Revisiting Unfinished Quilts

There are a couple quilts that were started a few years ago that got put on hold for a couple reasons. Having an injured elbow was an excuse to procrastinate revisiting a quilt project that was being difficult.

A quite legitimate excuse because free-motion quilting was not something I could do. Now that the elbow is better, I have to get past the reasons why they were set aside before the elbow became another reason.

trimming quilt blocks

For this quilt, I tried several quilting patterns and ripped out several before deciding to just have several different quilting patterns in the quilt. Using a quilt-as-you-go method means each piece can be quilted differently. Plus, I was one block shy of having enough for a 5×6 block quilt. It was always easier to find something else to work on than to plow through scraps to see if there was something for that last block.

When I pulled it out of the pile of things to get done a couple days ago, I found that it needed the one block plus a total of ten blocks needed to be quilted.

Yes, this is a quilt-as-you-go type of quilt. I call the method Unit Quilting. It is a construction method that I developed over 25 years ago. It has since been published in an article I authored, titled A New Curve to Quilt-As-You-Go in American Quilter’s Society magazine American Quilter, summer 2003, vol. XIX No.2.

One of the things that is special about this technique is not even taken advantage of in this quilt. With Unit Quilting, quilt-as-you-go is not limited to standard block construction, but can accommodate curves and irregular shapes. The banner photo at the top of the home page for this blog is a close up of a quilt made using Unit Quilting method. Here is a picture of the whole quilt:


Each color area was quilting as a separate unit. The term unit better describes these non-block shapes. Then they were trimmed, sewn together and seams were bound. Much easier than trying to quilt a large quilt.

Unlike the quilt that is in progress, all the units in this quilt all have the same quilting pattern.

Hopefully, in a few days there will be more progress to share.


Experimenting with quilt techniques

This is a close-up of a small reverse applique sample quilt in progress. Each of the circles is being outlined in a hand embroidered stem stitch using hand dyed perle cotton thread. It is a subtle, but effective outline that gives the circles more definition.

quilt sampler 3

The purple fabric was layered on top of a piece of blue fabric and then the two were stitched together in a grid. Some of the rectangles of purple layer were cut away to reveal the blue fabric underneath.

Then pieces of the colorful batik fabric was stitched as circles to the back of the blue/purple sandwich. On the front, the blue and purple layers were cut away inside the circles.

All the layers were backed with flannel for batting and a cream colored fabric for backing . Then the whole thing was machine stitched two more times along the grid lines.

Next, it was time to play with some thread embellishing. The circles were machine stitched around numerous times to give them an outer glow and hand stitched along the edge to give more definition. Hand stitched lines along a few of the grid lines add to the movement and balance in the quilt design.

The impetus for this quilt was twofold: 1. to experiment with raw edge machine reverse applique, and 2. to work without the constraints of traditional quilting rules.

The second one is an exercise in developing more freedom in designing and creating quilts. That does not mean that no rules were followed in making this quilt, just not traditional ones. Rules help to get predictable results. And once one has achieved a certain level of mastery of traditional rules in a given art form, then they are able to achieve predictable results.

Certain rules make sense for certain applications. That is how many traditional quilting rules were probably established. Most quilters have heard about making your stitches short enough that they are not toe nail catchers. That was a reasonable rule back when most quilts were made for the bed, but not necessary for art quilts that hang on the wall.

By understanding the basis of traditional rules, then it is possible to bend or break rules and make new rules with effectiveness in achieving desired results.

With the change in the purpose of quilt to a decorative art, the many of the same rules do not need to apply anymore. Setting aside those rules creates an opportunity to experiment with techniques that will yield different results.

quilt sampler 1

There was a third reason why I am working on this quilt. Having just had minor surgery on my foot and having finished my latest temari, I needed a new project to work on while I keep my foot elevated.

In the picture above, I have my foot propped up on a footstool with a couple pillows while outline stitching the circles on this quilt. I have my bright task light to make my job easier and I have my wonderful dog to keep me company.

quilt sampler 2

The idea of experimenting with new ideas and breaking rules must have been contagious. My sweet dog decided that she would try out napping on my end of the sofa behind me instead of on her denim quilt next to me. She must have thought it was a successful experiment since she stayed until I got up much later. She knows that the rule is to be on her quilt if she is on the sofa. She has stretched this rule to the point that often only a small part of her is on her quilt, like she is here. Truly, she is a kindred spirit.

Knot Quilt Not Done

knot quilt- just the top

knot quilt- just the top

The design for this quilt was made using the Perlin Knot Generator. This is an online widget that is fun to play with. To start and stop the animation, you press “toggle animation”. I made a bunch of designs by randomly selecting the toggle button and then used a snipping tool to capture and save the images. From a couple of the designs in this quilt, I rearranged some elements to create my own design.

This quilt top has been hanging on my design wall above my sewing machine, teasing me every time I come to get supplies for making a new temari. I think is begging to be finished. Sometimes what goes on the back  of one of my quilts is suggested by what is on the front or how it is going to be quilted. I just have not thought that far ahead, but….

Hmm, an idea about knots has popped into my head. I’m thinking it will be a combination of machine quilting and hand ties (then the knot quilt will have another kind of knot).

I think that at least basting the top to batting and backing won’t put to much strain on the injured elbow, so I will hopefully get that done over the weekend. I just have not decided what to do for the backing.

About the quilt top: It is a whole cloth. The design was traced with a graphite pencil onto the fabric using my homemade light box. I used some fabric markers. They worked fairly well, but had a tendency for the color to pool wherever I started, stopped, or paused, hence the lack of uniformity of line width. At first this bothered me, now it doesn’t. I think it was this issue combined with me new infatuation with making temari that drew me away from finishing this quilt. To fill in the lines, I used pastel dye sticks. And for the background pastel dye sticks were used to make rubbing of oak leaf hydrangea leaves and rubbings of a basket weave texture plate meant for embossing.

Now, it is time to move on and make progress towards finishing it.

Holiday Bazaar

temari display at craft bazaarThis past Saturday, I participated in the Holiday Craft Bazaar, hosted by the American Sewing Guild at a local church. The picture above is of my table which had (from left to right) sterling silver earrings made by my son, temari, quilted boxes, folded fabric ornaments, re-usable fabric wraps and bags with tags sets, and fabric origami butterfly pins (scattered around table).

The quilt and the large temari were for display only. The quilt was for a backdrop to hide an ugly rack.

While sitting at my table, I worked on making a new temari. There were several people who knew that the embroidered thread balls were temari, but many asked about what they were and how they were made. It was fun to share.