For many quilters - the joy is in the piecing. It's common to rush to get the first block finished - just to see what all the colours and patterns look like. More blocks, sporadic assembly, adding sashing and borders are often accomplished in random order. Excitement, minor adjustments on blocks and replacing one piece with another is all part of the process.
What is harder to do - is to create the quilt with the quilting in mind. Quilters often love making quilts becuase of the colours and patterns that they create. But once the top is completed and they send it off to be quilted - they are not sure how they want it quilted! How do you breathe life into that lovely creation?
Sometimes the easiest answer to the "how would you like it quilted?" question is to just say - "edge to edge is good". But after all that work creating wonderful patterns, why add quilting that takes away from the great designs you just completed? It's for this reason that I love custom quilting. It enhances the work of the piecing and makes the quilt come to life!
Some of things to consider when piecing are:
Most folks don't know - that I was unceremoniously removed from a career I loved due to circumstances that I did not create - nor could I control. No, I wasn't unruly - but I have been known to to be determined. I'll follow the rules (if I have to), but it always helps to know why those rules are in place.
I was disappointed to say the least to have to leave my career - but I am a woman of action - and so I switched gears, turned a corner and returned to a love of mine - quilting!
Luckily - a door opened for me to start long-arm quilting. I did first make a purchase of a longarm quilting machine - but a store owner notived my enthusiam and asked me to work a longarm in one of her stores for customers. I fell even more in love with quilting - very quickly. AND THEN COVID. Stores closed. customers dried up. Now what? Well some folks know that I can be a bit of a risk taker. Sometimes it gets me into trouble. Other times it pays off - but I'm always willing to give something new a try!
So, I decided to dive deeper into longarming - without the lessons. Sink or swim. And swim I have! I began watching videos and practicing - including doodling to get muscle memory for curves, feathers and other designs. I began also using rulers with my machine - curved ones, straight ones, combining them to make designs of all kinds.
And then I saw it. A video where the operator of the longarm was using a curved ruler and then for the sake of speed - dirched the ruler and just began doing short curves - without any guides, lines or aids to keep the sewing even.
Well I may be a little off my rack - but I decided to go rogue - and get Un-rulery! I ditched the slow curve ruler, and began focusing on where I wanted to sew (or go) instead of watching where I was going. And it paid off! Instead of traditional stitching in the ditch and following an exact line - I sew freehand and it has liberated me! Sewing outside the box you might say! Now most of my quilting is done without rulers - even a lot of straight lines! It has cut my quilting time in half - and the quilts I do now really end up looking quite spectacular!
And so you can say - I am definitely "Un-Rulery" and well so are the quilts that come off my rack!
With Hallowe'en coming - I thought I might add a little gore to the blog! Muuah-ha-ha-ha!
This week I sold a queen sized quilt I had on the site - but the client wanted it increased to king size. Nooooo problemo..... Well it took a little blood, sweat and tears I must say. But in this case it is reversed. Tears, sweat and blood.
Next, came the re-attaching and the re-sewing of the binding. That's when I saw it. Noooo.....!!
Yeah. Well... I was feeling so confident about the out come of the alteration - until I saw it. (insert eye roll, expletives and stomping of feet here) Every 6-8 inches, here and there, I saw little brown marks. And some red ones. Then a big red blotch. NOOOOOOO!
Blood. Spots Streaks. Blobs. From the hundreds of pins I added and pulled out while quilting or attaching pieces. I looked at my hands and - no, I wasn't bleeding. But apparently I had at some point. You know its kind of funny. I swear - ask me to test my blood sugar with a pin prick and you cannot MAKE me bleed. But I see a quilt and my blood starts a pumping! I don't notice that I prick my fingers, or hands, or crunch my knuckles. I don't even notice stubbed toes - but I see a quilt and I bleed. Without pin pricks. Or so it seems. I get so pre-occupied with what I love to do - pain and blood are not apparent.
One example in point, a month ago, I was quilting and heard a bang and looked and saw the needle was broken. "Well darn it. How did I do that?" I began looking for the needle on the quilt to remove it before I changed the needle - but couldn't see it. Well you guessed it. Yeah. I found it. In my finger. No pain. But you shoud have seen me jump to remove my hand so I would not bleed on the quilt. (I hadn't)
But what if I had? Would the quilt be ruined? All that work - and one small accident could ruin hours and hour of work!
A vampire once told me to ward off vampires, use garlic. But to remove blood stains - use hydrogen peroxide. Apply with a Q-tip. Blot and it will dissappear. Like magic. Oh yeah baby!
And so... I did. So there was just sweat and tears in this quilt! Removing the blood was actually very easy!
My mom has often told me that any kind of creative needlework is "in my blood" - only that it skipped a generation. According to her she cannot sew to save her life! Little does she know the learning curve I have had. Oh the pain - and blood it it took to get here! (Pass the hydrogen peroxide!)
Points that don't meet - and colours that might not look just right might frustrate us - but as more and more squares sit side by side - the small "misses' dissappear into a much larger more beautiful collage.
Once a quilt top is completed, it of course needs to be quilted together with a batting and backing. But before I load a quilt on the longarm frame - I hang it up or lay it on the floor or a bed and take a photo of the quilt top - so that I can see the "story" it tells. Looking too closely at a quilt is like not seeing the forest for the trees. A photo really does give you the big picture. A quilt will reveal to you about how it should be quilted if you take a bit of time to look at it as a whole.
As I start to think about the best way to highlight the pattern of the quilt, I load it on the frame and look a little closer at the blocks. And then I just start. I do not use a computer program but instead do what is called "free motion quilting". Quilt blocks speak with colour and pattern design. Some call for contemporary lines or geometric patterns while others call for swirls or feathers or a whimsical collection of many small patterns. Stitching sometimes may cover the entire block - or there may be several small patterns in parts of blocks to make a more integrated design. And I cannot count the number of times that once a quilt is done and I look at the back of the quilt where its easier to see the quilting I have done - there are happy coincidences - patterns that are now all together - that look absolutely stunning.
But the happiest moment in quilting for me - is when I finish the quilting and start to remove it from the frame. Once the tension is released on the quilt - the quilting and the pattern comes together in a happy surprise. I know that this quilt will have a long life and be loved by someone. But for me - this is my happy place!
A sewing fanatic or "crazee" quilter has certain rules..... one being - DO NOT TOUCH MY SCISSORS! We cringe, gasp and lunge towards the offending party when we see them cutting electrical wire, paper, cardboard - or horror of horrors - opening the bacon wrapper! Hence, we have several pair scattered, hidden and sometimes even even hanging around our neck.
Yes. Until yesterday. Confusion. Frustration. Despair. Where oh where are you my sweet little snippers - come to mama you two pointed wee devil you! Hovering over my latest quilt on my 12 foot quilt rack I searched valiantly for the wandering weapons of thread destruction!
With two threads in hand - still attached to the quilt, I felt up and down the entire quilt rack. Back and forth I ran my hand across the quilt top. Scanning the floor around my feet, I leaned and twisted this way and that - refusing of course to let go of the threads - lest I forget where they were or the bobbin thread pulls back down to the underside to later create a dreaded, threaded bird's nest!
I lifted my left leg and leaned this way and that, twisted to the right, and shoved my hands in my pant pocket foraging for them. In the meantime, the threads gripped between my thumb and forefinger began to slip as I continued to contorted my body this way and that. Really? How could I misplace them? I had them only a moment ago! The velcro swatches on my longarm quilting machine placed there (by me of course) to hold stich ripper and scissors were strangely vacant. Oh how smart I thought I was to put those there to hold my frequently used tools!
Giving up and letting the threads go, I began rummaging through every drawer near my sewing machine and finding none, finally went upstairs to get the scissors from the bathroom I keep in there to periodically trim my bangs. Too busy quilting to visit the hairdresser I guess.
Scissors in hand, I returned to the the quilt where I trimmed the threads and began quilting again - focusing on the feathered pattern I was creating. Running my hand close to the needle I felt a strange shape sandwiched between the batting and top flimsy. Yes, you guessed it. I had sewn my scissors into the quilt. There they were - securely nested between 2 feathers. Laughter or tears?
And so now the search began for the stitch ripper.......