Every time you quilt you are creating texture. The very nature of what makes up a quilt, three layers, with the center being a compressible fiber, means that when you stitch the three layers together you will compress that inner layer with your stitches and create texture. The location of the stitches will be lower than what surrounds them. The contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt. That variation is the definition of texture. (See last week’s blog post to refresh your memory of that definition.)
Sometimes you look at a quilt and swoon over the gorgeous texture of the quilting. With other quilts, you might hardly notice the quilting. Why? If you look at a variety of quilts, (Pinterest is a good place to do that), notice where you can really see the quilting and you’ll come to realize that quilting shows up best on solid, lighter color fabrics. This quilted bag has a ton of quilting on the black background surrounding the mandala. But you can hardly see it.
This quilt has a lot of texture too. It is hardly noticeable on the colorful, busy and darker fabrics. You can see a bit of the texture in the light blue areas. This quilt is 12″ x 12″.
But look at the texture you can see on the back of the quilt!
What can we do to emphasize the texture? Here’s some tips you can use:
Pick the right place
Choose the lighter, solid fabric areas of the quilt to create the most interesting textures. [Don’t neglect the other areas with busier, darker fabrics though! If you want your quilts to lie flat, you want an even distribution of texture.]
And always remember, in the right lighting, even texture on darker fabrics can be seen.
Emphasize the contrast
Remember the contrast, low to high, creates a variation on the surface of the quilt, creating texture. So if you stitch some tighter quilting next to an area you want to emphasize, the tighter quilting will flatten out and allow the area next to it to pouf forward.
The daffodils pop forward because there is tighter (or smaller) quilting next to them.
We usually refer to the tight quilting as background quilting.
Rule of thumb: The background quilting motif must be at least 1/3 or less the size of the motif you are trying to emphasize.
Choose the right batting
When you are trying to achieve texture choose a batting with a higher loft. There has to be something to fill up the unquilted areas to make them pop forward. Avoid very flat batts.
100% cotton is an example of a flat batting. Wool is an example of a batting with loft. You can also use a polyester batting, just choose one with a higher loft or thickness.
When I want to emphasize texture I usually use two batts. A layer of 100% cotton or 80/20 on the bottom and a layer of wool on top.
But this was a faux leather pouch that I quilted with upholstery foam instead of traditional batting. It had super-defined texture!
Choose the right thread
Both weight and color are important here. Matching the thread color exactly to the fabric results in seeing pure texture. The thread disappears.
A fine thread also tends to disappear and leave the viewer seeing only texture.
There are no hard and fast rules about thread though. Just like anything else in quilting, experiment and see what happens when you change things up. A contrasting thread can add to the texture!
You’ve heard the saying, “Quilting makes the quilt”? Well I think that’s true because quilting makes the texture.
What do you think?
by Mary Beth Krapil