Tag Archives: Free motion quilting

The Baby’s Quilt

Though we’ve usually been blessed with great neighbors, we haven’t maintained ties with all of them. As we’ve moved, or they have, some friendships have faltered. Others, though, remain.

Seventeen years ago we moved to a new home. The neighbors to our right had lived across the street from us at our previous home. They thought they could get away, but we followed them! And next to them lived a woman with her daughter, a beautiful girl about five years older than our son. Over the years The Girl and Son developed a special relationship. When he began taking clarinet as a fifth grader, he balked at practicing, which led to frustration for all of us. The Girl played clarinet in the high school band, and we asked her to sit with him while he practiced. With that simple solution, he practiced willingly and improved dramatically. And they forged a friendship that continues to this day.

The Girl grew up and moved to college. After grad school she married a high school classmate. As a wedding present I made this mock-Amish quilt. It has a disappearing 9-patch center. I’ve always liked the graphic impact of it.

Last fall we found out that The Girl and her husband are expecting a baby, due in a couple of months.

In January I decided to demonstrate how to turn a medallion center block on point. I considered what center block to use and chose a star-in-a-star. Years ago I made a wall hanging with a similar design, and it had an Amish feel, too. So as I pulled fabrics for the tutorial, I looked for a mixture of darks and brights to emulate it.

What I found surprised me. My stash is full of bits and pieces. Until last year I rarely bought a full yard of anything, unless I had a plan for it. Often I run out of fabrics with just scraps to go, and often I sub in others for those that have run out. But I had enough left of a dark purple to create setting triangles and a border. And I knew this would become a special project, much more than a tutorial sample.

This would become The Baby’s quilt.

The purple fabric was from the back of the wedding quilt you see above. As a friend said, “the wedding quilt is having a baby quilt!”

The Baby’s quilt, 46″ square. 2014.

You’ve seen the back of the quilt already, but here it is again.

Construction of the top was very simple. The focal point a variable star framed by variable star points. The complete star-in-a-star measures 16″. With the striped green interior border, the center is 20″. Turning the center on point took it to about 28.25″. For the last purple border, I cut it as wide as I could, given what little fabric was left. The finished quilt is 46″, and I think by chance the proportions came out very well.

Then I was faced with quilting. While I could have done a simple edge-to-edge pattern, I wanted something to highlight the shapes. For the first time I used a ruler base and ruler with my long-arm machine, to create a zigzag design around the outer border, and to echo the interior lines. Besides that, I free-motioned a spiky leaf through most of the background. I still have a lot to learn with my quilting, but generally I’m very happy with how it turned out.

The last challenge will be delivering the quilt and watching while it is opened. Because The Girl lives in another state, we hope to use Skype or FaceTime to see them open it.

Good neighbors are special, but good friends are precious. We are fortunate that The Girl, her husband, and her mom continue to be part of our lives. And we look forward to meeting The Baby later this year.


EXPERIMENT. My focus word of 2014.

It’s tempting to think of experimentation as an improvisational creative process. Just try it! See what happens! In fact, no, in both hard science and social sciences, experiments are set up with great care and planning. Scientists define the question, determine what variables might impact the outcome, decide which variables to control and which to change, and carefully observe the outcomes.

In quilting an easy example is creating a number of sample pieces of free-motion quilting. Start with the same backing and top fabric, the same batting, and the same stitching design. Then try different threads. Observe the different looks of the stitching you’ve done.

Another example: in EQ7 or another design program, you might draw several variations of a border, using the same center design and color scheme. Changing just the border piecing, you are experimenting with the final look of the quilt.

For artists, working in series gives similar benefits as more structured scientific experimentation. Though I didn’t intend it as an experiment, I guess that’s what I’m doing with all the medallion quilts. It’s true that each one I do teaches me more about the format and how to design for it. For instance, one Medallion Sew-Along sample I’m working on now began with a center block of three main colors. Peach, red, and teal.

Backed myself into a corner on this one!

Though the peach and red both have more colors in their prints, the three colors dominate. Besides that, they are similar in value, as the peach reads as a medium rather than a light. I really constrained myself with that center block and needed to find ways to bring more color and more contrast into the quilt. Though I’m happy with its direction now, (after experimenting with different solutions,) in the future I’ll try to vary medallion centers more, to give myself more options.

Working in series is one way to experiment. Practice is another. Practice for the sake of improvement is simply experimenting with different technique or position or supplies. You test over and over, seeing what works best for you. And once you’ve found it, you try to repeat it, to verify and solidify the results.

That said, I also like the more casual notion of experimenting. Just try it! See what happens! And here is where I sometimes let fear stop me. At my best, I go ahead. After all, what’s the worst that would happen? Quilting isn’t brain surgery. No one will die if I mess up.

Still, I’m a structured gal. I know for me, I’ll do best with a list. What do I want to try? Why?

Here are a few things on that list, not particularly well-defined and in no particular order:

  • multi-size block quilt
  • using Shiva Paintstiks to transform fabric
  • long-arm quilting designs — practice/experiment
  • art quilt of shapes (Matisse inspired?)
  • art quilt featuring words (EAT/hunger-related)
  • landscape quilt of Irish rowhouses along river
  • landscape quilt of cityscape
  • quilt portraying boulder
  • quilt portraying snake

Looks like most of my intentions to experiment are to change the way I use shapes on fabric, breaking out of pure geometric formats. Even making a block quilt from many sizes of blocks breaks the linear boundary, beyond what I’ve done in the past.

What do I need to break free from? What constraints keep me confined to the linear, symmetrical structure? Nothing needs to. More to ponder…