February 14, 2020

Quilting decision made

I've spent a few days doing trials of quilting, both machine and hand stitching, on both felt and 80/20 cotton/poly backing. Thanks much to Beth Berman, who reminded me about the possibility of felt, which I had ruled out because I thought I would end up with hand stitching. (I've used felt once before, where I was machine quilting and wanted it to be as flat as possible.) Beth reassured me that felt was easily workable for hand quilting as well.  

For the trials, I stitched in the ditch, in the horizontal seams that go across the width of the quilt. These rows are 10" apart.  Then I quilted vertical lines where blocks were seamed together. These are usually diagonal seams, and vary from about 4" to 12" apart. I'm a little wary about quilting this far apart (should usually be no more than 4-5" apart), but since I won't be using/washing this quilt (it will be a wall-hanging), this should be OK.  
  • The felt definitely kept a very flat look, more so than the batting.
  • Both hand-quilting and machine quilting on the felt kept a flat look.
  • The hand-quilting was very challenging, not because of the felt, but because there are many areas where multiple seams come together, and it was hard work to get the needle through these areas.
So, my decision is to machine quilt, with felt as the batting. I've ordered 108" wide Dream Cotton for the backing, some additional blue dye to dye it, and some felt for the batting. (For any dyers out there--the Dream Cotton dyes up very well, and doesn't need to be scoured.)

The photo at the top of the post shows a small area with some machine stitching visible (click on image to enlarge).  The photo below shows the larger area where the machine stitching has been completed--it's the area in the bottom right where there are no pins.  (Pinned area is not quilted at all.)  Comparing the quilted to the unquilted area, I am satisfied that the quilting doesn't interfere with the sense I wanted of an expansive, uninterrupted mix of blues. The quilting is not visible, which is what I wanted. Adding the felt gives a weight to the piece that is a good addition.  So, decision made and on the way to implementation!

One final decision remains to be made--whether or not to add a binding that would be a "frame" to the quilt (and if so, what color/s), or to do a faced binding, which is not visible from the front, and leaves the work unframed (like much of modern art). I'll make that decision once the quilting is done.

This is the first time I've done quilting trials on the quilt itself, rather than on a separate small sample. I needed to do it in this case, because the quilting was going to be on such a large scale, and the whole point of the trial was to see if the feeling of expansiveness could be maintained, for which I needed to quilt a large area.  Since I knew I would be taking out all the trial stitching, I basted on a light colored backing, to make it easier to pick out the stitches, and I also used a long stitch when doing the machine stitching (4.5 instead of 3.0). The long stitch worked well, so I think I'll keep that length when I do the actual quilting. 

January 25, 2020

Jeremy's wedding quilt--the top completed

detail of Jeremy's wedding quilt

I haven't posted for four months, since late September. At that point, I had taken a break from working on Jeremy's wedding quilt to prepare for a printing workshop, and after that, I was prepping hand-sewing projects to take with me on a camping/stitching trip to Utah. After the trip, I followed up on those projects for a while, only coming back to the wedding quilt in mid-December.  Even though I was working steadily on one project or another, I wanted to wait to write a blog post until I could report that the top of the wedding quilt was done. Since it's been a while, here's a link to my first post about the quilt, where I explain why I started the quilt and how I came up with the design.

Below is a photo of how it looked in its "rest period" between August and December. The note I've written in the middle indicates the row in which only a few of the colored bits are actually pieced in; most are just sitting on top of blue fabric, allowing me to play around with placement. All the blocks were still separate at this point--all of them 10.5" high, but of varying widths.

So, starting in mid-December, I worked steadily for a month, doing the final edits on the quilt. Here's an earlier post that explains the editing process. The process was very slow. The final blocks constructed were pieced through careful designing of the placement of each bit of color, no improvisation. Then various blocks in the quilt were subject to surgery, either cutting out bits of color to replace them with blue, or adding in bits of color. The flow of shapes/colors had to look random, without a straight line-up, or a regular arc. Then, when I pieced together the blocks in each row, things shifted a bit and more surgery ensued. I stopped at the point where nothing bothered me significantly. I think I could have gone on fiddling for another 3 months, but each time I changed one piece, it affected others, so I needed to bring it to a close. Below are two photos of the finished top, taken with different cameras at the same time of day. The actual depth of color is somewhere between them, closer to the one on the left, but the one on the right gives you a better view of the variety of blues in the quilt, and how the blue shapes also work in the design. 

taken with my iPhone

taken with a Canon Powershot

The next photo (and also the close-up shot at the top of the post) gives a more accurate view of the blues. The top is laid flat on the floor so I could trim the edges; the strips of flooring are helpful in lining up a straight edge for a piece this large (62x90").  And using the floor had the useful side effect of my having to give the floor a thorough cleaning first.

I hope this photo also gives a sense of the attraction of the blue fabrics--they call out to be touched. I still have to decide whether or not to quilt this piece. I tried out some hand-quilting early in the process, and didn't like how the thread lines interfered with the smooth surface of the cloth. (I'd show a photo, but can't find the samples right now.) I also did a sample with machine quilting, as this would keep the blue surface flat rather than puffy (as can happen with hand quilting), photo below. To see the difference, you may need to click (or double-click) on the photo to enlarge it.

machine quilted at left, unquilted at right

Again, I prefer the undisturbed surface of the unquilted piece. I think I will try one more handquilted sample, working with a largish section of the actual top, rather than just one block, maybe using a thin, flat batting and a large grid for stitching. If I don't quilt the top, I'll simply face it with a plain fabric backing, and hang it that way.  This is intended as a wall piece, rather than a quilt to use.

I'm also thinking about what to call the quilt. As I've worked on it, I've thought of it as "Jeremy's wedding quilt" or "Confetti-2" (since the design idea came from an earlier quilt that I called Confetti). But I think the quilt needs its own name, and something a little more open-ended than "Jeremy's wedding quilt." Right now, I'm considering "If only."