Friday, September 26, 2014

Starting the giant

On Tuesday, I started quilting this quilt.  It is mine, and I am almost scared to predict how long it will take until it is actually finished.  It measures 82" square to the outside of the scallops.  It's been a while since I quilted anything close to this big for myself -- Big Bertha was the last one, and it was 100", so by all estimations this should be done in 64% of the time.  Bleh - that is nearly 4 weeks!

Anyhow, I have given myself 2 weeks right now to allow it on the machine.  This window has been in my work schedule for a while now.  It allows me to get show quilts done, and to keep the client quilts on a predictable schedule too.  The design details on the macro level were planned out, the quilt was marked (on the silk), and it's Go-time.  I have 2 layers of batting - Hobbs 80/20 and Pellon wool. This is the first time I have used the Pellon.  I have heard good things about it from Kim Brunner and wanted to try it.  It is dense compared to the Hobbs, but not overly thick.  I have many different threads in use, so ask if you wish to know.
My outer border is a typical MG design - overly complicated, lots of motifs, etc.  I like designs that appear to "float" behind the applique.  Because this green print has a textural print (it is Sketch, for those that know this line), it is very difficult to actually see the thread, or where you are quilting.  The flowers are stitched in a brighter green so that they show a little, but in all honesty, I am a little timid using a thread bold enough to see it above the print of the fabric.  All other thread on the border is a dark green silk - just to leave behind the texture.  So, my job is to ensure that the design has a good textural imprint, and not a bunch of busy quilting (as is often done with fillers).

If you are observant, as I was not, then you realized that I did not stitch the design I drew!  You are right...I had designed for a pretty feather spray with a large leaf (see attached link).  I had filled 2 or 3 of those arches with the leafy fill before I realized my error.  Needless to say, what I quilted looked WAY better than 4 hours of ripping out 16 spi stitches.
When working on prints, it is critical to use framing effectively.  You will see the multiple frames of these arches long before you see what I quilt within them.  The same is true for those squiggly ribbons that connect the flowers.  They are wider than I often leave unquilted because I want the relief to be visible.  Having 1/8" parallel lines beneath them (to the quilt edge) ensures that they pop! Other motifs like the pebbles are 3/8-1/2", which is a little bigger than I might use on the silk areas, but the increased size guarantees that there will be visible relief.  On the textural prints, simpler geometric quilting motifs like the 1/2" cross-hatching will always show better than feathering or more random-type patterns.  

After I designed the silk patterns, I had a stroke of genius.  Don't laugh, these don't happen every day.  But I decided that the serpentine border between the silk and the green needed further definition...aka more framing.  So, I added this simple bit of 1/4" parallel lines, with a 1/2" border, and viola! is perfect.  Or at least it is for me :-)

I still have quilting to do on those green and gold silk appliqued ribbons, but that can be done last. Some additional SID too appears to be needed on the shoe-string bows also.  Details, details.

This is one of four blocks that are at the center of each border.  In all honesty, I hate them, but I didn't know what else to do, so they were not removed from the quilt.  I am fairly sure that when the quilt is done, I won't care, but I really need to tie in the flower theme of these floral-shaped blocks to the middle of the quilt.  I am already having 2nd thoughts about the raying lines, and have another plan I suspect I will quilt instead.  Must sketch one first though to be certain.  I will remove stitches from this one block, but to do it from all 4 (I haven't gotten to the other 3!) will tick me off royally!

These are 8-1/4" Lucy Boston/Patchwork of the Crosses blocks.  There is an Inklingo pattern for them available, but I drafted my own.  My blocks have fussy-cut modern prints, and they are all hand-pieced.  Each block took me about 6 hours to make.  Fun times (there are 25!).  The quilting on the "flowers" is done with a Glide thread.  This is a considerably heavier thread than the 100wt silk, with the intent of it showing some over the print.  The block above uses a YLI (color "Prickly Pear") polished poly thread (their equivalent to Glide), but the other blocks near the border are done with purple.

The corner blocks are set with squares of silk and setting triangles.  The silk is pretty and shows everything that you quilt on it (good or bad!).  I designed this motif for these blocks.  I will go back later and do something in the other areas around the detail stitching, but for now it is stablized.  I love how this turned out.  It is garden-y, classic and sophisticated.  
 I got brave on the ivory silk stitching - the detailed block above is stitched with the Prickly Pear (a golden, or pear colored thread).  Non-matchy threads are hard to work with as they show every error. These quilted up so effortlessly.  I have to attribute this to the new Handi Quilter wheels and carriage rails that my machine got last month.  They are wonderful!  I may never need my micro-handles again, I have THAT much control.  The next picture also gives a good view of the printed blocks.  Love how the 1/4" cross-hatching reminds me of spider webs.  Now...I loathe and completely HATE spiders, but the essence of a spider web just goes in a garden quilt.  I am on a mission to find a dragonfly motif, or to design one that should read.
While I haven't made it quite to the halfway point (HA...heck I can't even see the center block yet!), I did get to the inner green border.  It is a very busy leafy/cabbage print.  While it goes with the printed hex blocks very nicely, it is a challenge to quilt on this stuff.  It seems near impossible to see, and even harder to find motifs that show.  Back to the basics of stitching with heavy print...
(the pic above shows the colored thread on the champagne silk very well!)

My first plan of attack on this green border was to SID the borders, and to add a 3/8" additional frame beside the green silk piping (left side).  One border is good, two is better.  Next, I mimicked the pebbles of the outer border, and placed a pebble border here.  Rule #2 of a good quilting design: repeat motifs throughout the quilt.  I knew I planned a cross-hatch of sorts here, but it is kind of large to just do that to the entire border.  Plus that would be only a little (OK, a lot!) boring.  Sometime between midnight and 5am, when sane folks are sleeping, I dreamed up these feathery scallops, thinking that they would bring just enough simple variation to this space.  They are not so complex that they will get lost on the print, but simple so that they should show too.  If there was any doubt, I double lined the frame to make it more prominent.  I may also go back after and densely fill the background around the feathers to give them added punch.  These slow details can wait.
 My cross-hatch is different.  Hopefully when it is off the frame I will like it!  FYI, the feathered scallops are stitched in deep green Glide, and the hatching is the fine silk.

It is coming along, slowly but surely.  Hope you enjoy learning about how and why I have done these things!


Vicki W said...

Thank you for sharing all the detail photos! It's going to be spectacular.

Betsy said...

Margaret, your quilting is amazing. When you use the flint thread, do you use it in the bobbin and is so do you whined them yourself?

Betsy said...

I meant Glide thread

Dora, the Quilter said...

Beautiful! Love the way this show cases your extraordinary talent. I also love your descriptions of your work and your recounting the hows and whys. They make your quilt even more special (and, no doubt, there will be a few quilt judges who confirm that!)!

Sewing Junkie said...

Simply Gorgeous..... I'm doing a POTC but not fussy cut, more traditional. Chris

Charlotte said...

Judi Madsen of green fairy quilts has a dragonfly motif that you could peek at. What you have done so far is incredible.

Unknown said...

This is so stunning! I like the leafy design better than the feathers you initially considered. Your quilting is amazing. I can't find the right words to truly express the beautiful quilting that you excel at doing. Exquisite design.

Debbie said...

Love seeing and learning about all the details in your quilting designs. It is so gorgeous!

What Comes Next? said...

I love reading how you go about deciding on your quilting, and then seeing the results is just so inspiring! It is looking beautiful!

Joy said...

While your quilting is so far beyond what I could ever attempt, I really do appreciate the detail you go into in explaining how you plan your quilts and the order in which you stitch the designs. You are a very accomplished artist.

Lynette said...

I definitely always enjoy watching you work and learning your strategies! It's amazing that you're so sharing with us, and I for one am duly grateful. Thank you for letting us peer over your shoulder. This is another masterpiece in the making. :) Will the spider webbing work in the border blocks where the radiating lines aren't completely floating your boat? Perfect call on leaving the leaf motif in the arches, though - I wouldn't want to pick those out, either, and besides - they look terrific and unique.

SewCalGal said...

Looks like an award winning quilt in the making, to me. Gorgeous quilt and quilting.


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