Quilting the Quilt

After the time spent enjoying the trips to the fabric store, reviewing all of the possibilities of both colors and patterns, you finally decided and made final selections.  Next came the hours of cutting, sewing, pressing…hopefully with limited “unsewing”.  You have finally finished your beautiful quilt top…your creation…your “baby.”  And just like when it is time to send your kids off to Kindergarten, and then college, you now have to send this beautiful “baby” off to the quilter.

The anxiety builds and the questions loom…Did I choose the right quilter?  What will they do with my quilt top?  Will I recognize it when it comes back home?  Despite these questions though, you excited  delivery your work of art to your trusted long-arm quilter, confident that they will transform your top into a gorgeous, completed quilt.  Such was the recent journey of a quilt delivered to me, which will be a present for the youngest daughter on the occasion of her marriage in June.

Now, my anxiety as a quilter begins and the questions take over my mind.  Will I make the right choices for their quilt top?  Will they like what I do their quilt top?  Will they recognize and adore their quilt when it is delivered back to them?

My quilting process is pretty much the same for every quilt.  Look at the top and ponder, asking, What does this quilt top need?  Sometimes, the answer comes quickly.  Other times, the customer has their own ideas which I try to translate.  Still other times, the quilt is in my mind for days and days, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I review various quilting designs on Pinterest and Google.  “Old-fashioned” magazines are also good sources, and provided the inspiration for this quilt.

The May/June 2017 issue of Quiltmaker served as the inspiration for the quilt at hand.


Quiltmaker has started adding graphics showing the quilting details, as well as quilting alternatives, for various levels and complexities.  Here is the quilting detail that inspired the quilting motif I used on this recent project.

Whenever I am attempting a new quilting motif, I always practice on paper.  Doodling is the quilter’s best friend.  It gets, and keeps, the creative juices flowing.  It is a good way to test the design.  Will it travel easily across the quilt?  Can it switch directions nicely so it can be used as an all-over?  Doodling answers these questions before thread is put to fabric.  As much as I hate ripping seams when sewing, it is worse to have to take out quilting stitches.


When doodling this design, it became very apparent that there was going to be a lot of thread build up.  I used to avoid thread build up like the plague.  However, as I have expanded my quilting repertoire, I have realized that back-tracking is necessary in order to travel the design across the quilt.


This quilting design ended up travelling over the quilt nicely.

As soon as the top comes off of the frame, the first thing I do is check out the back.  I love seeing the design, uninterrupted on the back.  When I finally see the back, a sense of relief and awe come over me.  It is always a relief to feel like I made the right choice.  And after viewing this completed quilt, I was awestruck at the beauty and fluidity of the chosen design.



Thanks to J. Chandler for allowing me to showcase her quilt as part of this blog post.  Best wishes to her daughter, as she becomes a June Bride!!

The Creation of a Quilt

My nephew is getting married this week.  As I have done with all of my nieces and nephews, that means creating a quilt for the happy couple.  Typically, I have simply “super-sized” an original pattern to make it bed-size.

I will get a bit of input from the couple to make sure I steer clear of definite dislikes of either color or pattern and try to make it fit in with their planned decorating scheme.  For this nephew, and soon-to-be niece-in-law (is that really a thing), they told me that they are doing their bedroom in purple and grey.   That was really the only direction they gave…which is nice.  That means I basically have full, creative license.

So, armed with this little bit of information, it was time to get the creative juices flowing, and get to work.

Which comes first, the pattern or the fabric?

This is really is almost as bad as the chicken/egg conundrum.  Do I start with a pattern and then make sure I to have fabrics that work?  Or do I look for a great fabric and then incorporate it into a pattern?  I will admit, I have done it both ways.  When I designed patterns for Riley Blake Designs, it always started with the fabric.  However, when working from my stash, I will generally start with a pattern and then find the fabrics that will work…I can almost ALWAYS find something in my stash.

So, to Pinterest and Google Images I went.  Scanning pattern after pattern, I was looking for something that looked like this young twenty-something couple.  Things I had in mind were, simple design, modern, quick to piece…after all, they are getting married on Saturday and I have pushed this off to the point where I only had about 10 days to accomplish a completed quilt.  In an afternoon of surfing, I had found 3 possible designs.  However, each were for a lap quilt, and just simply making the blocks bigger didn’t really seem to net a pleasant result.  So, I started playing in Excel.  (I use EQ6 at home, but when I am “doodling” at work, Excel lets me play well-enough).  I came up with 2 designs that I would take home and review with my wife and to start the fabric selection process.  I was leaning toward the concentric squares of differing sizes.

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Two possible quilt designs.  Excel generated “graph paper” is a quilter’s best friend.

Next I went “shopping” in my sizeable stash.  Having been a former store owner, I have the luxury of a stash that is enviable.  I have fabric still on bolts, as well as 3+ yard-cuts of fabric to go to when selecting fabrics for a project.  I pulled just about every piece of fabric I had that was anywhere near the purple/grey color scheme.  Here is where I must admit…scrappy isn’t really my thing, so being able to pull this off was really going to push my limits.

A small sampling of the purple/grey fabrics that were being auditioned for a scappy wedding quilt…BTW, none of these made it into the final project.

Deciding I definitely had what it took, I placed the sketch and fabric aside.  Making this quilt would need to wait until after two other projects were completed.  I had an “emergency” quilt that needed to be quilted, as a gift for a neighbor battling cancer, from another wonderful, quilting neighbor.  And a customer quilt that I had promised back to them by the end of Conference Weekend. (www.lds.org #ldsconf).

Quilting for a Cause.  This quilt was pieced by one neighbor to gift to another who is fighting a battle with lymphoma.  #cancersucks
A beautiful quilt for a customer.  Various buildings surrounding a center block.  It had everything, applique, ribbon embroidery, button embellishments…Beautiful!!

As I was working on these projects, my wife did a bit of Pinterest-surfing herself and found another design.  And though I hate to admit it…it was perfect.  http://www.all-about-quilts.com/joannes-designs-week52.html But like the designs I had found, it was only a lap quilt so it needed to be re-sized and modified.  Fortunately, this time I was home and could play in EQ6.  We came up with the following design.  Still very simple and modern, it had an order about it that made my “it must be symmetrical” mindset calm.

Jayson Quilt
EQ6 representation of the finished quilt.

The biggest concern was it required over 8 yards of fabric for the background.  Fortunately, we had something that fit the bill quite nicely.

Majestic Batiks – 1DNX-263.  I love this fabric company.

Measure Twice, Cut Once.  Strike that.  Reverse it.

Now, with new fabrics selected, pattern designed and sized, it was time to start cutting.  I had changed the fabric placements from the original design found on Pinterest so that some strip-piecing could be done to save time.

While I worked on quilting the customer quilt, Stacy, my wife, got started on cutting the fabrics for piecing.  After she had cut all of the “purple” squares, she was at a good stopping point and ready to call it a night…and so was I.  As I looked at her piles of pieces, I simply said, “Oh” and had what my family affectionately calls my “stupid face” look.  Stacy wondered what was with the look.  “So you decided against strip-piecing?”  She looked at her pile and said,”I guess so.”   At least nothing was mis-cut as some of the fabrics only had a couple of inches to spare.  So, rather that strip-piecing, she opted for chain-stitching to assemble the blocks.

Putting it All Together

The next afternoon, she sat at her machine and pieced, while I finished the customer’s quilt.  By the end of the night, all blocks were pieced and ready to be assembled into rows.  The quilt was coming together nicely.  And since it is Spring Break, and she doesn’t have to teach this week, we thought we might actually get it done before the “I Do-s” were spoken.  Assembling the rows and joining them together to create the top went smoothly.  Proper block rotation and pressing of seams in alternating directions really helped when it came time to join the rows into the top.  And, it is times like this, when I am very glad that the “modern quilt movement” has definitely decided that borders are optional.  Sometimes adding four borders to a quilt seemingly takes as long as creating the entire quilt top.  Going borderless on this one, definitely helped meet the impending deadline.

Quilting with Meaning

A few years back, I was asked to quilt a wedding quilt for my cousin’s daughter.  It was nothing fancy, but I wanted to make it something special.  As I doodled to come up with a fantastic design, a combination of smooth, curvy swirls and stark right-angles came to mind.  Filling the quilt with these two juxtaposed designs, was perfect…and it has now become my “go-to” wedding quilt design.

Close up of quilting design.  It is fairly quick and easy, too.

Why this design?  Well, for me it is the perfect quilting metaphor for marriage.  Two different and distinct individuals come together to create something beautiful.  If there is too much swirl, or too much right-angle, the design becomes unbalanced and looks off.  However, when they work together, each doing their part, the results are breathtakingly beautiful.

Bound Together Forever

The binding is the final step.  Stacy does an awesome job machine-binding quilts.  She is very meticulous and thorough.  I tend to be more of the mindset…it’s the binding.  Let’s get it on and be done already.  She however, takes her time to make sure the binding is properly placed with very little “flappy” edges on the back.  I love it when she has time to do the binding because her results are astounding.

Finished quilt….not the best picture, and please excuse the messy side tables.

Best wishes to the happy couple as you begin your journey together.