Machine Quilting: WIP

I’m still quilting along on this one, a quilt that seems to go on forever.  Perhaps it’s because I decided to quilt it all very close together.  Generally I don’t like this for a lap or bed quilt, because it makes it too stiff.  But this one’s art–a quilt to hang on the wall–so rigid isn’t necessarily bad.  I sometimes long for ideas in quilting, so have taken to hunting up pictures taken at quilt shows showing interesting patterns.  Other times, I just lay my translucent paper of the patch being quilted and draw until I’m happy.

Our local quilt show is fixated on heavy machine quilting, so much so that it’s skewed the typed of quilts that are displayed.  One year they gave several longarm quilters the same mini-quilt and let them go to town on the quilting. Here’s a sampling:

The lighting was bad on this side of the hall unless a flash was used.  But then the quilting would have been blanked out by the light, so hope you don’t mind the slightly blurry (but can see the quilting) photo.

So I liked some of these, but I have to admit to some discouragement, as a non-longarm-owner, in terms of how I could finish my quilts.  And while I love being inspired by some of these squares, some are just completely out of reach.  Like the next one.

It looks like those old Spirograph toys I used to have as a girl, where you do overlapping circles in a controlled design.

But, can I just say that this is a bit over the top?  That the machine quilting obscures the piecing design?  I get that it’s supposed to–I’m not that dense (well, at least not this morning).  But I always think a fine piece of art should harmonize on some level, and in cases where there isn’t enough quilting (I’ve done those quilts) or too much quilting (like the sample above), I think the quilt is not balanced.

Here’s another example.  This to me, is just thread-painting, a type of quilting art by itself (reference some of Hollis Chatelein’s work).

I thought the flames here were interesting and highlighted the yellow/blue piecework.

I’ve tried quilting feathers. . . and have mostly failed. Lots of picking out of stitches when I try them.

Don’t like this one at all, but it’s probably like that old line: “You say tomato, I say tomahto.”
In other words: “To each his own,” said the old lady as she kissed the cow.
(That’s an old bromide my father used to say.  I grew up in a family of seven children and you can bet that there were lots of differences of opinion!)

The quilting in this blue corner reminds me of the block Storm at Sea for some reason.

Check out the checkerboard in the blue corner.  A (mostly) blank square alternating with a square with the teensiest stippling stitch which creates a relief, almost like trapunto, to “pop” those squares out.  Sometimes what we don’t quilt adds to a design.

I have to say I walked away from this just wondering about the direction of quilts in this day of machine-machine-machine, quilts stitched to within an inch of their lives.  And sometimes killed in the name of “surface embellishment/machine quilting.”  One of the more beautiful quilts I have seen on this theme, was a whole-cloth quilt, where the machine stitching WAS the point.  It’s when we try to balance it with the piecing that I think we can run into trouble.  I had that experience sewing on my WIP.  Sometimes I wonder if I quilted it too heavily for the fabric, and in some blocks I stitched a design and ripped it right out again (which is one reason why it’s taking me sooo long!).

Here’s a couple of quilts that show varied stitches for inspiration.  Fabulous ferny feather to the left of the lower flower.

I liked this photo because it shows that even echo quilting can be effective.

I remember listening to an elderly speaker once who held up a three page letter someone had written him, all done on the computer.  He made some reference to if it were written by hand, the wandering prose might have been reigned in and the letter’s author might have gotten to the point more quickly. I sometimes wonder if we don’t suffer from the same sort of lack of editing with our swift and powerful machines these days.  I can admire a heavily stitched quilt and can emulate what I can on my smaller, regular machine, in order to get my quilts made.  But when I look at what Suzanne Marshall has done on her quilt (below), The Legend of Guimar, I often wonder if we might need to reign it in a bit.

Her hand-done quilting enhances the design, augments her beautiful applique.  I realize by writing this post, I sound very much like that Granny character in Toy Story, who drives an old Model-T.  We type-cast those older folks as out of step and unable to adapt and change.  But perhaps they see things we can’t, as in love as we are with our technology.

I guess I want it both ways: I want a quilt to be well-quilted and hope that the quilting harmonizes, augments and enhances the design, instead of running over it in a flurry of stitches.

Thanks to Lee, for hosting WIP Wednesday!!

7 thoughts on “Machine Quilting: WIP

  1. I’ll agree that many quilts are over-quilted. I do adore well-executed, balanced heavy custom quilting. It’s very artful and way above my skill level. But I also love the simplistic appeal of a well-executed light quilting. It’s a shame that your local show skews away from those.

  2. This was very interesting. I think I tend to enjoy less and well-spaced quilting. But hey, I shouldn’t even be weighing in since I think I have only machine quilted three quilts–and they were all straight line quilting.

  3. Hmm… I think it depends on what your focus is. I do think quilts as art pieces are fine for excessive quilting. However, to some extent the excessive quilting is just that-excessive. I think it really has to lend itself to the design or you’ve missed something. You were totally right on the spirograph quilting. That was bordering ridiculous.

  4. I enjoy seeing well done quilting although it often leaves me feeling lacking in my skills. But it should complement the piecing and not be in spite of the piecing. Some of those you showed I totally disliked but have to admit the sunflower looking one was pretty cool. Thanks for posting this, I sometimes feel alone in not caring generally for overly heavy quilting

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