Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jenna's Most Glorious Scrap Quilt

Almost Too Pretty to Say Scrap

A very dear friend was making a quilt for her granddaughter patterned after one she had seen hanging in a local restaurant. (Yes, in this part of the country we are surrounded by quilts even in restaurants. Most definitely works of art.) She first studied the quilt, searched for the pattern, then modified parts of it to make it her own. And as the Queen of Scrap, this project would make good use of her vast kingdom of scraps.

Irene asked me early on if I would quilt it. A very traditional center made of blocks joined with sashing, a sawtooth border, and another of applique. I shook in my boots! "Oh, sure-- for you!" I said smiling. And I put my mind to figuring out just how one did such a quilt knowing I had never encountered applique yet. It would take all the longarming skills I had learned so far along with sweat and prayer.

We discussed what she had in mind, who the quilt was for, and how it would be used. This was Irene's pièce de résistance, and she wanted a romantic yet traditional style of quilting for her granddaughter's wedding quilt. My job was to translate the loose ideas into concrete motifs, and that took time. I knew that the quilt should be center stage, and the quilting should enhance the pattern. She gave me free rein.

The hardest was the floral motif for the small sashing. Something not too busy, but enough to provide the same density of quilting. You can see the corner motifs I designed in the top picture. Similar ones are centered in the middle of each side of the sashing frame.

While all the horizontal bars and frame of the sashing are floral, I did simple bars in the vertical stitching. This was marked ahead of putting it on the frame. Why? Because no matter how careful you are piecing the top, there will be slight variation from block to block with sashing. It was more important to me that the vertical lines appeared to be continuous when the quilting was done than mathematically correct in each space. That was something I had seen in the old quilts I have been studying. Good quilts make the stitching fit the quilt--not just the one block. 

Look carefully at the bars below, and see they are not evenly spaced, but do match as though running beneath the floral sashing.

Irene's choices of fabrics for stars range from 1930 feed sack to more modern. I wanted the stars to be center stage, and limited the quilting on them. There are several sizes of background stippling used on the quilt, and this one is medium.

Where Does One Start?

Brand new quilters sometimes wonder where to start a quilt. There are so many different kinds of quilting here that I had to plan it out. 

1. Sawtooth borders--This will give me stitching across the whole top and each side visible within the frame. 

Left side: Start at the top left corner, stitch downward around each tooth using a ruler toward the lowest visible tooth on the left edge of the sawtooth pieces, and back up to the top. 

2. Top line: Stitch around 2 sides of each tooth (up the vertical side or leg and down the diagonal or hypotenuse) all the way to the right. Stop and tie off. Back to the left corner and stitch in the ditch to frame the bottom of the sawteeth.

3. Repeat step on for right sawtooth border, but backward. Stitching from left to right is key to keeping loose areas from forming 'bubbles'. 

Starting the Applique Borders

Using a variety of rulers, I started outlining the applique 1/4" from the edge. This was my first attempt, and I was totally terrified! The applique was all freeform, and there were little wobbles here and there. The edges were also edge-stitched at 1/4", and I ran into interesting dilemmas. What if the applique enters into the area that should be stitched? As the song says, I did it my way, and kept it consistent. Someone else surely does it another, but I could find no clear examples.

*Nota bene: Before and after outlining some of the applique, I was left with areas of slight puffiness. I strategically placed long, flat-head pins to smooth those areas down, and removed them as I came to them. It worked to even it out, and there were no puckers.

No Tension Headaches So Far

I have been through a lot of bobbins so far. Each time I change bobbins I check the tension on scrap or the quilt edge. I know I am pretty intense about proper tension, but it's either there or it's not. If it's off, the stitching may not hold for a lifetime of use. 

Also, I can work about 3 hours a day on this quilt before I am done. That would be one hour at a time, and take a break. Walk around, get coffee or whatever, but leave the room. It takes a great deal of concentration to do something the first time, and mistakes happen when we are tired. Make sure to stretch your shoulders and hip joints. Move your hands, and massage the palm areas. We store up a lot of tension in our hands as we hold rulers in place, and our faces while concentrating.

This beauty took my friend a few years to put together while her love for it ran hot and cold, and I am taking my sweet time with the quilting. There is so much to take in with the fabrics and piecing, and I want to enjoy it while I have it. It will be done when it is done well, Jenna. And then you will have it forever!

Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


Unknown said...

Oh, my sweet friend!!! I am smiling and happy. This ONE quilt is indeed my 'masterpiece' of all the quilts, projects and ideas of a lifetime of sewing! Your work is so good!!!!!! I am excited to see all you have added to what I created. And I know my Jenna-girl will love it! I have one grand-daughter and six grandsons. She always knows she is'special'......the boys all have their quilts too. Thank you, thank you!!!!

Julie said...

I'm smiling back at you! We will both be excited to see this one done.

Sandy Panagos said...

The way you explained quilting the straight lines makes so much sense! Thanks for that. Also, I appreciate the reminder to take breaks. I do make mistakes when I get tired, but I sometimes plow ahead because I want to finish. You give good advice! :-) Your work is really beautiful. This quilt is going to be awesome.

Kate said...

What a gorgeous quilt! Looks like you've got a slow and steady approach with a good start on helping your friend with a beautiful finish.

Mary Marcotte said...

Julie, I'm going to have to figure out a way to adapt your patient, steady attitude to my quilting. I push and push myself. I'm having fun, mind you, but I should stop and at least let my brain rest. I'm finding more and more that when I get tired, I grip the machine handles like I'm driving a race car with bad shocks. I have to work on this problem...maybe tape a reminder on the machine head!