Friday, May 17, 2019

Choosing Quilting Patterns & Motifs

Postcard from Sweden: Baby Version

It has been months since I woke up in the middle of the night with clouds of swirling thoughts. When this happens, I feel like I am stuck in sleep mode yet awake. All the unrealistic thoughts that would be dreams--especially those that might be nightmares while asleep are processed while wide awake. It's like having surgery without the anesthetic. The so-called creative, free-associating side of the brain runs without the conscious filter of the other half. A monkey brain. I worry about things in the dark I could talk myself out of in daylight. Yuck. But sleep finally comes, and I swear the next morning to never drink caffeine so late in the day again. 

One of my more valid worries, though, was not keeping up. I live a busy life juggling many balls in the air. Like many of you, it might be hard to define what I do exactly. Our roles as parent, spouse, business operator, blogger, friend, etc. have blurry lines. It's not just who we are, but who we want to be. With a new longarm investment, I know I will be increasing the amount of contract quilting in the near future. What escapes me is where will I find those dedicated hours? I am approaching this all very warily as I shift the balance, and still continue to juggle those balls.

Progress on this baby quilt has been slow. While it's a joy to work with the colors, it's very confusing to keep it all straight. Organization is key. Up to this point I was laying out a row at a time, sewing, pressing, and creating strips. I then progressed into one string at a time, and working my way to the next.

Hoping to streamline the process for sanity, I laid out the rest of the rows all at once. The need to clear my table space in the next few days is my motivation now.

Over at the longarm, I programmed it to run a quilting course, and then sat to piece another chain of HSTs. The scene of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia comes to my mind when he enchants the mop to do his work. It's wonderful to work this way, but it still requires a lot of attention to make sure it works the way I want it to. We know what happened to Mickey.


I continue to practice on charity quilts using the ProStitcher software. Scale is just one issue I have been toying with. Finding a stitch pattern in an appropriate scale for the size of the quilt and/or style takes time. Smaller quilts are overpowered by a too large design as well as the dilemma of putting a ditzy design on a queen size quilt. Recognizing the designs in the pattern bank means I can find one to fit without sifting through them all each time. I border on obsessive to create a pleasantly tactile quilt. I like a quilt for daily use that is soft, fluid, and has a cuddle factor. Batting and thread in the correct amounts are crucial ingredients. 

This charity quilt was my test quilt for these feathers. I really love the light and color of the fabric.

I have to say it was laid out by my dad, and I think he did a beautiful job.

After my test run with the pattern, I was ready to quilt another for a local shop.

Who Is the Star?

The other element in quilting is understanding the purpose of the quilt and said quilting. It's something I think about often, and am still learning. This quilt is made as a shop sample to sell the pattern. The quilting is not the star. The pattern is. The quilting needs to support the pattern, and blend into the background. While beautiful quilting helps, it should not be the focus. I use So Fine 50# thread, and a repeated pattern in a traditional feather. The spool block is also a traditional pattern in an updated, larger scale. The shop owner and I worked together to blend her vision and mine into this quilting, and both were very happy with the outcome.

Choosing Motifs

I will say this knowing it's common knowledge to many experienced quilters, but may help someone who has never considered it. Choosing an actual pattern to put on your quilt can be daunting. Ask your longarmer for suggestions, and consider scale and purpose of the quilt first. If there are many options to choose from, you may want to choose a theme in the quilt. A winter quilt with little snowmen in a border? Oh, yes! That would work. Snowmen in a spring quilt? Only if you live in Minnesota.

I looked at the patterns within the fabrics in the quilt above, and the scrolling feathers and daisies stood out. It's a mix of fabrics from several decades, but the colors are definitely 1930's. I chose a less dense quilting with daisies and leaves, and this fits with the era of looser quilting also.

Daisies in the fabric, and daisies in the quilting motif.

If I'm not quilting, I'm coaxing something to grow. This sits outside a business, and I do hope children stop to play with it! 

While I'm mowing, Cecil is ever alert to watch me if he's not playing with the cats. One will run down the top of the fence, and he will run alongside them. They grew up in a kennel across from his pen one summer, and he has a loving bond with them. So sweet!

Misha is aloof and far more serious, but nothing slips by him.

Do enjoy the season!

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


Barb Neiwert said...

Hah! After you shared all your hard work, Cecil steals the show on this post! What a cutie! I imagine they are animals with character :) Sounds like working with all those solids is a bit brain-intensive. But it's looking great! I love all the saturated colors you're including. And you're coming along fantastically with your new machine. Time will allow just so much into each day, so make your choices count.

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

The feather pattern is great. I always struggle with finding the right quilting design.

KaHolly said...

Although I know I’ll never own a longarm, I still learn so much from your musings. I listen to stories while I sleep so I have something else to concentrate on other than my thoughts. Wow! Your dad is quite something when it comes to laying out a quilt! I think he might just be a keeper!

Linda Swanekamp said...

I love how you carefully think out the quilting. It is a mental workout. I think so many just slap something on to be "done with it". I believe that quilting makes the quilt. I have a book by that name and the author quilts identical quilts in different ways and the results are amazing. I so much appreciate your thinking process when you explain. These are the things that will make me a better quilter- not just techniques, but the design thinking. Thanks.

Angie in SoCal said...

This was very helpful. Thank you, Julie. I enjoyed this post.