These three words–quilt as desired–often leave a quiltmaker in a quandary as to what to do next. They’ve faithfully followed a pattern and now they are left with a quilt top and wishing for guidance. One of the most common questions we get is, “How do I quilt my quilt?” There is never one right answer to this question and there are so many possibilities.
Your first decision is whether to hand or machine quilt. It is no secret that I do everything by hand and that includes the quilting. Today, I will address hand quilting and in a future blog I will let my staff talk about machine quilting.
If you have decided to hand quilt, you need to think about the look you want and the amount of quilting you want to do. If you are willing to take a little extra time, the result will be well worth it. Let me show you three of my quilts which include my favorite quilting designs.
Day Lilies is a tessellation quilt found in my book, Quiltmaking by Hand. Seven thin strips of fabric make up each flower petal. For most of the patches, I used my go-to style of quilting known as “outline quilting.” Outline quilting is often used for quilts that are made up of multiple pieces of patchwork because it emphasizes the shapes of the pieces. I usually quilt about ¼” from the seams in each of the pieces sewing just beyond the seam allowance so I don’t have to sew through the extra thickness of the seams. For the pieces which were just too skinny, I did one line of stitching up the middle.
Despite the popularity of Windows, I think few ever stop to look at the way this quilt was quilted. (Editor’s note: Click here to read the story behind Windows.) Elaborate quilting would have been lost on this quilt so, once again, I outline quilted each of the pieces, 1/4″ in from the seams.
The narrow border strip is actually made up of three different pieces—two narrow strips sewn to either side of a wider strip. I quilted right next to the seam line of each of the narrow strips. This is referred to as “quilting in the ditch.” I don’t use this method often but use it when I’ve incorporated very narrow strips—1/2” wide or less—of border prints in my quilts. The border pieces would have looked puffy without the extra quilting.
To complete the quilting on Windows, I let the border print dictate the quilting design. For border prints and other areas that are filled with large-scale fabrics, your quilting can simply follow the fabric designs. This type of quilting emphasizes the fabric’s unique design and gives your quilt that one-of-a-kind look. In Olde World Star, below, you will find this type of quilting not only in the borders but also in the octagons which use mirror images of the border print fabric.
With my Olde World Star quilt, in addition to following the fabric design and outline quilting, there are some significant open spaces of background. Areas such as this allow you to shine with your quilting.
There are many designs, such as feathers, which can be used to fill in a background. In the image above, I used a scroll-like design and made it stand out with stippling, close, wavy rows of tiny stitches. Echo quilting was used around the appliquéd broderie perse flowers.
All over designs, simple cross hatching, the possibilities are endless. Whatever you choose to do with your completed quilt top, remember that a carefully thought out quilting pattern is an important component in the creation of a beautiful quilt.