When I first began to learn how to quilt, I bought several books to teach myself ideas, techniques, and some basics about design and color. My first year I made some of the quilts shown in the books to practice skills. I always came to the end of the quilt “how to” directions and encountered the oft repeated phrase “Quilt as Desired”. YIKES! What does that mean?! So, then I bought some books on machine quilting. And I spent hours with Leah Day’s website with over 400 different free motion designs. I made samplers with different designs which hang on my studio wall for inspiration. And yet….I often look at a new art quilt and again ponder how to quilt it.
I’m going to do a series of blog posts to start off 2016 about how I make these decisions, sharing examples. Deciding “how to quilt a quilt” is as important as the design and piecing of the art quilt. I think quilt stitching for art quilts is a further challenge because the spaces we are quilting are not square. Often designs for free motion quilting are shown in a neat square which is the basis for traditional quilts. My contemporary art quilts have more open spaces, or pieced backgrounds, basically anything BUT a square patch upon which to design quilt stitching. My overall goal with the quilt stitching is to enhance the design, not just secure the quilt top to the backing.
Here is an example of selecting free motion stitching to create texture and define portions of the quilt. This quilt has similar colors in much of the quilt so I wanted stitching to help define the different parts of the flower petals. I used a check board pattern for the center of the flower, a straight stitch for the white part and a curved loop within loop for a patterned part. I also decided not to even quilt the peach/rust sliver beside the white section. By not quilting it, this gave the quilt a bit more three dimension. In the second photo you can see I used a scallop design in one color and a curved onion design in the other darker purple. Finally, I did a loopy stippling for the background
Often I see a stitch design I like but then I must modify it a bit to work in a quilt. Free motion stitches are limited only by our imagination.
Equally important to the stitch design is the thread color. I chose blending threads for all parts of this quilt except the medium purple (scallops) where I wanted the stitching to be more visible, again to give texture and depth to the quilt. I change thread colors frequently on most quilts if it enhances the design.