Saturday, 9 February 2019

a cluster of quilts

What's this I hear you ask?


I started out this year thinking I would try and improve my 'start : finish' ratio. And the photo above is what I'm calling a 'cluster of quilts'. Which in reality =  a group of unfinished quilts. Which brings me to wondering lately what others do about quilting.

I don't know about you, but I find free motion quilting challenging. I do try from time to time, but have never been happy with my efforts. So like many, I resort to functional straight line quilting on most of my quilts. Lately I've been combining quilting techniques in the same quilt, a little big stitch hand quilting to highlight certain areas and keep things interesting.
Hand quilting everything does take time, but it is such a relaxing meditative part of making a quilt, so I do try to have at least one project in-the-hoop.  I always melt just a little when I see a totally hand quilted quilt, very special.
So I guess it comes down to personal choice . . . hand quilting . . . machine quilting yourself . . . or sending your quilt out to a professional quilter, some call this quilting by visacard!

I have sent some of my quilts out to be professionally quilted over the past few years, usually ones that are quite big, and I have always been very happy with the results.



This weekend I'm getting my 'chamomile' quilt top ready to send away. It's quite a big quilt, and the light airy feel with all that white space seems perfect for just a little extra detail & texture . . . a little extra structured but loose quilting, which I can't acheive on my home machine.

What I want to chat about today is what I've learnt by sending my quilts away to be quilted.
I tend to sew quickly, and as a result I know I am a maker of perfectly imperfect quilts. I don't make quilts to show or be judged, and I find it a bit daunting to have one's work closely scrutinised by someone else. Each quilter has personal preferences of course, but I have found my quilter's feedback to be so rewarding for my development as a quilter.




For the most part, I'm self taught in the processes of quilting. I did attend a group many years ago, which was held in the garage of an old lady in Christchurch. She gave us lots of encouragement, shared her patterns, but didn't really explain the simple sewing basics. I have of course picked up heaps of info over the years, but also enjoy the charm of imperfection.

I now take my time pressing my seams carefully, throughout the whole quilt making process. I've found pressing makes for much better progress photo shoots too.
And today, I spent a lot of time triming away all my loose threads. I found with my 'Chamomile' quilt that the cream/white solid frays constantly, which I know will still be a pain for Leeanne from quiltmekiwi, but she knows I've done my best.




Ensuring my borders are on straight still is a bit hit & miss for me, you know, even though I measure twice, cut once, and sew with my glasses on, carefully using the 1/4" thingy on my machine foot as my guide, it still doesn't always work out right.
And I know it's so worth it trying to get the whole quilt top straight, but this is another problematical area for me too sometimes. Often a certain techniques can create a ‘springiness’ to the finished quilt, or sometimes a bulky ‘Dresden Plate’ makes things a little tricky, but I know Leeanne has a can of starch handy














So I've still got room for improvement.
But I'm hoping it's nothing a bit of longarm quilting love can't camouflage.

And on the topic of unfinished quilts, I was very encouraged to see many of the quilts featured in Roderick Kiracofe's book 'unconventional and unexpected'  were in fact unfinished quilt tops! And they still looked amazing.



I'd love to hear your thoughts on quilting too.
Have you mastered fmq? 
Do you handquilt your quilts? 
Audrey from quiltyfolk seems to be able to make a considerable dent in her WiP pile 
- mostly all beautifully hand quilted, and so inspiring.
Do you love big stitch quilting?
How do you feel about combining techniques? 



16 comments:

  1. Just my personal preferences here, Linda. I love the look of hand quilting. It seems to meld into the quilt and enhance but not call attention to itself. The quilt and the quilting become one. On the other hand, much of the machine quilting I see wants to claim the attention of a quilt rather than sharing it. Sometimes I can't get past the stitching to "see" the whole quilt. I also think some machine quilting is too dense. I think the warmth of a quilt comes from the pockets of air created by the unquilted areas.
    I thought I would love big stitch quilting but I'm not a fan, either of doing it or the finished product. The "thread" seems to shrink more than regular hand quilting thread (in my experience, at least) and instead of getting a nice, old-fashioned crinkle to the quilt, it shrinks into pulls and puckers instead.
    I'm sure you can tell I'm a hand quilter! Haha. Beautiful quilts tops in the first photo and your 16-patch is gorgeous.

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  2. a straight top is problematic for me too

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  3. I've never sent a quilt out to a long-armer, and do both straight line (ditch) and free-motion quilting with my sewing machine. I love the look of hand quilting best, there's a softness that any machine quilting can't duplicate. If there were enough hours in the day I'd hand quilt everything I make. I haven't mastered free-motion by far, and it's often fairly stressful especially with a large quilt but that's mostly my own impatience. I don't bother attempting to square up the completed quilt top since my quilts aren't for competition but nearly all are for donation or family members. Your long-arm quilter does a very nice job with your quilts, not too dense like some want to do.

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  4. I am sure I actually get more pleasure just making quilt tops than actually basting and quilting them. I mostly quilt my own, only to save $$.

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  5. I think you will know my opinion on multiple techniques... I am definitely of the do what works mentality! I learned to FMQ after seeing it on TV and didn't realise that it was supposed to be scary... but have always had problems with straight line stuff... nobody is perfect. I am finally feeling like I have enough techniques up my sleeve to know that I will be happy with what I attempt. I have had one quilt quilted by Leeanne also... And she now has a second one that just ended up too heavy for me to contemplate, although I still have probably at least 10 tops on the quilting pile!

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  6. Hello Linda. This was a great read for me this morning. I love seeing your "cluster of quilts" on the railing. I think they could stay just like that forever and still be very attractive to admire.

    I make a lot of quilts...I mean a lot of quilts. I finished 30 last year. I started out as a hand quilter many years ago, but I make too many quilts to get them all done that way. While I love the beauty of hand quilting and the relaxing tone of doing it, I just can't get everything done with a slower process. Out of necessity I learned to machine quilt. I didn't like it at all for awhile, but I have slowly improved and grown to like it. I now see great beauty and versatility in machine quilting. You can do so much with it.

    I really cannot afford to pay someone to machine quilt for me. For many years I wished I could have sent some off, but I am so pleased with how far I have come with my own FMQ. That skill would have never developed otherwise.

    I have a friend who is nearing retirement and staring a lower income in the face. She has sent quilts off for years. She has decided to not quilt her future quilts because she doesn't want to quit piecing. Instead, she is going to put a back on them with no batting. They will look great in her house.

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  7. EXCELLENT post with great questions. I quilted by checkbook for the first 12 years of my quilt making life. Then I retired and decided it was time to learn how to quilt my own. Using my Bernina wasn't an option as it hurt my hands, neck, shoulders too much to wrangle even my lap quilts through the small throat resulting in stitching that discouraged me enormously. So I bought an APSQ George sit down long arm with a 20" throat area. And I've been working ever since to improve my unmarked free motion stitching. I've found three or four most-loved designs to use and tend to use them again and again. At first I worried that I was over using them but then decided if they make me happy and they make the quilts look good, then finished is definitely better than show-quality perfect. My hand as a maker is in every stitch of the quilts now and that (surprisingly) brings me great pleasure that I didn't know I was missing out on for those first 12 years. I love the idea of adding some big-stitch hand quilting into the mix and, as my irritable CMC thumb joint's arthritis permits, I may try incorporating that on some quilts later this year. All that aside, IF I end up making a quilt larger than my usual, I would still have my longarm friend handle the quilt for me - I continue to adore her work and the joy of receiving a freshly quilted quilt back from her. (bottom line, I don't think there is one "perfect" answer to your questions).

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  8. Thanks for the shout out.:) I am like you, not at all happy with my free motion efforts. I love the look of hand quilting so much that it's hard for me to be 100% happy with anything else. That being said, there free motion styles that are perfect for certain quilts. I so wish that I could find someone local who I could drive my quilts to, sit down and talk about what I'm looking for and then know that I would be getting back what I specifically asked for! You are so lucky to have found a longarm quilter who works so well with you! Kudos to you for finding a great balance!

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  9. I am definitely a hand quilter and since it is a slow process I have 20 quilt tops waiting for their turn in the frames or the hoop.I tried machine quilting and just didn't enjoy the process. I have sent 2 or 3 quilts out to be quilted and was very satisfied with the results but I guess I'm just selfish. I want the finished quilt to have just have one name on the label, mine. I do more big stitch now than I used to. It's not because I like the look better it is because I can finish up some of the tops that I don't love as much anymore, in a quicker time. If I love the quilt top I can't settle for anything less than hand quilting. I have a couple of pieced tops that I'm planning on tying with yarn. They look like good TV quilts, ones that children won't have to be so careful with and will stand up to more washings. I've thought about just focusing on the quilting of all my tops and waiting to make more till I have reduced the unfinished amount. But, I love piecing and doing applique and I can only hand quilt for a couple of hours a day before my hands and shoulder start to complain. I recently finished piecing a top and feel good that the fabric that has been stored in my stash got use. I was apolgizing to one of my daughters that someday she would have to figure out what to do with all the unfinshed tops. She said, "I'll just sandwich them and tie them and use them so you don't need to apologize." But, the fabric she would get rid of. It kind of took the guilt out of having so many sweet colorful tops hanging in my closet.

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  10. Just this last week I have enjoyed a very intense free motion quilting class for 3 days. I love hand quilting but it takes a long time. The FMQ is not good enough at the moment but I hope I will try it finishing some quilts. I have used big stitch quilting on one quilt and like the result but i do not like it for every quilt. So I will just enjoy hand quilting and practise FMQ. And hope to finish some quilts. I love making quilts and are so happy to use a newly finished quilt on a bed or take a nap under one.

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  11. First of all, I like to finish all my quilts myself. I like to say the finished product was all mine plus I never used to have money to spend on someone else to quilt for me anyway. Back when I started quilting quilts were made of old clothes or scraps and it was frowned upon if a quilt was not hand quilted. I'm not sure when long arms came along but I was not even aware of them back in the 70s.

    I am not good at FMQ and I don't really enjoy doing it but see that it is necessary for all the donation quilts I make. I don't desire to have a long arm or different machine just for quilting and am fine making do with my DSM. I have a few motifs I use all the time now on the donation quilts I don't find them as intimidating to quilt as I did early on.

    I love hand quilting and find it relaxing. With failing eyesight and carpal tunnel flare ups I am finding it more difficult to do regular hand quilting so mostly have moved on to big stitching and love it plus it goes faster.

    I would mix machine quilting and big stitching but I can never seem to stitch in the ditch very well.


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  12. Love your name for the unfinished quilt tops - a cluster of quilts is perfect!
    I have a gigantic cluster of quilts all lined up, they're not too huge so I intend, at this stage, to quilt them myself.If they're around the 80" or larger then that becomes a challenge for me. I prefer simple quilting patterns and remember hearing comments from Kaffe Fassett at his Auckland lecture last year with his thoughts on quilting - very interesting. I started off with hand quilting thirty years ago and presently I'm working on a small piece by hand but most of mine will be machine quilted. Arthritis seems to be much happier with machine quilting as long as there's not too much wrestling to get the quilt to play well!

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  13. Well...the first two quilts I ever made were bed-sized (block-of-the-months)....so I definitely sent those out. I was very happy with all over fmq (even over applique and embroidered panels). My next table top quilt was all hand quilted. Looked ok, but not something I would do again. The next three quilts were runners and lap quilts....so I straight line quilted those on my domestic machine. I've been too chicken to try fmq on my domestic....so, the quilt I am currently working on will most likely have some stitch in the ditch and straight line as the main quilting...then I'll go back and do some ornamental big stitch hand quilting for accent. So, yes...I do like combining both techniques and feel that each quilt calls for something different. If I ever make another bed sized quilt...I'll more than likely send it out for fmq. LOVE that Chammomile quilt and look forward to seeing the quilting! :-)

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  14. My quilting closely follows yours, Linda. I always hand quilted, often with big stitch using Perle cottons. I do like the effect of them especially echo quilting around appliqué motifs and block shapes. In the last couple of years I have used machine quilting on some baby quilts, mostly to anchor them sturdily(so hopefully they will stand up to frequent washing machine cycles). Usually opt for machine quilting either side of the row or column of the quilt. I have tried in the ditch - even with a special foot I bought- but not good at this, my lines are too wiggly! I often combine big stitch with the machine quilting because I like the effect and I love hand quilting. So peaceful and restful. I have never had a quilt professionally quilted. I know friends who have and was horrified at the cost! I mostly make baby quilts or quilts no bigger than 50" square so my methods work for those. I have made a few larger 60" String quilts which I have tied and I enjoy that process and love the effect on String Quilts. Not tried to tie other types of quilts. I hated sewing, put off by a horrid teacher! Came to quilting in 1997 inspired by a newspaper article. So I learned to sew straighter and straigter as the years went by but I'm still not perfect or exact. But I love what I make, love how my quilts are received ( especially when I receive emails and photos of new babies lying on them! ) And I love the ladies in my various quilt groups and blogs. Several bloggers, like yourself, I feel are "quilting friends" even though I know I will never meet them in person. 😊

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  15. For years the only quilt finished by someone else was my president's quilt. I started machine quilting then switched to handwork but soon changed back. Lately I've sent a few quilts to a friend for long arming. They are just too big for me to wrestle. I'm lucky to have the choice.
    My quilting has become simpler over the years: I've come to appreciate walking foot straight line and free motion fans. I know where the needle should go next.

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  16. I think quilts are the most fun artform, the design is interesting, then you can move on and enjoy the artistry of the quilting lines!
    LeeAnna

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