Sunday, February 9, 2014

And the quilting continues

Back of the quilt
 Sometimes I can be a slow learner. I've been quilting for many years now. With most quilts I machine piece the top and then hand quilt after putting the top together with the backing and the fill. I've quilted using both a regular quilt frame and a hoop; over 20 years ago I decided I prefer the hoop. It's less awkward. Plus, of course, it means that I get to wrap myself in the quilt as I work on it, which makes finishing a quilt the perfect winter activity.

Well, with every single quilt I quilted (with maybe one or two rare exceptions, usually when I decided to do something geometric with lots of straight lines I could mark with masking tape) I would bitch about how hard it was to mark the quilting pattern so I could see it. I tried everything: the pencils that supposedly wash out, markers with the fade-away ink, chalk (both in a pounce and tailor's chalk), even dressmaker's carbon. Didn't matter. There was always some fabric where the marking simply did not want to show up. I did a lot of muttering.

Finally, this winter, I had a flash of insight. Why not reverse quilt it? The quilting shows on both sides. It has to. The backing on my current project is plain muslin: no way would it be hard to see the marking pen on it. So that's what I'm doing. End result? As far as I can tell, you can't tell the difference between the front and back quilting stitches on the parts that are done. Even better, I think I'm setting some sort of a speed record for me on quilting this particular project, which is good because it's a queen-size. I may actually finish it before the snow is gone.

Front of the quilt
The quilt itself is a pattern called "Blizzard" on the quilting calendar I found it on so I'm using the quilting stencil I had that came closest to looking like a snowflake. Because snowflakes are random when they fall, so is my quilting pattern placement. I started in the middle and have been working out sort of concentrically from there. I suppose if I were really ambitious (a true artist?) I'd have made a snowflake stencil but I didn't think my drawing talents were quite that good. I was never particularly good at making simple snowflakes when I was a kid; I doubt if I've improved with time.

Doodle pattern
A small digression: the last time I went to a quilt show, there wasn't a single hand-quilted quilt there. Apparently hand quilting is becoming a lost art. There was a time when the typical quilt show would include at least one white-on-white quilt, i.e., a quilt done simply so the quilter could show off the quality of his or her hand quilting skills. Those days are gone. No one seems too inclined to put in the 100+ hours a typical hand-quilted large quilt requires. Every single quilt at the most recent show was labeled as "pieced [or designed] by X, quilted by Y" and the quilting was machine quilting, usually in what I think of as the doodle pattern.

I've used that pattern myself, but usually just as fill between other motifs. I think I'm becoming a quilting snob -- when I see an otherwise lovely quilt finished with squiggles, I tend to think the quilter was lazy. Surely there are machine patterns that could be used that would actually complement the pieced design instead of just functioning to hold the whole thing together. But maybe thinking that way is the quilter's equivalent of "You kids get off my lawn." I'm getting old. . . more and more often I find myself muttering that no one today has the patience for "real" craftsmanship.


  1. Brings back memories of my aunt. She was quite good at all of those handmade textile type projects. She would quilt, but she loved to hook rugs and knit. Every Christmas for as long as she was in my life I received a nice check and a new hand knitted sweater. I still have the last one she knitted for me. No way I can get into it now.

    Making anything by hand today is more the exception than the rule. My wife was a basket maker for years and I lived the craft fair circuit for a long time. The term "Handmade" was a constant argument betwix and between the crafters. Every basket my wife wove was by hand, though she did use store bought reed, willow, etc. She did however dye her materials herself. She felt she had more control on the consistency of the colors.

    Love that pattern. Looks very hip for a quilt. And just remember, as long as you are hand quilting, the art is not lost.

  2. I have been waiting to tell you the response that the ladies gave when they got your know I had given every one blankets except for the 4 ladies who got the quilts..they seemed to think they got the quilts because they were special..they were Lording it over everyone that they got blankets but THEY got quilts..was very funny and they loved them very very much..thanks to you again made their year.

  3. I think I would suck at quilting and I need a new one, guess I'll just buy one.

    I think it was you or Ray that posted about hand warmers, was in Swain's today and noticed that they now have Zippo hand warmers. Guess they will put out heat for up to 12 hours.

  4. I have never quilted but I agree that hand stitching should be a requirement - the most wonderful quilts I have seen made all have that touch.


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