05 May

Quilting

I sat down to quilt this morning and realized that in the last few weeks I have used all three main methods of quilting.

 

Hand Quilt

Currently, my evening knitting has been supplanted by hand quilting on a scrappy, somewhat traditional quilt in the works. I’m using a heavy-ish thread and big stitches for a rustic look. I’m even using my big PVC quilting frame! It all feels so old school, but appropriate for this particular piece.

 

 

Longarm Quilt

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also been renting time at a sort of local long arm quilting machine shop. I warmed up on some scrappy quilts, but my main purpose is to test out options for a custom quilt idea I have. I’ve decided that what I like best about the long arm machines are the “channel lock” option and the digitally guided designs — these are both things that I just can’t do on my domestic machine and they give a completely different look than what I can do at home.

 

 

Machine Quilt 2

And then there’s the quilting I can do at home on my domestic machine. Sometimes it’s frustrating to cram a big quilt into the machine, but it’s always there, ready when I am, and at no cost other than my original purchase of the machine. I can do free motion, I can choose straight(ish) lines. I can quilt quilts, or I can stitch up Kitchen Superheroes. I can use a wide variety of threads.

There is a time and a place for all types of quilting. In the last month I’ve worked on all the projects shown here, varied as they are. I am glad that I have taken the time over the years to become at least a little proficient at all these approaches, as it allows me to choose the appropriate one for whatever my project is.

 

27 May

A Quilted Saga

Friends following me on Facebook and Instagram have seen these photos, but not a lot of the story behind them (though I did blog a bit here — and it’s worthwhile to scroll to the very first post at the bottom about the genesis of the quilt). Here are the gory details!

In late 2002 I started working on a quilt somewhat in response to the 9/11 attacks. It was to be a king sized Service Star and I pieced and appliquéd most of it while my husband was deployed on and off for the next year+. I hand quilted most of it, but then life got in the way and I set it aside.

Service Flag

Trapunto, Broderie Perse, and embroidery, oh my!

Service Flag

In 2004 we moved and I joined a group of ladies that met every other Friday to have breakfast together and work on hand stitching projects. I picked up the quilt again and came close to finishing it before moved again. By the time I unpacked it during hubby’s fourth Iraq deployment, I had moved on stylistically.

To go with the sheers

Having embarked on The Army Wife series at this point, I considered how I could bring this into the fold. Inspired by so much subversive stitch and gallery-worthy embroidery, I decided to add embroidered bumper sticker platitudes and a shadowy Uncle Sam.

Service Star WIP (detail)

It worked in my mind, but after many, many, hours into it, I didn’t feel like it was coming together. I’m loathe to just throw the whole quilt away given the hours I have invested in it. But I felt (and still feel) like it should have just had the shadow figure and none of the distracting embroidered flags and sayings. However, I can’t really remove the embroidery because of all the guide lines below it. I tried some blending stitches, and set the quilt aside for another move and another year.

Untitled

I considered stretching the whole thing like a canvas and painting over it, but I realized I would hardly be able to get it out of the house, let alone into a vehicle to take to a gallery or anyplace! Finally, last week I decided that I was over this quilt. It wasn’t doing anything but hanging over my head. It was too late to call it an heirloom and put on a bed somewhere, and with all the “edgy” embroidery, it just looked overworked and tortured. I thought practical thoughts about what sells and where my work might fit in to that sphere. I love my “Suck It Up and Drive On” quilt and others seem to enjoy it too. It also fits in thematically with so much inspirational wall decor on Pinterest.

Untitled

So I decided to take drastic measures and I not only painted my quilt, but I cut it up into sizes I could mount on standard canvases. I plan to stitch and paint some more, adding some nice bold stars on some and the Suck It Up phrase on others. They will make what a friend calls “edgy Americana” wall decor. And I will have one monkey off my back.

Interestingly, I just read an article on Ragged Cloth Cafe this morning about creativity and fugitive artwork.

27 Sep

Quilting

Channel Stitching

 

I quilted the channels on this scrap quilt using my home machine. It looks just fine, and is more than adequate for a utilitarian quilt, but I can see every wobble and change in stitch length.

Triple Stitching

 

On this one, I tried three lines close together and then a larger space between to make radiating spokes. I like the look of the spokes, but again, the lines most definitely show the hand of the quilter.

I greatly admire those who can do smooth and accurate quilting on their home machines, and those who can cover an entire quilt with regular, lyrical loops, squiggles, whorls, and flowers. I just can’t seem to do it. Admittedly, I think a lot of the super good home quilting is done on much smaller pieces than I try to wrangle through my machine, but there are some really talented people out there.

I’m also seeing a lot more work done on long arm machines (and even sent Zeitgeist out to a long armer because that’s what the quilt really wanted). Long arm machines can do things not possible on home machines, and now that many are computerized, the accuracy of the patterns is amazing.

While sitting at my machine unsuccessfully trying to make my stitches as even as possible, I got to thinking. Not long ago, free motion quilting on a home machine completely changed the way we thought about how the surface of a quilt should look. Quilting became denser, patterns became more complex, and now accuracy has increased. I kind of feel like there’s no way my work on my home machine will ever compare side by side, so why bother? I had the urge to swing the pendulum back all the way, and return to the comfort of big hand stitches.

 

Hand Stitching

 

I wonder if I am alone, or if there will be a new movement of hand quilting to complement, not compete with, amazing machine quilting. I look forward to seeing both extremes.