Last week we checked in on Diane Harris to see how she was coming along. Seems she is having more adventures in longarm quilting and learning a lot while having fun. We looked at her recent blog post, Hugs and Kisses: What I Learned. If you didn’t read it, do it now. If you missed the post on the Handi Quilter blog last week, you can read it here, to get caught up. This week we will talk about Diane’s other lessons and I’ll share my thoughts and a tip or two.

Diane says, “The next one is a problem and question that came up but I don’t yet know the answer. I’m counting on Mary Beth Krapil, my machine quilting coach and a Handi Quilter National Educator, to help me.”

4. Should the motifs in different parts of the quilt be related in some way?

Wow, Diane! That’s a huge question.

Here’s what she was thinking:

I had this thought when I started the loops above in the first border, and again when I started the straight lines in the outer border.

I like the loops and the lines a lot because they’re easy and forgiving. But they don’t seem related in any way to the motifs (fingers and leaves) I quilted in the blocks.

The answer to that question is a big matter of opinion.  I like to try to use some principles of design when choosing quilting motifs.

Rhythm and Repetition

Rhythm is created by repetition of line, form, and texture to create a visual link that the eye follows. It invites viewer’s eye to move from one part of the quilt to another.  And what does this mean to a quilter? When you choose a motif, like a leaf, you should repeat that shape in different parts of the quilt and Diane did that expertly by repeating the leaf form in all the dark squares of her X blocks and in each of her X blocks.

Contrast

I like to introduce contrast with the quilting. For lots of straight lines in the piecing, I use curved quilting lines. If there are curved lines in the piecing (or definitely for applique quilts) straight line quilting is the way I lean,  Diane’s “fingers” have a nice element of curve to an essentially straight design that creates that contrast to the straight-line piecing. She also created contrast with the scale of the fingers v.s. the leaf shapes. The fingers are tighter quilting that pushes down the batting in the background of the X and lets the X come forward with the looser leaf motifs. Contrast can also be achieved with thread color. You have to be brave or confident in your quilting abilities, because your quilting will really show with contrasting thread.

Balance

First and foremost the placement and scale of your motifs have to be balanced so that you end up with a nice flat square quilt. Diane used the straight lines in her border. Piano key-like designs are always a good choice for the border. Because of it’s back and forth quilting path, a piano-key design can tame a bit of fullness if needed. And as long as it’s quilted with fairly even spacing it really helps a quilt lie flat.

As to Diane’s concern that the straight lines are not related to the other motifs, it’s my opinion that straight lines always work, no matter what else is happening with the quilting.

Her loops are similar enough to the fingers that I think they work just fine too. She quilted them in the narrow pink stop border. I think a simple design like loops or zigzags or arcs are the perfect motif for narrow borders. Now, if she had chosen to quilt fish….that would be a stretch. Keep the quilting in narrow borders simple and you will always come out ahead.

There are many more principles of design and I would recommend researching and learning as much as you can about them. It will really help you to achieve better quilting.

5. Use a similar color in the bobbin as on the top

Yes, that is an excellent rule! It eliminates tension headaches. Starkly contrasting thread in the top and bobbin will show even the tiniest variations in tension. Diane used hot pink and dark blue threads on top, but didn’t think they would look that great on her light blue backing fabric. It’s always a dilemma when choosing threads, but if you stick with the same thread top and bobbin, it is much more forgiving. If you are a beginner and are afraid that your quilting won’t look nice on the back, choose a busy patterned backing fabric to disguise your quilting till you gain more confidence.

Diane’s next lesson was:

6. Your bobbles won’t show to the average viewer.

Amen. The people who will see your quilt will love it, simply because you made it. They don’t know anything about quilting and they don’t care! You made it, and it is beautiful. Even other quilters who DO know a thing or two about quilting will applaud you. You FINISHED a quilt. That is cause for celebration in and of itself. Not to mention the things you learned along the way.

Diane says, “Have you ever noticed that no matter how ugly a quilt might be during show and tell, people still appreciate the maker’s efforts?

And if it’s an early effort, even more so. We all start somewhere, and later we remember how much we appreciated the encouragement of others who understood.”

Wise words my friend! Quilt on!

by Mary Beth Krapil, Handi Quilter National Educator