I want to make a quilt –an honest to goodness, goes on the bed, snuggle up in winter, make a pillow fort quilt.
There, I said it.
This revelation might not come as a huge surprise to those who know me, as I make wearable art on a regular basis, but producing a functional quilt is something that has eluded my entire sewing career. I DO quilt most of my showpieces; however, it’s not the same. The quilting I stitch for a jacket pattern is specialized and condensed. It often goes unnoticed on my pieces because the quilting designs I normally stitch are simple and almost utilitarian… and usually drowning in a million embellishments. I like simple quilting patterns because they seem sincere and approachable to me; however, there is something to be said about magical, ornate and intricate quilt patterns. Which brings me to the one aspect of the quilting industry that both haunts me and terrifies me – free-motion quilting.
I’m terrible at it. I get the basic premise of free- motion stitching, but I have never been able to find a rhythm or fluidity when behind the needle. I have seen COUNTLESS videos, instructions and blog posts about F-MQ, but none of it has sunk in. I have been able to accomplish a few zig-zag stitches in F-MQ though.
The quilting on Zapped’s skirt was all F-MQ. I suppose the multiple blue ribbons it brought in should have convinced me to continue the practice, but alas, they did not, as I haven’t used F-MQ on any other piece since. Mind you, it was a basic back and forth design, so really, it barely reads as F-MQ, in my book.
So, where is all of this sharing taking me?
To a long-time coming project I finally got off the ground.
Ladies, and a select group of gentlemen, I present to you:
THE DRESDEN… uhhh… QUILT THING?
… look, I’m still working on the name, but hear me out.
I LOVE Dresden plates; they are my favorite quilt block to date. As simple as they are, I never get tired of making them, and there are countless variations , so what better block to try my hand at leaning free-motion quilting!?
The rules to this game are simple:
1 – Make 30 blocks to form a quilt. Now, I don’t think wrestling a full size bed quilt in the throat of a domestic machine is the best way to start learning, so I will be connecting these quilted blocks with the Quilt-As-You-Go method. Each block can then be blocked, set and trimmed BEFORE it gets connected. AND each block top must be complete before quilting begins. I don’t want to keep starting and stopping, so when I start quilting, I want to stay quilting.
2 – Each block must be 20”x20”. I need some room to screw up practice on, so I thought that size would be plenty of space, yet still manageable. I remember Ana Buzzalino talking about using a large piece of fabric to practice on so you can chart your progress, and that sounds like a great idea, but I don’t want to have to unfurl a blanket to just sit at the machine and stitch, so the more manageable size wins.
3 – All block designs must radiate from a center point and form a circle, and all designs must present a challenge. This is a strange rule, but one that will keep this project within a modicum of unity. I don’t have to ONLY use Dresden plates, as there are a few odd ball designs that I want to try, but they must come together as a round-ish object. I will allow myself to fudge this with a circle of bias or radial applique if necessary.
The designs shouldn’t be too simple. I want to work around obstacles because this is how most of my pieces are designed. Sure, it would be easy to just work on some plain muslin, but I want to walk away having learned something about the way I design a surface.
4 – NO EMBELLISHMENTS! Nothing – not a button, not a bead, not a sequin! This is the hardest rule to follow, but I want the quilting to be the focus of this quilt. This is going to be a white-knuckle project as I control the compulsion to bead the Hell out of each block.
5 – Only fabric from the stash can be used, with one exception. WHAT?! WHO MADE UP THESE STUPID RULES ANYWAY!?!?! Oh, I did. Never mind… Yeah, this one is REALLY gonna hurt. OK, so the exception to this rule is that I have an idea for a printed motif that fits within the blade of a Dresden, so I’m going to experiment with that, but other than that, it’s all stash. This can be either commercial prints or any of my hand dyed stock. I am not going for a unified color story at all, in fact, scrappier is better for this one, so anything goes!
6 – All applique/piecing must be turned edge. I plan on regularly tossing this thing in the washing machine, and as much as I love fusible applique, I don’t want to deal with fraying. I can use machine applique (my fave) or needle turn.
7 – All quilting, with the exception of stitching in the ditch/outlining, must be free-motion quilting. I was wondering when we were getting to this one. There are a few patterns I want to master: bubbles, stippling, ribbon candy, basic feathers and… DUN DUN DUN… simple feather wreaths. Everything else is gravy. These stitches will not be perfect, but since this is my own quilt, who cares; I’m learning. I’m hoping this project helps me to accept set-backs and stumbles.
8 – Take your time. There is no rush to complete this. I was going to do a BLOCK OF THE MONTH thing, but as fall is quickly approaching, there is no way I’ll make headway while facing my preparations for Quilt Fest. If this thing takes 2 years, so be it!
9 – Document your progress. I neglect this blog WAY too much, so I thought this would be a great way to make content in-between couture weeks and whenever I get free time. I’m planning videos, tutorials and patterns. I said “planning,” not confirming.
10 – QUILT EVERY DAMN DAY! This is a tall order, but one that must be upheld. The key to success in a trade is practice, so even if it’s just two blades on a block, I have to sit at the machine and quilt every single day, once I start quilting.
So that’s it. A basic rule set that will help me on my way to quilting splendor…. I hope.
All of these rules are slightly flexible (Except the one about dyeing. I REALLY need to clear out this stash!) because I don’t want to paint myself into a corner, but for the most part, I’m going to follow them.
As far as quilting instruction goes, I think I have a decent idea of where to start. I understand the basic mechanics of F-MQ, it’s the patterns and carrying the needle to the next motif that messes me up. I have been following a few F-MQ’ers on Youtube, so I know where I need to start. If anyone has any suggestions or comments, please leave them below.
In the meantime, I have already started the top-building process. While working on yet ANOTHER project, I took a few days off and began constructing come of the block tops. Here are my results so far:
I can already see lots of quilting motifs in my head.
I just hope my hands can carry them out!
OK, so more in a few days, I plan on explaining how I make both peaked and rounded Dresden blades.
Let me know if you have any questions!