Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Quilt Top or Quilt Back?

I've hit a small snag.  That quilt backing I was making in my previous post?  I think it wants to be a quilt top.

This is actually a little bit funny, because by Friday evening I hated what I had so far and I wasn't convinced I should keep going, even if I hid it on the back of the quilt.  It was just too busy for me.  If I didn't even like it as a back, I certainly wasn't considering it as a top!

I think I started coming around when I discovered I had enough scraps of that blue swirly fabric to go around the jumbled center.  I think that visually calmed the center.  Finding enough darker scraps to piece into a border to frame everything pulled it all together.  I really like it!

Now, I need to make a decision.  Do I abandon my challenge to not buy anything to make the original quilt, or do I head to the quilt shop and buy backing for not one, but two quilts?

What would you do?


Friday, August 5, 2022

Scraps and stash

I have a new pattern coming out in September (at least, that's the plan).  I challenged myself to make the cover quilt entirely from my stash.

I don't have a lot of yardage in my stash.  I mostly have leftovers from previous projects, usually no more than half a yard of any one fabric, so my options for the background/sashing were limited.  It turned out the blue you see above, and the white I ended up using for the stars, were the only fabrics I had enough of to make the sashing and borders.  I liked the pop of white stars on blue, so I was good to go for the stars and background.

My original thought was to delve into all the colour bins for the squares, but it was just too loud.  I think all the colours would have been fine against white or black, but with the blue it just was an assault on my eyes.  My daughter helped me narrow down the colour palette.  It's still bright and scrappy but a little bit more controlled.

I finished the quilt top over the weekend and turned my thoughts to the backing.  I turned to the overflowing blue bin for that.  To add more interest I also sorted through my bin of orphan blocks and pulled out any blocks and assorted spare parts in blue, green and yellow to match the front of the quilt.  Some of these bits and pieces have been in the bin for years "just in case" I could use them someday.  Someday has arrived!

I cut up some leftover strips sets and mashed them up with some HST to make new blocks from small parts.

Some small parts were strung together into new elements, and some were sewn to blocks to make larger sections.

Next, I'll start adding blue scraps to one or more sides of blocks and sections.  My strategy is to build up parts to one or two common widths, then sew them in rows or columns.

I'm starting to get an idea what this frankenback is going to look like.  It would be easier with a design wall.  I had one of those, just batting tacked to the wall, but something started growing on it. I'm not sure what it was or why it appeared after the batting had been on the wall and doing fine for years, but that piece of batting headed to the trash.  I haven't replaced it yet and was using the floor.  However, while my son is between apartments for a couple of weeks, all his worldly belongings are stacked in half of my studio.  He has more stuff than I thought, and it's taking up my design floor!

I'm going to spend the rest of the day happily stitching and laying things out in a smaller patch of floor.  I'll report back when I have a completed backing to share.

How do you feel about pieced backings?  Love them or not?  Too time consuming? Intimidating? A fun creative challenge?  Let me know in the comments, and please feel free to share any backing tips!

Happy quilting,


Sunday, July 24, 2022

Quilting plans not set in stone

 My fall Island Batik version of Glacial is finally quilted, bound and gorgeous!  

I dragged my feet with this one, unsure of how to quilt it.  

I strongly considered a Baptist fan all-over design using quilting rulers, but I've been having trouble with ruler quilting.  My machine just insists on skipping stitches and it's driving me batty.  My machine uses the same settings for ruler quilting as for FMQ, and I can FMQ just fine, and ruler quilting used to be fine too, so I don't know what's going on.  I just don't have time or inclination to figure it out right now so I ditched the ruler quilting plan.

Plan B was to do a lot of walking foot quilting.  I was foggy on the details, so I started by stitching in the ditch.  I find stitching in the ditch to be a little bit like outlining when I'm colouring.  It adds a little bit of definition and polish.  In quilting there's the added bonus that as I stitch in the ditch, other ideas often start flowing.  By the time I was done with that I was still foggy about how to quilt the blocks but I had a firm plan for the background, so I worked on that next.  Generally, I prefer to quilt from the center out, but I figured with all the stitching in the ditch, things were pretty stable already so I went ahead and quilted the borders before the blocks.

I worried a bit when I saw how puffy the blocks looked after quilting the sides, but quilting in the puffy areas worked out just fine once I evened out the quilting density in the blocks with the density in the borders.

I had planned to keep the quilting simple, quilting two lines echoing the right angles of all the shapes, to mimic the quilting density in the border.  At the last minute I decided to run the lines from edge to edge so they would cross in the corners to add a  little interest.  Quilting a second set of lines 1/4" from the first set added interest and dressed things up a little.  It's still simple, just a tiny bit more fancy.  I did the same in the corner square.

Quilting came to a standstill while I pondered what to do in the middle section of the block.  Straight lines had been the plan, but at this point I wondered if more straight lines would be too monotonous.  In a facebook post, many people suggested curves.  I was conflicted.  I have trouble being consistent with my FMQ curves, and as I explained early, my rulers were not an option.  Considering the fall colors, I considered quilting a leaf and swirls, sewing through a paper template to help me stay consistent.

Not bad on the back.

Looks like a scribble on the front.  It just disappeared into the print.  The result just didn't justify the effort involved.

How about wavy lines instead?

Much better!  I worried about being consistent across all 18 blocks, but using matching thread in the prints helped hide imperfections.  Also, I kept telling myself, over, and over and over, it's all about the texture, not the detail.

The texture came out wonderfully! I think the little bit of freemotion work is a nice contrast to the straight lines everywhere else, while the straight lines appeal to my preference for crisp and clean design.

The texture on the back is rich.  Though it doesn't show up well in the picture, there is a little bit of colour as well on the back, as I matched the bobbin thread to the top thread.  

I'm so glad I didn't rush the quilting and took the time to make changes to the plan.  I wasn't in love with this quilt top, but I'm absolutely thrilled with the finished quilt.  The quilting really made all the difference to this one!

What's your approach to quilting?  Just get it done and move on, or let it sit until you're satisfied with the plan, or like me, get started and be flexible as you go? 

Happy quilting,


For those of you who like the details:

  • Project name:  Fall Drifts
  • Pattern: Glacial (available as a PDF download in my Etsy shop or in print form from your favourite quilt shop)
  • Fabric graciously supplied by Island Batik from their Harvest Night collection