CHQuilts: July 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Revamping a project, quilting feathers

One of the best aspects of quilting is learning a new skill. I’ve just done my first freehand feathers on a quilt I haven’t worked on in what seems like ages.

I mentioned this quilt project in a recent post—a Dresden Plate quilt that I was hand-quilting. I started it quite some time ago, but decided I wasn’t enjoying working on it very much.

I haven’t given up on hand-quilting by any means. I still find it to be fulfilling in many ways, but this just wasn’t the right project for it. Perhaps my problem was the way I was quilting it.

I started in the middle of the quilt, stitching in the ditch on all 20 blades of the Dresden plate motif. With all the seams coming together, I found I was fighting with needle, wearing out my poor ole, aging hands, and just was unable to achieve the kind of stitches for which I knew I was capable. I ended up abandoning the project after completing about 6 blocks. There were 20 in all. I loved how the quilt looked, but the struggle I was having just took away from any enjoyment I know quilting can be.

I also made the mistake of not using a hoop. That wasn’t as much of a problem, but added to it, as I decided to leave work on just the blocks, leaving the sashing until later. Since I had spray-basted the backing and batting, and left the quilt sitting for so long, I noticed that the layers weren’t as tight as they had been. I didn’t have actual pleats and puckers in the backing fabric that was where I was headed. It could have become a real problem. It didn’t help that a soft, cushy, bulk of fabric sat in the middle of the living room for months at a time in a house full of cats.

One day I decided that if I was ever going to finish what would likely be a beautiful quilt, as well as one I would enjoy completing, I needed to rip out the hand quilting stitches and begin anew on the machine. I am so glad I did.

This was like starting a whole new project

I am still stitching in the ditch between and around the blades, but it is so much easier to let the machine do the hard work. I didn’t know how I was going to quilt the sashing and nine patches connecting them, or the space around the initial design. So, I did what I always do; I let the quilt speak to me. It did. I would do feathers inside the sashing and horizontal and vertical stitches in the 9-patches along with simple radiating lines in the background of the block so as to not take away from the beautiful fabrics in the motif.

My only problem is that I’ve pretty much avoided quilting feathers. I’m just not very good at them.So, to gain my confidence; I watched You Tube videos and searched for beautiful images of feathers all over the internet. My goodness, there are some beautiful creations out there. The only problem with this is that sometimes it gets to be overwhelming.

My next step was to do what I always do when I have decisions to make; I pondered what I had just learned. Then, I got out the paper and pencil and drew four lines to represent my sashing and started making feathers. They were pretty weird-looking at first, but soon, I got the hang of it.

So, once I felt comfortable drawing them on paper, I went to my sewing machine. There, I drew a nice curved spine and made my first free-motion, free-form feather.

I am pretty pleased with myself, but more importantly, I’m excited about working on and finishing this quilt. This is the second time I will have quilted a full sized quilt on my little Janome sewing machine. At one time I never would have believed it possible. Quilting has reinforced what I already knew; anything is possible.