Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Pre-basting Prep
Week 3: Basting
Week 4: Practice, Practice, Practice
Week 5: Working your way around the quilt
Today we will be talking about how to pick a quilting pattern for your quilt. You've probably heard the phrase "quilting makes the quilt". No pressure at all, huh? I've been machine quilting for over 11 years and I have to admit that I STILL get nervous when I begin quilting a new quilt. Yes, every single time, because I don't want to mess it up!
The main thing to consider when picking a pattern is what is your comfort level vs. the risk. If you are trying a new-to-you technique, it's best to practice on a quilt that will be for one of your kids/grand kids, maybe a picnic quilt, or a quilt that will live on the back of your couch. Something low risk. If you are entering your quilt into the fair, submitting it to a book or magazine, the risk is a higher, so you probably want to stick with a pattern that is within your comfort level.
Not to sound like a broken record, but don't underestimate the power of practice. Start small and work your way up to a larger quilt. For example, when I was learning how to machine bind quilts, I started by binding doll quilts and I worked my way up to a lap quilt. The first quilt that I bound completely by machine was for my son, who didn't really care if the top stitching was crooked in places and a little wonky around the corners. (And it was.) Eventually, I machine bound a quilt that ended up on the cover of Quilty Magazine, and I wasn't nervous at all about the quality of my stitches. Practice really does help!
When picking a quilting pattern for a quilt, there isn't one right answer. I'll show some examples of what I've quilted and try to break down why I chose that pattern for that quilt. Hopefully I can convey my thought process a little bit.
All Over Quilting:
trees! quilt, I did an all over loop-de-loop pattern because it reminded me of tangled Christmas lights....to go along with the Christmas tree theme. Since the trees are so linear, I wanted the quilting to soften the hard lines of the piecing. Contrast is good!
plain spoken quilt, the quilting is a major component of the overall design of the quilt. (Pattern is Plain Spoken from the book The Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.) The elongated stippling is curvy, which again contrasts nicely with the hard lines of the patchwork.
round and round quilt, mainly because of the size of patchwork (another 2" square) and the amount of white in the quilt. No extra marking was required. Yes, it's a running theme because it's so important! All the negative space shows off the classic grid quite well.
running in circles above and crop circles below) I used the same quilting treatment....spirals for the circles and stippling for the background. This helps define the patchwork and highlights the curved piecing. If you are going to go through the work of piecing curves, why not show it off?
(Just a little disclaimer....piecing curves isn't hard...it's actually quite fun! I have a detailed tutorial here if you'd like to try your hand at them.)
Choosing a thread color is a whole other topic that I plan to dig into deeper on another day, but I will touch very briefly on it today. Sometimes it's hard to pick a quilting design that works with just one color of thread, so occasionally two thread colors (or more) is the answer.
candy cane quilt, I quilted lines of loops that follow the patchwork. I wasn't very confident in my quilting abilities at the time, so I was nervous to quilt with red thread on the white patchwork and vice versa. Matching the color of thread to the color of patchwork was a great solution.
rolling stones quilt, mainly because of the stark color contrast between the blocks and the background color. I finally settled on a pebble quilting design and two different colors of thread. It was a boatload of work to pebble quilt this thing (it's a large twin size) but I definitely made the right decisions all around. Pebble quilting....rolling stone pattern. It was a pairing that was just too good to pass up!
Quilting the Elements Separately:
This is my Splash quilt (pattern in Sunday Morning Quilts). I couldn't settle on just one type of quilting, so I chose to quilt the elements separately using 3 different thread colors. I did some channel (straight line) quilting on the orange block to help unify the patchwork. I pebble quilted the white border because it was a small section and I wanted it to highlight it a bit more. I quilted a wavy grid on the aqua background because it mimicked waves of water and because it was easy. It required a lot of stopping and starting, but I liked the quilting treatment enough to quilt a second version in the same manner.
On my Gumdrops quilt (also from Sunday Morning Quilts) I quilted over the gumdrops to help secure them in place. (I used fusible web, but I didn't trust it completely, so I quilted them individually, just to be sure.) Once I had the gumdrops quilted, the background puffed out in an unattractive manner, so I filled in the background with teeny tiny loops and meandering. I wasn't planning on it, but the quilt needed it! That happens sometimes.
migration quilt the applique is quite minimal, so the negative space required some special treatment. I chose the swirls because they reminded me of a windy day...fall....migration. It's all a part of the theme. I wasn't very confident in my swirls when I started but I got a lot of practice and was quite proficient by the end!
rainbow log cabin quilt is another good example of the importance of quilting the negative space. I quilted a petal shape in the gray areas and it adds a lot to the overall finished quilt. It contrasts the linear quilting in the center blocks and makes the borders pop.
I hope that you've found this post helpful. If nothing else, I hope that it gives you a few new ideas for quilting your quilts. If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them in the comments. If you've found something particularly helpful, I'd love to hear that, too!