspective and dimension. I sure hope some of the students will send along pictures of their finished pieces (or works in progress!) Here are some photos taken around mid-day.

Lisa's scene with curly grass and swirly water

Sandrea played pattern on pattern to great effect
Pat's luscious fabric choice for her ground really wowed us

Missed the fun? Linda and I will be teaching Baker's Dozen Improv on Saturday, May 14. Sign up with Tyler at the Sewing Machine Exchange. It will be a blast!