13 February 2006

My first question ;-)

A few days ago, I received this eMail:

"I recently discovered your blog online and was thrilled to see the most recent post - the burgundy quilt with the contrasting quilting thread. The pattern is beautiful so far - I hope you keep posting pictures as the project progresses!

I'm new to quilting. I'm working on my first quilt top, a simple block design that I'm hand stitching (my sewing machine is about 5000 kms away at the moment!). I haven't started any actual quilting yet, and for this project I'll probably do very simple quilting following the lines of my blocks to learn to stitch evenly - but I have a question! I hope to do more elaborate quilting patterns in the future, like yours, and wonder how you plan your quilting design? Do you draw the lines you'll follow on the fabric with chalk, or what?
How do you make sure it's centred and even on all sides? I'm learning on my own so there's no one here to ask for advice (I'm living temporarily in Halifax, Canada, and can't find any local quilters, alas)."

First of all, thanks for asking little old me! As for your questions: I didn't really "plan" this quilt anywhere beyond this stage:

This is a shot of all the little images cut from two or three returns of the Monsoon fabric placed onto the backgroud fabric with the border fabric laid to the side.

Looking back I've been quite speedy in applying all these little quadrangles because this following shot is dated July 1:

and this was taken on July 26

In the meantime, I had chosen a design from a book on (traditional) Indian designs:

As you can see, the design is not square. I managed to find a way around that by copying an eighth of the whole design to make myself a quarter. Huh? Imagine a clock: I took the part from noon to 1:30 o'clock and copied it, traced those line on the reverse side of my copy, cut out that new "piece of cake" and attached it to my first part so that it became 1:30 o'clock to 3 o'clock. This quarter I copied four times on a copying machine, taped it together and had my "master plan".

Out of this I cut the centre piece:

traced this using a quilting pencil - but I've been told that regular coloured pencils work just as well. Some use slivers of soap which wash away, obviously. But the pencil fades too, so no worries there.

The outer part of my design gave me a heart-ache when I started making the stencils for tracing. So I gave up on accuracy and just "went with the flow". It is reasonably crooked but, hey, this is hand-made. It doesn't need to be exact and square. It won't be anyway.

This was the most difficult part: giving up on exact lines and succumbing to the hand-made look.

So far, it's coming along nicely, I'll just have to finish the centre piece and then do a bit more free hand swirly loopy machine quilting. I hope to have it completed by February 23 but I'm not holding my breath.

To go back to your original question, I don't really plan my quilts so far. I have a faint idea of what I want to have and just plow ahead. To me, quilting is a lot about the process itself. I have two small children and a very busy life, quilting to me is luxury, unwinding on the sofa and relaxing while still seeing a result. Also, some quilts need wonkiness, such as these:

- a quilt made by Tonya - or this one:

- the Stargazey Cuppaz quilt by Jan.

If you click on those photos, the link will take you to Tonya's and Jan's blog to check out their other works, too. I can only recommend that ;-)

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