Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quilting the Spiral

Most of the spirals I have seen are circular, also called mandalas.  Most of them are placed on a rectangular background.  This results in a lot of negative space in the corners that is crying to be included.  Left alone, the mandala can look lost and cause viewers to lose interest.  There are a ton of ways to decorate the corners, but in this case my feature fabric had such lovely flowers and leaves that I created mini-bouquets in each corner and tied them together with a 1/2 inch border.

I learned the hard way how to quilt a spiral.  A friend suggested that I use wool batting because it "quilts like butter."  So I put the fluffy wool batting into my quilt sandwich and began my quilting.  I soon realized that my quilting designs on the spiral turned it into a flat and fluff mishmash gridded with seam lines.  It looked awful!  In despair I very carefully took out all my quilting and started over.  I couldn't figure out what else to do so I quilted in the ditch of every seam, and it looked wonderful.  I now do that on every spiral quilt, and have discovered that I can do some overlay quilting if I want to, but don't have to.

Quilting plays a critical part in filling up the negative space.  When I made this quilt I was just beginning to venture into Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) and had only done simple stuff.  I was just easing out of the broken needles-shredded thread stage.  I had not educated myself regarding the importance of the right needle, the available threads or the critical need for them to work together.

TIP:  Take time to learn about threads and needles. BTW I am a staunch fan of Superior Threads.  They have excellent quality thread and many opportunities for education.  Subscribe to their newsletter, which always has a funny joke or story, in addition to valuable information, and of course, deals.

You saw this quilt in my post two weeks ago, but here it is again so you can look more critically at the finishing.

I was eager to try my hand at feathers, so I gathered my books, pencil, eraser and tracing paper to create a design.  I never thought to look on the Internet for ideas on making my feathers artistic and interesting.  Below, you can see the feather design up close and personal.  That is all there is to it.  I look back and wish I could do something more interesting, but I was already stepping up to a new level.  I did it, my FMQ improved, and I felt really good about it at the time.  It filled the empty spaces.

Reverie Feathers
I was terrified of those feathers.  I knew I couldn't backtrack accurately so I designed the feathers in a way that avoided as much of that skill as possible.  My stitches are not perfectly even, which takes a lot of practice on a domestic sewing machine with no stitch regulator.  I had trouble stopping and starting again without making a jog to the side.  I had fused the appliqué flowers in the corners, but didn't know if I could quilt through the fusible because it was a little stiff.  I bit the bullet and did it anyway.   These challenges improved my FMQ immensely just because I was trying new things.

TIP:  Look at other blogs, show quilts, and Pinterest on ideas for quilting designs.  Go ahead, fly out of your comfort zone.  It is amazing what you can learn to do, but you have to start somewhere.  You will quickly forget your fear.

I am not much of an embellisher, but I went ahead and hand stitched gold Razzle Dazzle thread around the center motif, the spiral itself and the binding.

My quilt went on to win "Best Machine Workmanship" in the 2011 Hoffman Challenge, and has been shown across the country and in Ireland.  It has also been shown in some special exhibits.  I am soooo glad I braved the unknown and stepped into new territory.  Pick up a copy of the Dec/Jan issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine.  My essay about this quilt is in the column "300 Words."

BTW I am entering this quilt in the Bloggers' Quilt Festival  in the Original Design category
this week.  Voting will be November 1.  You can also click the button on the right sidebar.


  1. Your quilt is beautiful. Love your feathers !

    1. Thank you. I'm am glad you like the finished product.

  2. This is lovely. Congrats on winning the Hoffman Challenge with it, and good luck in the Blogger's Quilt Festival!

  3. Thank you for your comment, congrats and good wishes..