Friday, 10 August 2012

Quilt as Desired

We've all seen those words at the end of a pattern, and you feel a bit dumped don't you?
I have been quilting the last couple of days and thought some of you might like an insight into my thought processes.............first of all, after 14yrs at this game, I still prefer the patchwork to the quilting - shocker.
I don't think this is unusual, just look at the rise in long arm quilting services and think of the UFOs in your cupboards.
I love to finish a quilt top, it feels good. Usually I'll throw it over a sofa for a week or so before forcing myself into the quilting. My current project is a class sample and my classes start next week, so I have a deadline, that's good.
Last week I did my most unfavourite bit - layering up and pinning, hate all that crawling about the floor. I use masking tape to secure the backing to the floor, all nice & taut. Then the same for the wadding and then smooth down the top. I pin from the centre out, can't over pin, I have a lot of pins. I don't baste any more, I did for many years and I use Hobbs 80/20, it's my absolute favourite wadding
I need to get myself in the right frame of mind to quilt, I earmarked yesterday to start. I have to clear my workspace, nothing worse than knocking a box of pins onto the floor when you are heaving your quilt about.
I clean out the hook race on my machine, yesterday I removed a very satisfying ball of fluff. I changed my needle - I always use Schmetz denim, size 12 for piecing and quilting. They have a long shaft that pierces fabric and wadding well. I make sure I have a cushion on my chair to keep me a little higher than the machine - this helps relieve strain on your shoulders.
I chose my thread, a nice deep, creamy Aurifil and filled a couple of bobbins. Radio on, no more prevarication, I'd better start quilting.Oh, and I put these on - my Machingers. Word of warning - should the doorbell ring whilst you are wearing these gloves, remove them before answering, just saying...............
If my quilt is made up of blocks I will tell myself I only need to do 3 or 4 blocks in a session, and will work out how long it should take to complete the quilting. Then I often get carried away and exceed my own expectations, more feel good stuff.
This quilt however, is a medallion style and then there is my deadline, so asap was my goal.
I never mark out quilt patterns in advance, I often (tongue in cheek), tell my students to let their quilts speak to them. For me, this translates into, making it up as I go along, but yes, I am often influenced by a block design or the fabric pattern.
The centre of this quilt is a 20" NY Beauty and I didn't want to spoil it's shape. Oh, and a word about my actual stitch. I normally choose 3.5 or even 4 stitch length and I have a favourite stitch that I select on my Husquvarna Lily , not always, but very often I opt for an S shaped stitch, it is meant to be a quilting stitch. The brilliant thing about my machine is that for this and other decorative options, I am able to opt for a longer stitch length. In many other makes of machine such stitches have pre-set default lengths. So for this quilt I set my S to 4 length and just 2 for width, which will produce a shallow curve. I love using this because it is very forgiving and looks good too.
See the gentle curves...........
Even if this hadn't been a medallion style quilt, I always, always start quilting in the centre of a quilt, helps to avoid puckering.
 Centre done, not too shabby on the back.
 Once I completed the centre, I took a look at the narrow green border.The print on it was very regularly spaced so I did this - a bit like not stepping on the cracks on the pavements.
 With that border done, it was definitely time for coffee while I considered my approach to the teal border. The print has lots of swirls on it, and I momentarily considered fmq (free machine quilting) swirls but quickly abandoned that notion. What I often do instead is my cheat's version of fmq. Still using my gently curving stitch, I move my quilt about so the needle isn't going straight. "They" say when planting a garden you should do it in 3s or 5s and I apply this to these rows of quilting. For this border I did 3 rows, crossing over each other in a random manner.

I was now down to my last two outer borders, one 6" and the other, 9", both all over florals. Hmm, what to do?
A wee spot of lunch helped me to focus and I thought I might quilt both borders, as one, in a similar pattern to that in the central section. I would need to measure and mark. This is my favourite marking tool - soap ends. Use soap till it gets thin, dry and store.
It's very effective on darker fabrics, doesn't harm your quilt, and as a bonus, it smells good. Remove the marks later by holding a steam iron above and giving it a shot of steam.
I divided the quilting area into 3" sections and marked the jaggy lines I wanted to follow - again, using the gently curving stitch, the marked lines are a guide and not the end of the world if you wobble a bit. I completed one side before calling it a day.........but so far, so good.

Today, I managed to avoid  I had a few things to do before I could return to my quilt. Because I only use pins to baste, I can re-adjust as I move to the outer edges, smoothing as I go.The measuring and marking was a bit of a chore but I soldiered on - I had four 6" corner blocks to deal with and I popped in a"Sheila's Star" in each of them, I tend to slip this into every quilt.
And then it was just the outer corners to do - I just copied what I had done to the NY Beauty in the middle....I was on a roll and nothing was going to stop me. My OH obviously could tell that dinner was not on my mind so came up trumps and went to the chippie - result!!
and the back view,

What a good feeling to have this done.I am really pleased with how it looks, I think the quilting suits the quilt design and I love when a quilt top becomes a quilt, it's like a whole different thing altogether. I should add that this is the first quilt I have made without pre-washing the fabric, reckless devil that I am. Just the binding to prep and sew on and I'll come back and show you the finish. I apologise for such a lengthy post but thought it might be helpful to some of you out there.


  1. Great insight, thanks Sheila, and I love the ip about the soap!

  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this Sheila. Great tips and insights. I had heard about the soap but it's good to hear it from someone who actually uses it.

    Thanks for your honesty too. It's helpful to see how a quilt is quilted in different ways like this, and nice to know your thought process a little more.

    Beautiful work - hope the class goes well!

  3. Great insight to your quilting process, I particularly like the avoidance technique ;o)

  4. Seeing the soap reminds me of when my teacher at college suggested using it to chalk. I said I couldn't remember when I last washed my hands using a bar of soap cos I grew up with liquid hand wash! She wasn't best pleased! Jxo

  5. Great ideas Sheila....lovely quilt too

  6. Ah so that's how your mind works - that is why you are the teacher and I am the pupil :-)

  7. Thanks for showing how you quilt, it's great to get an insight in to how others tackle the quilting. Great tip for the soap ends.

  8. what a great post Sheila. Love how you have quilted this, it looks stunning

  9. Well I'm really good at the "leave it on the back of a sofa for a few weeks" stage... Soap ends - clever! Thanks :-)

  10. Sheila...this is helpful reading. Each of these sections is well suited and I love that section in the teal border. And the back looks pretty darn good with your clever piecing and quilting from the front to highlight it further.

  11. A fabulous post full of fabulous quilting! I love your curving stitch and can't wait for the grand reveal!

  12. wow..that looks awesome...i love your fmq...

  13. fab post and what a fab NYB!

  14. Thank you for sharing your process and thoughts. I actually love the quilting part and I have a hard time stopping if the quilt is not done and life gets in the way although I have taken to standing up every half hour to avoid the stiffness of not doing so. The wavy lines are a great idea and I hope to use that one soon.

  15. I am always curious to see how "Quilt as Desired" is done by other quilters.
    I'm not too experienced, but I do many of the things you suggested. A tip you might try is from Patsy Thompson. She has a great Youtube video on spray basting with 505 temporary spray. You will never be on the floor pinning again. It works fabulously. She even bastes queen size. You have to have a blank wall (preferrably with a design wall)to be able to hang the quilt. Since the spray is water soluble I put an old sheet on the floor, turn off the fan and spray and add each layer. I have layered several quilts and then quilted as time permitted. I don't know if 505 is available in your area.
    I like the wavy stitch a lot and will be making a New York Beauty in a class in a few weeks.
    Thanks for the tutorial.

  16. Great post Sheila - I saw you on FB on the Aurifil page. Great stuff!

  17. I save soap too! None of mine are blue.. yours look so much prettier. I shall have to change brands!
    Great QasD tute!

  18. Really good post , a mini masterclass Sheila !



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