Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rules of Quilting

Every quilter must know and follow the rules....right?

When piecing:
  • *all intersections must meet perfectly
  • *seams should be perfectly straight and 1/4 inch deep
  • *mitered corners must be at exactly 45º
  • never use a steam iron to press your seams
  • always starch your fabric
  • never starch your fabric
  • always pre-wash your fabric
  • don't bother to pre-wash your fabric
When quilting:
  • all stitches must be exactly the same length
  • the machine must run at the same speed (tell my foot that!)
  • free motion means no pattern or lines to follow
How many of you follow all the rules (and the many more I haven't mentioned)?  How many of you have been arrested by the quilting police? There are many "rules" that will make your finished product better (i.e. the ones with a *), and there are others that may or may not make a difference.  Making a quilt is a major project, and it probably won't be perfect throughout.  Will anyone notice?  Probably not.  It is up to you to decide how perfect you want it and I can almost guarantee some reverse sewing will enter into achieving high levels of perfection.  You have to be your own quilting police person.

I got a comment last week by a reader who was pleased to know that it was OK to draw lines to follow when free-motion quilting.  I am an inveterate line draw-er.  My very first FMQ teacher complained that she cannot draw well with pencil, but has no trouble drawing with her machine needle.  I am the opposite.  If I am quilting a defined shape or grid I mark the lines on the quilt first.  Because long, straight lines are a major challenge I use my dual feed contraption to do a large grid.  The tiny ones I do with FMQ.  I can do feathers freehand as long as I have a boundary line within which to work.  I am comfortable with background fillers, as they are fun to play around with and are truly free-form.  Organic forms do not have to be a perfect shape and actually look better when they are free from restraint.  Sometimes I get them too free and have to take out some stitches, but that's OK.  I get it right the second time around (or maybe the third) (or fourth).

Below is a photo of my current quilt, which is nearly done.  I want you to see the lines.  All of the feathered and associated shapes have been drawn out with a turquoise, removable pen because I want them as exact as possible.  The turquoise is still very visible, but will disappear with water.   Sometimes I find a drawing error or change my mind and will redo it with a purple, removable pen as I go.  The purple disappears in air, so it is really a last minute marking tool.  For the straight lines at the edge I drew a guide line every half-inch to keep me from veering off.  Big or small I really depend on my marking, and guess what?  The quilting police don't even care, or at least they have never knocked on my door.  Besides I told the dog to chew on them if they come.

See all the markings?  I don't always hit them perfectly...but close enough.
On dark fabric I use a ceramic pen, which I can rub off with my quilting glove.

Ceramic pen.  Imperfect point.  I may have to do something about that!
I discovered something you should know.  Stitching a large, perfect circle with no bobbles and perfectly even stitching is harder that doing straight lines.  Beware and be aware!

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you no visits from the quilt police.

19 comments:

  1. Yeah, those large curves are hard to keep "perfect" when they're bigger than your hand-framing span!

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    1. Ah, but I don't use a frame. I tried, but it drove me crazy! More power to you.

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  2. I haven't been arrested yet! This is supposed to be fun, right? :)

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  3. Anyway, the quilt police are not always right. I saw them in action at an exhibition: the sergeant had a posse of constables around her as she studied a beautiful wholecloth quilt from a distance. "Look at that! it's machine quilted!" and she then gave a disparaging speech about the quilt and machine quilted quilts in general. They all then drew nearer and studied it more closely. I enjoyed the hesitation and consternation on her face when she announced "Oh, it's hand quilted!"

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    1. That is a great story. Made my day. Thanks.

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  4. Shh, don't tell the quilt police, but I'm sinning right now not using the straight of grain on the outside edge of the blocks! Hoping they won't find out, or it would be life without parole for me!

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    1. I promise I won't tell. I have done the same and there a no bars on my window.

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  5. I like your quilting! i am a bit of a marker also. Whatever works best for the individual. I am with you in that "rules" are a starting point not the controlling factor!

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  6. I mark the outer edges or starting points, but mostly free hand my quilting. I find when I mark the details that I get too frustrated trying to stay on the lines and all the fun goes out the window. I take quite a bit of flack for machine quilting my projects, apparently it is one of the biggest rule breakers here :) In my quilting room, the only opinion that counts is mine!

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    1. I am surprised that you take flack for machine quilting. It is widely accepted at shows and among my quilting friends, but I guess there are purists around. I can't do hand quilting because it makes my fingers hurt too much, and I am not the only one!

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  7. Oh, the quilt police would find lots of "violations" in my studio! I'm almost completely self taught and have made many mistakes along the way. But I love what I make, and the recipients of my little quilts seem to enjoy them :)

    It's interesting to me what different people mark or just eyeball. Some motifs just naturally flow out of my machine, and others need marking or they frustrate me to no end. It's good to stretch ourselves and learn those harder shapes, but it's also good sometimes to just quilt something that seems "easy!"

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    1. Variety is the spice of life. l do both depending on my confidence with a design and my quest for adventure.

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  8. Thank you for such a warm post. I have been arrested by the quilt police – in a very public and hurtful manner. As a new quilter, it really hurt. But, your post made me smile. Thank you so much for such a warm, loving encouraging post. I also enjoyed reading many of the comments! Glad I found you on Love, Laugh, Quilt!

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    1. What a lovely sentiment. You made my heart sing. We are all learning all the time. I remember what my mother said: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything." Quilters should remember that too. It is not another's place to police your work unless you volunteer to be judged by entering a show or ask for help.

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  9. A quilt judge dinged me for piecing my border fabric, isn't this patchwork? I'm supposed to buy three yards of fabric so my borders aren't pieced, get real! It was a scrap quilt to begin with.

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    1. You go! I say if it works for you, fine. Some judges live in another world I think. Next time you could do a fancy, little patchwork block in the center of each border. That would use up some more scraps!

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  10. I was an EMT for 10 years. Each year we had to re-certify in CPR. The rules were the rules and had to be followed exactly. Every year the rules were different. :) I have found quilting to be very similar. Eventually you learn to think for yourself and make select the rules that produce the effect you want.

    I prefer not to have my quilts judged. It seems points are given or taken away on what to me are trivial issues. Still I pride myself on many of technical skills. One in particular is my ability to miter sashing and finish with sharp 90 degree corners. So imagine my surprise when a judge said I needed to work on my corners. I looked at my quilt again. They looked like 90 degree corners to me. I took out my protector to be sure. Exactly 90 degrees. Do the quilt police even look? I got a chuckle, clearly this one did not.

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    1. They told me my quilt should hang straight. To me it looked like it was and it measured out correctly. They complemented Ricky Tims on his appliqué, but it was actually a well-done seam! So it is my opinion that you should do it the way you want to do it, but it is important that you be happy with the results.

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