As I dive into quilting my shamefully large pile of quilt tops I’ve been studying how other, much more talented quilters, handle their free motion quilting designs. Now, I decided that the only way I was going to become competent at free motion quilting was to actually do it on an actual top (as opposed to sample squares.) However, I thought it best to have some idea what I wanted my quilting design to be before lowering my feed dogs. So I’ve been looking at lots of pictures.
As I looked at examples of free motion quilting I noticed two distinct kinds of designs – curvy/swoopy and angular. Both kinds are used on modern quilts, but curvy seemed to be the norm for traditional quilts. And art quilts often seemed to use quilting as a sketch on top of the cloth, with little or no pattern to the lines.
I recall that about ten years ago free motion quilting was often just meandering or stippling over the whole quilt surface. But the minimum expected level of quilting has sure stepped up since then. Heirloom free motion quilting came along with stitching every quarter inch. Certainly the “best of show” quilts at national shows seem to have no surface left unquilted, but I don’t know if that’s still the standard for “regular” quilters.
And more recently boxy, angled designs have shown up on modern quilts, with the negative space broken up with different quilting patterns. Angela Walters, whose work is shown below, is a well-known longarm quilter who seems especially sensitive to the different quilting designs needed for modern quilts.
Another well known modern quilter, Elizabeth Hartman, also uses a lot of angular designs in her free motion.
And, here’s how Wanda Hanson of Exuberant Color handled quilting to complete her design. There’s nothing show-offy here, but the quilting lines enhance the flowers and give depth to the background by providing a horizon line.
And courses in free motion quilting are popping up everywhere for both in-person and online presentations. I’ve tried a few online classes, which have certainly given me tips, but I just have to practice to improve. I think I’m now up to the barely competent level, having finally learned to recognize the sound my sewing machine makes when it’s at the sweet spot. Did I mention how much I hate to rip out stitches? I’ve started applying the “stand five feet away” rule to my stitching. It looks better then.
As for the compulsion for intricate free motion quilting, it’s great for show pieces, but not so good for quilts meant to be used. All that stitching can make a quilt feel stiff, not cuddly. Also, in some cases the stitching upstages the quilt design rather than enhancing it. I realize this may simply be my rationalization for being bad at free motion quilting, but I’ve decided to stop feeling guilty about my lousy stitching. I’ll still try to improve as it’s painful to watch people wince when they look at my uneven stitches, but the self-inflicted beatings will cease.
The January meeting of my modern quilt guild featured scissors. You could say we were at the cutting edge. Groan. At any rate, we were tasked with bringing in our favorite cutting implements. I thought this would be a somewhat boring topic, but it turned out to be really interesting.
Who knew there were old wives tales about sharpening scissors? The group consensus was a mild “it works somewhat” for sharpening rotary cutter blades with aluminum foil. (You run the blade over folded up foil until the foil is in shreds.) For sharpening scissors yourself a whetstone is best, and some scissors’ manufacturers sell one created for their products. Apparently some members have their scissors sharpened by a guy at a local farmers’ market. So look for him at the seasonal Highland Square open air market.
Many folks felt Gingher scissors were the gold standard and they’d last a lifetime. One darling Gingher thread clipper provoked much scissor envy.
However, many members expressed satisfaction with Fiskers shears and applique scissors. They work for right and left handers and the spring action reduces hand fatigue when you’re cutting for a long time. One person put in a strong recommendation for Karen Kay Buckley scissors for their sharpness and tiny serrated edges that grip the fabric.
As to rotary cutters, the newer version of Olfa cutters with a more ergonomic handle was preferred. Folks were intrigued by the specialty blades available for pinking and waves.
I know it’s fun to cut wavy edges on fabric for fused applique. Just be careful of your ruler’s edge, unless you want it all nicked up. Oh, that reminds me of a tip from Laura Wasilowski about these fancy blades. Turn over your cutting mat to the blank side when you use them as they can take little divits out of the mat.
Then, after objective talk about the merits of various cutters, the group turned its attention to scissors as decorative objects, and boy is there a lot of scissors lust out there. Scissors with handles lined in hot pink, scissors with large polka dots, shiny scissors, teeny scissors – all were objects of someone’s desire.
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