The hardest part about quilting is QUILTING! On the other hand, piecing a quilt top can be either easy or hard. You choose. Some quilts can be put together in a day, others are complicated and have as many as 10,000 pieces. The point here is that you get to choose. Some quilters never get past the piecing.
In a Ricky Tims seminar I recently attended, he paints a comic picture of a horse galloping full speed ahead towards the edge of a cliff, at which time it comes to a screeching halt. The reason it is comic is that most quilters can relate! We piece tops at full speed and then, once the top is finished, we put the brakes on. It gets set aside – sometimes for years. That’s it. We are done with it. One person I know has 50 quilt tops ready to be quilted. If you are ok with it, so am I. It’s just that I want to add more to my toolkit.
What is it about quilting that is hard? Everything. Sandwiching the layers, marking the stitching lines, actually quilting the monster, choosing thread, knowing which products to use, etc. There are hundreds of decisions to be made and thousands of pieces of advice. Knowing what works for you, with the equipment or tools you have, to get the result you want, may be tricky. It is one reason many quilters, myself included, have contracted out this part.
But maybe the most difficult part is actually deciding which quilting design(s) to use. I am very curious to know how the “ribbon-worthy”make their design decisions. Look at pictures of award winning quilts. They use many different quilting patterns on the same piece. The patterns complement each other, and the shapes in the piecing. You might not even notice the stitching because the different patterns look cohesive as a whole. Their quilts do not look like they were trying to practice a dozen different designs or that the designs were just thrown on to the quilt. They look intentional. They do not distract but rather improve the end result. How did they do that? How did they decide which quilting designs to use? Even more important, why did they discard other designs? Given the blank slate of several quilt tops, it would be interesting to know what their approach and thought process would be.
Quilting has been my nemesis. Practice, Practice, Practice. That is what I am told I should do. So, working with that theory I decided to make place mats for Christmas. Once again, Quilter’s World (A Quilted Christmas, December 2015) provided the perfect pattern – Triplets, by Chloe Anderson and Colleen Reale. I made 10 place mats and was determined that each one should be quilted different.
At the beginning, I resorted to the tried and true personal favorites – straight, parallel lines with the feed dogs up. Some followed the Tumbler shape, some did not. After doing several, I realized that the stitching density was inconsistent, and simple straight stitching could be boring all by itself. It was time to mix it up a bit.
Now that I knew I needed to add more stitching to some, I started to leave spaces intentionally on others, just so I could start combining patterns. I was still working with the feed dogs up, but was it time to practice some free motion embroidery? Heaven forbid! I pulled out some reference material. Shape by Shape by Angela Walters became my bible. As I referred to it over and over again, I got more ideas and my confidence grew. I added some free-motion embroidery and the last place mat is all free motion!
Some patterns worked better than others but overall I am pleased with the results. I have included pictures of the backs just because the stitching patterns are easier to see.