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.