All quilters make mistakes.
I make mistakes.
Therefore, I am a quilter.
Don't you love syllogisms? Or not. It's funny the things you think about when your hands are busy, and your mind is free to wander.
I started out hand quilting in the 1980's, and looked forward to the evenings sitting with a quilt in my lap while we watched a tv together. My lap was soon overtaken by one baby after the next, and I didn't get back to hand quilting until a few years ago. But the draw of FMQ with a domestic led me to try that, and as most of you know, ultimately longarming, which I love. Knowing I can finish a quilt that afternoon is delightful, but there is a seductive pull toward having something available to slow stitch if you crave it.
The kantha-like stitching of many improv and contemporary quilters has fascinated me. I loved the rustic, folksy appeal it gave a quilt, but for the life of me, I could not reproduce it. You can see my latest attempt above. This quilt top done with Jen Kingwell's block pattern, 'Mrs. Bannister's Stars' from Quilt Lovely is in the center, and it cried out for this kind of stitching. Yet...
this is what I was left with on the backing.
I was using an embroidery needle, and perle cotton #8 thread. I knew I should be using a quilting frame, but when I put tension on the quilt top, there was no way I could quilt with that giant needle. Also, I was having a battle with spray basting, and had pin basted. So, I tried quilting without a frame. The sacrifice was I got the stitching in, but had bunching on the back. On top of that, this was hard work! How in you-know-what were they quilting a whole quilt this way?
I whipped out my trusty tape measure to get an idea on my stitch length, and that's when the truth hit me. I was making some itty-bitty stitches when I should have been aiming for somewhere in the 1/4"-3/8" length. My brain was so geared toward the traditional tiny quilter's stitches that I couldn't adjust.
I did what we quilters do best; I ripped it out.
Then I spread it out on the floor gauging the area I would need to use my old pvc frame, and removed all the pins from that space. I smoothed and checked to make sure I had no wrinkles, and gave it another try.
Unbelievably easier and faster!
I got my tape out to measure again, and I was much closer to the range I was aiming for. There was still a voice from 1980 in the back of my head whispering I shouldn't be making such long stitches, but I tried to hush it. It's so hard to retrain it!
One major irritation with using a thicker thread is being able to thread your needle. I've started keeping a bar of just slightly damp soap at the table with me. I lightly rub the end of my thread across the soap making it much easier to thread it in the needle.
As far as quilting thimbles are concerned, there are so many on the market these days. I've tried most. The old black leather thimble seems to be consistently the best. With the longer stitch length, there's hardly any pressure at all to pushing the needle through. I think any thimble would be adequate.
A fun little aside...I love Instagram. I love being able to put up a quick snapshot without much fuss, and letting it mostly speak for itself. Instagram is supposed to be spontaneous. Imagine my delight this early morning while drinking coffee to get a comment from Ms. Jen Kingwell herself! Gosh, I hadn't even combed my hair yet.
For you non-Instagramers, it went like this:
When I popped back in later looking for it, I'd found she'd reposted it. Terribly kind of her, really. You can find her, and it by searching @jenkingwell on Instagram. Follow me there by clicking on the Instagram icon above. We do have a lot of fun there.
A reminder that you still have time to enter Craftsy's Giveaway for the "Craftsy Sweetens My Quilting Life Blog Hop." More details on the Boundless Solids Crown Jewel Quilt Kit, fabric bundles, and class prizes here.
One entry per person. Enter until Sunday, Feb. 22, 11:59 p.m. MST. Winners announced Monday, Feb. 23 here and on mmm! quilts.
Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.