I recently finished an art quilt with lots of complex design in it. In the center is a Mariner's Compass among other things. In each corner around the center is a complex baroque-style appliqué reminiscent of the intricate designs of the Middle East. I applied the appliqué with gold, metallic blanket stitch. It looked so nice before quilting and I was very pleased. Then I quilted the quilt with two batts - wool and cotton. This made the quilt very heavy, but the central motifs are puffy, pretty, and fully filled. The appliqué, on the other hand, looked rumpled and ugly to my eye. I didn't know what I could do about it, but I put it in a show anyhow. The judge said the appliqué was "very good," which was like getting a "B" grade. Not too bad, but I would have preferred an "excellent."
In the quilting process I stitched around the appliqué before doing the filler design, as is recommended. I didn't notice the buckling until later after blocking the quilt, and I almost cried. My beautiful appliqué didn't look so beautiful anymore. What to do? Before I tell you what I did I will explain what I might have done early in the process, or rather what I will think about doing next time.
*Trapunto? The appliqué is probably wrinkled because the dense background fill squeezed the unquilted fabric. I don't know that trapunto would work since the extra batting would have to push up from behind the background fabric into the appliqué motifs.
*I could have cut away the blue fabric from behind the appliqué leaving a narrow seam on all those curves before layering the sandwich so the batting could push up and fill the motifs. This would be dicey since I did not secure the appliqué with a straight stitch before doing the blanket stitch so the narrow seam might not be dependable.
*I could have secured the appliqué first with a straight stitch, which I have never done before. I don't know how it would look. Worth testing!
*I could have finished the appliqué with satin stitch and then cut away the back. My old machine had a poor satin stitch so I would not have attempted it then. My new machine does a beautiful one so I am ready to learn how to do it well.
I finally came up with two reasonably viable options:
*I thought of machine quilting narrow echo lines inside the appliqué. How's that for insane? I was afraid to do that with my brand new machine because I have not done enough free motion quilting on it to know its idiosyncrasies, especially the touch of the foot pedal. Uneven stitches would be very noticeable.
*I finally decided to hand stitch tiny, gold seed beads all over the appliqué, 1/4 inch apart. Once I found the beads and bought needles I used a slightly off-white Bottom Line thread and spent 27 hours sewing on tiny, little beads. The beads evened out the fullness into a more uniform look. In addition, the gold beads make it sparkle. They are not noticeable from a distance, but they are very obvious and attractive up close. The appliqué metamorphosed from a rumply, bumply error into carefully embellished, planned texture. I am sooooooo happy!
|Beaded appliqué - click to see large.|
The judge also noted that some of my border lines (there are several) were not straight to her satisfaction, so after the beading was done, I soaked the quilt and re-blocked it. Every line in the quilt has been pinned into absolutely straight submission (it didn't take much!). Live and learn. Tomorrow the pins come out. I have applied to another show and will hear in a few weeks if this quilt gets juried in.
TIP: The judges' comments are not meant to hurt. Take them to heart and learn to make better quilts. I have learned how to improve and enhance my work by showing my quilts. Try it! You don't have to start big - try your local quilt guild show or the county fair.
Sew a happy seam this week.