Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quilt As Desired

"Quilt as desired." I'm just as guilty as all of the other quilt pattern designers. I admit to using that phrase. Three little words. So simple, yet so filled with vague expectations and fear. When I write those words at the end of a pattern I know my work is done and yours is just beginning.

People ask me how I choose a design for a top and what works for me is letting the top tell me. Almost everything I know about quilt designs is what I have seen on antique quilts. Utilitarian, homey type quilts are often put in their best light by an allover design like the clamshell or my favorite, the Baptist fan (or Methodist fan). Applique quilts often have their shapes emphasized and outlined. Big empty spaces call out for feather wreaths, and some quilts will have all of the above and more. Look at lots and lots of old quilts. They will guide you better than anything else.

Once you have settled on what you like - how do you get that translated onto your quilt? Quilt stencils are a huge help. Templates that you can trace around work too. Okay, so you have that much figured out, what kind of pencil do you use? There is no one answer. I have used every one that I have seen at any quilt shop. Every quilt is different and every fabric poses it's own challenge. Basically, what you want is a mark that stays on long enough so you can quilt it - but is easy to remove. Our Grandmothers didn't have a very big choice. They used lead pencils, chalk, soap, and occasionally a powder that they would pounce through a stencil - like cinnamon. I think one of the challenges we face is that our fabric today is often busy, abstract, and in many colors. No one tool will work. I will tell you what I think is the most versatile marking tools today.

I haven't used a lead pencil in over 20 years. It works on light and quiet fabrics - yet it often is just a little too aggressive for me. Sometimes it doesn't come out in the first washing. That started to make me nervous and I went to other pencils that showed up just as well, but I knew would disappear. A good substitute is the silver Berol pencil. This is found at many quilt shops or art supply stores. Another good pencil at the art supply store is the white charcoal pencil. Some quilt shops carry this now too. It works on dark fabrics beautifully. Like many pencils that mark well on fabric, it is soft. The point wears down quickly and breaks easily. That's just the price you pay for a marking tool that you know will wash out. I found that an old fashioned pencil sharpener - the kind that used to be at the front of the room in elementary school - is the best sharpener. If you can find one with the adjustable dial for difference sized pencils, that helps too. Electric sharpeners are great, but I haven't seen one that accommodates different sized pencils. In the last few years there are new mechanical pencils for fabric with soft, different colored leads. They rock. A couple of these with all the different colored leads will take you a long way.The chalk ratchet wheel markers are also very useful. The newest version, the slim pencil type ones will mark a fine chalk line. These are easy to use and will mark for days. The downside of chalk is that it is sometimes too temporary. One of my favorite markers - especially if I am marking straight lines like a cross-hatch pattern - is the hera markerA hera marker is a Japanese tailoring tool. It has no lead or chalk. What it does is leave a sharp crease. If you lay a ruler down on the fabric, hold the hera marker like you would a rotary cutter and run it down the edge of the ruler. A crisp, clean indentation will appear and it is very easy to see. Of course, you now have no fear of this mark coming out. It will naturally disappear in a day or so.

A day or so..... That brings up probably the most important hint I can give you. These markings should only be done one section at a time. All of your markings, ideally, will come out fairly easily and it is pointless to mark too much ahead. A few turns of the quilt in your lap and your marks start to fade. That means that I mark a quilt, a section at a time, after it is basted.

There was a question on marking the Baptist fan design. I mark this pattern one set of concentric arcs at a time. Since I am right handed, I start at the bottom right hand edge and mark my first set of arcs. I mark the next set of concentric arcs immediately to it's left. I would probably mark one row across the bottom of the quilt. (or maybe a half of a row if it is a large quilt). This quilting design strays from the "always start at the center of the quilt" rule. You need to start at one edge and run straight across. Once this first row is quilted, mark the next row starting on top of the already quilted row. Again, start on the right hand side and work left. If you have more questions about this, I can post pictures in a later post.

Oy, that was wordy.... the next post will be on basting.

Laurie

23 comments:

Beth said...

The Sewline pencil does ROCK - it's the best thing outside the general white charcoal pencil (you can get those at Hobby Lobby too and they come with a great silver sharpener). Please...more on quilting the baptist fan!

Janet said...

I've been waiting to hear from someone who has tried the Sewline pencils. Now I have to get one. Great information and my next quilt is going to be Baptist Fans and I'm wanting to try the free hand approach.

Kathie said...

thanks always nice to learn how others work.
I LOVE baptist fan quilting.
ok I really love that little dress on the clothesline for your clothes pins, that is just adorable!
did you make it?
kathie

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

I've been quilting over 30 years, and this entire series of posts has been wonderful for new quilters as well as for us oldtimers. Thanks so much.

Sue said...

I use the Sewline pencils and I love them. They are my preferred tool in quilting and applique and so much more. I love the different colored refills:)

This was a great and informative post. Thank you so much!

Glenn Dragone said...

Thanks again for great information. I have been wanting to try the Sewline pencil but wasn't sure about it. Now I'm going to get one.

Vicky said...

I've found so far that I have everything you've mentioned ~sigh~ except the hoop which I promptly ordered. Guess I have no excuses now -- just need to do it! Love love love Baptist (or Methodist) fans. Can I rename mine Catholic fans? LOL This series is wonderful! Thank you for doing it!

Pookie said...

Add me to the chorus of "hooray for Sewline pencils!" The pink is super-duper fun for making hand piecing seams -- marking is so dull, it's nice to spice it up with bright pink.

The Baptist fans look so cool!

krisgray said...

I love the pens that come out with water but they were getting costly. I have now switched to the mechanical pencils: sewline and Fons & Porter. I have a blog post about my marker travails at http://farmgirltransplant.blogspot.com/2010/07/marking-quilt.html#links

sforme said...

I just wanted to thank you for all the information you've been posting on hand quilting. I'm a hand quilter and agree with everything you've said. Always good to glean new ideas. thanks so much! Susan

Sharon said...

I've looked at this quilt many times and it inspired me to quilt Baptist Fans on a scrappy 9 patch that I made from a swap. I still have a ways to go, but your "weekend" timeline really impressed me!

colleencl said...

Wordy, but oh so informative! Thank you, thank you. I love the Baptist Fan and have never attempted it, I'm am so encouraged!

Minick and Simpson said...

Hi Everyone,

Sharon is referring to this post I made last year about the quilt pictured....

http://minickandsimpson.blogspot.com/search?q=fuss

Thanks

Laurie

Janet said...

Thanks again for another great post! I'm going to look for a Sewline pencil too!

WoolenSails said...

I do love using the wheel, it is great for free motion on smaller pieces. I just draw on a design as I go, so it works long enough to stitch. I can't follow a line anyways, so free motion works for me;)

Debbie

badlandsquilts said...

Do you make the fans always the same size or do you recalculate the size so that it comes out evenly on the quilt?

Thanks for the inspiration!

Janet said...

Again supergood advice. I also find that tailor's chalk in white or yellow is great and stays fairly well - I especially found it useful in matking a flying geese that had diamond crss hatched quilting in the solid strips between strips of geese. I felt like in order to get the symettry right I had to do the whole strip and then quilt.
Thanks for these great tutorials.
I now feel confident in doing a baptist fan!

kshackabq said...

Laurie - these posts have been very helpful. Thank you for spending the time to teach us all!

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

Thank you so much Laurie! This was great information.

Jeanne (RED) said...

Hey, Laurie,
Continued thanks on all this great information! I have a shopping List started! Jeanne L.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't everyone who quilts have favroites ideas on the actual quilting? My rule, for myself, is if the quilt has mostly straight seams and piecing, then use a cruvey pattern for the quilting. And do the opoosible for a cruvy appliqe or pieced quilt. This does seem to compliment well.

In a large shallow plastic box I have amasses anything that is a circle. Coffee cans lids, yogurt and margaiine container lids, old cd's, old saucer, as well as old salad and dinners plates, Used up thread spools of sizes also make their way into the box. These serve as my quilt marking stencils ... shapes? For straight lines, I have several rulers, up to 36" long. Told you I am cheap. But I do like the results these items give.

AnnieRose

badloi said...

wow nice blog...i love to draw yet i don't know usually how to combine colors... hehehe..lol...


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regards,
badloi

Kristen said...

What is the quilt in your blog post? Is it one of your patterns? I just fell in love with it.

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