Sunday, October 29, 2006

The New Face of Machine Quilting

I've been quilting like a madman for the last few weeks. For the first time this fall, I've really got into the rhythm of it, when you get to work with the machine and it's all you want to do for the next couple of hours. Very soothing.

Since I've been getting pretty confident about my new machine quilting skillz -- hubris? -- the project that has been getting the most attention has been this thing called "Batik Boxes" that I planned out on Thanksgiving 2004 and have been kicking around very slowly ever since. It was pretty obvious from the outset that it wasn't going to be an especially interesting piece, so it has stayed at the bottom of the project pile.

Since it is kinda ugly, though, it is a good candidate to be the first full-size piece for me to machine quilt. So, I devoted 3/4 of my quilting time to it over the last week, and voila, here is the completed face:

Now I have to decide exactly what the quilting pattern will be. As I get more comfortable and confident, I think I'm going to really like this part of the process -- it's a whole 'nuther level of decision making going into the piece.

For now, though, it's kind of nerve wracking. Even though it's kind of an ugly quilt face to start with, even though I'm trying to give myself lots of space to make mistakes and be a beginner at this, I also definitely want to do a good job with it. Ideally, to have people say things like "wow, I can't believe he's just a beginner." Yes, I admit it: my name is Michael and I'm a praise junky.

Anyway, I know a couple things for sure. I will quilt "in the ditch" -- along the seam between pieces of fabric in the quilt face -- around the outline of each block, and then around the three concentric squares within each block. After that, I want to do dense stippling, the kind of stuff I've been practicing for the past several weeks, on one color or the other. That should create an overall texture. If I was to densely quilt the blue fabric, say, the blue squares would lie flat and the orange ones would puff up a little bit. It be a cool effect, or at least that's the plan.

Now, Plan A was to stipple down the blue fabric. Warm colors tend to rise into the foreground, whereas cool colors visually recede, so it seemed like having the orange puff out a little bit would complement that. To test this, I made two extra blocks, quilting down the blue on one and the orange on the other. And, lo and behold, the one with the orange quilted down looks better.

But wait, we're not through. We still have to talk about thread color. (Hey! I don't roll my eyes about your hobby!!)

If you look at the test patch with quilting in the orange, the part that really stands out is done in light grey thread on the right side of this image. And I'm all right with that, because I was doing pretty well and the pattern looks cool. But the problem is, I think the quilt as a whole will look better if the quilting is more subtle. In fact, I'm leaning towards using an orange thread that is more subtle -- so subtle, in fact, that it's almost invisible in this image (it's along the top of the larger orange square).

Usually, you wouldn't call orange thread "more subtle" than grey. The deal is that in this case it would blend with the orange fabric, of course.

Anyway, it will take me a couple of weeks to do all of the ditch quilting, which has to be done before I can start the quilting, so if any of y'all want to weigh in on the gray vs. orange question, knock yourself out.

Oh yeah, a fresh anecdote. I was pinning this one out (pinning the back, batting, and face together, to get it ready for quilting) and ran out of safety pins. Because it's close, and I'm all, like, neighborhood-minded, I decided to try again with the local shop where they mistook me for a plumber last year. And, damn it, I got the same suspicious, what-are-you-doing-in-here vibe this time. "You just had to have a pack of safety pins at 10:15 on a Saturday morning?" I got asked, which struck me as both unnecessarily sarcastic and an odd question for someone to ask who was selling safety pins at 10:15 on a Saturday morning. I want to like my local shop, but I'm just not getting a good vibe in there.


1 comment:

Karin said...

As much as I do love orange, my vote definitely goes for the grey or the not so subtle. It's bold, in its way, and very pleasing. Since y'asked.