Sunday, September 12, 2010

Machine Quilting It My Way

I just cannot get my head around this machine quilting gig. And it's not as if I haven't tried, and tried and tried . . . . and tried. I've had lessons and lots of advice from some of the best in the business, so yes, I can say, I really have given it a really good go.

Stippling is beyond me, and I no longer attempt 'decorative' loop-de-loops, squiggles, swirls, petals and leaves etc, not after a disasterous attempt at 'flowers and leaves' inside nine patches across a child's quilt that still languished in the back of the cupboard somewhere.
And so, . . . I meander . . . .  but my meandering is more like the route of a herd of thirsty elephants with a wallow in the mud when they get there. I call it elephantwalking or elephantandering.
And there's something about 'in the ditch' that just doesn't happen after about 2-3 inches of creeping down a seam-line. With my 'let-them-lay-where-they-may' philosophy when it comes to some quilts whose seams go every which way, SITD is usually not a possibility.
And I sew want to be good at this! I have far too many quilts to be quilted to ever be able to afford to have all of them tended to by a professional.

So I do it anyway.
Sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm not.

I always make very careful choices of the backing fabric when I know I am going to be quilting it. It has to be 'busy' and not too pale. Busy backings hide a multitude of sins. And I'm also very careful about the thread I use on top. I don't want it to stand out, so I usually choose a varigated thread in colours to blend in with all the fabrics used in the top. I audition a few choices of thread by laying the quilt down on the floor and drizzling a few yards of each possible thread choice over a part of the quilt. (usually three or four reels of possibilities and 'drizzle' it over a good quarter of the quilt).  Then I leave it alone for a while to decide for itself. I check back occaisonally to see it the quilt has 'accepted' or 'discarded' the candidates. Remember, I'm looking for something that totally blends in, NOT stand out. The thread in the bobbin always blends in with the backing, and is usually of one colour, not varigated. When the thread is chosen, I usually procrastinate a few days, . . weeks, . . . . years, again until I feel the 'urge' or the stress of not having it finished gets to me.

And then with or without a glass of wine, with or without tango music, I go for it!

First I elephantwalk a strip about a foot wide right down the middle of the quilt spreading my meander (erradically) about 3 to 6 inches to the left and the right of the centre line until I run it off the border at the bottom. I have a kind of F/F/F/  

pattern rhythm that just sort of happens now and then and then goes away when it wants too, but it's usually just random wandering of about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch distance from each other (whatever happens, wherever it goes), taking care not to 'cross the line' in too many really obvious places. 

Then I go back to the the top of the quilt to the right of the centre scrawl and do it again, until I back myself into a corner or reach the bottom. If I do BMIC, I swear the appropriate F word (to go with the pattern) and just end off there and begin again somewhere else. (I find this happening less and less the more quilts I elephantander). Then when that right side is finished, I turn the quilt over, and starting near the center strip of previous elephantandering, I wander down the other right side of the quilt.
Once it's all finished, binding on and all, I hang the quilt up and stand back and have a look.

It really will!
Trust me . . . . I'm a quilter!

I don't usually tell the person I'm giving it too that I did the quilting. And I certainly DO NOT say, "don't look too closely at the quilting, it's not very good 'cause i did it myself", cause that will be the first thing they do. My theory is, If I've made the quilt for them then they probably are not a quilter, so they are not really going to know how good or bad the machine quilting is, are they?

So there you have it . . . . I've fessed up and feel better about my machine quilting. Do you?

Oh!, the best tip I can give you is "GARDEN GLOVES" the cotton kind with little rubbery bumps on the palms. (to fit your hand snugly, not too big in size) And hey, the Sunday Telegraph is giving away the perfect kind with every copy today.


  1. Am FOCL'ing at this end're such a funny gal....always put a smile on my face. As someone who's about to embark on quilting, you've almost put me off trying stippling and meandering and I'm thinking elephant walking is going to suit me right down to the ground! Could you possibly take some 'in situ' pics of exactly what you mean with the /F/F/F bit, as my brain couldn't decipher it! Have you seen the FMQ along that's only just started? I can send you the link if you'd like to give it a inspired me into wanting to give it a try, so it must look easy right? Hugs Naomi

  2. Oh, and forgot to say that I wish we got the Telegraph down here in I couldn't got myself a pair of gloves to use for when I do make the leap onto the elephants Hugs Naomi

  3. I'm still giggling at your oh! so funny! description. I think you might be spending too much time with experts. Join a beginner group and bask in the amazement they'll have for your work.

  4. hugz you gals.

    Anyone want to rub my poo sore arm!

  5. You are more brave than I! I tried stippling once in class and I am so afraid to try it again so I haven't yet! Instead I have been quilting everything with my walking foot and a straight line. I say it's because I like the clean lines but that's not the whole truth. You are not alone!

  6. Hey Dee Pat Dwyer here..a longarm quilter..mate any time you are down Sydney way drop in for a play on my will love it..I have had 2 machines for 10 years and you would think I would be a whizz at Domestic machine quilting well I aint, been trying to teach myself all week..buggered if I can do it..even tried drawing it on with blue way..longarm is the way to go..I give lessons to people who want to quilt their own tops!!should get you and Ruth down for the weekend..recon we could cause some dont tell belinda she'll kill me..ha..!!

  7. Oh wow!
    I'd be hounored to come play at your place Pat. I have long admired your work.

  8. I am laughing at this post. Not at YOU. With you!
    I gave up "quilting" in the traditional sense after several classes and four big quilts. Then after I failed miserably at stitching in the ditch I discovered ART QUILTS that require you to stitch outside the box in so many ways. Such freedom.
    So many, many art quilts later I am free as a bird, unburdened by ditches and correct stitches and anything goes...just call it art!

    Thanks for coming to the Art Quilts Around the World blog and leaving your comment at my door!
    If you would care to see any more of my 'art quilts' they are posted here: