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Monday, May 30, 2016

Courageous L'il Ole Me

The 2016 Quilt show in Montreal has finished. It was spectacular! I was exhibiting one quilt, "In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-tale." I am never under any illusions about my quilts winning anything - I'm far too careless.

It is true - I get impatient when I'm quilting. I change my plans part way through, I can't be bothered to switch thread name is Debbie and I am an impatient quilter.

I always ask for my quilts to be judged though. There are three judges who view each quilt separately and give marks for certain criteria and written comments.

My marks have stayed pretty consistent for a decade. I'm not going to divulge them, (apparently I have some pride) but suffice it to say that, had I had marks like that in high school, I would have had a lot more friends!

I am most pleased with the written comments though. The judges clearly took their time studying my piece. It can't have been easy for them, because there is such a variation between the great parts of my quilt, and the less-than-great parts.

But one thing all three judges said was how courageous I was to put text in my quilt. (Most of the actual "quilting" - the bit where you sew all three layers together - is done in text.)

And several people who I know from the two guilds I've attended met up with me and asked me how I did so much text.

So I thought I'd describe my "courageous" technique!

So I will use this quote as my example: "When all is dark within the house, who knows the monster from the mouse?"

I did the text first, before going back over the quilt and filling in the spaces left unquilted.

So first I had to mark the writing on the quilt. The easiest way to practise this (because practise actually helps!) is to use a small quilt sandwich with white fabric. Mark the words with a graphite marker or just a pencil if you're going to be sewing in dark thread. That color combo is the easiest way to mark.

Of course, I didn't have that option. I had to use the blue water-soluble marker for the orange and pink backgrounds of the quote. Where the color switches to dark purple, I had to use a white marker.

Those white markers are tricky to work with though, because you have to go over them multiple times, and it takes up to ten seconds for the white marks to start to show. So you have to be patient when using them.

Once you have your text written out to your satisfaction, you have to use a hoop. You will be using your preferred method of free-motion quilting. Some people drop the feed dogs, I don't. I use the method proposed by Leah Day, where you set your stitch length to zero. She explains it better than I can!

Doing the text as quilting, you really have to put it in a hoop. Some smaller hoops you can put in place simply by lifting your presser foot manually, larger ones are a bit trickier. You have to put the outer ring of the hoop under the presser foot first. I turn it so it's standing up - that way it's not even 1/4" thick - and slide that under the foot. Then you do the same for the inner ring. Finally you shove your quilt in and get it all settled in the hoop, with you writing hopefully contained within it. If the writing extends, well you sew up to where you can't sew any more, and stop with needle down, so you don't have to make a lump backing up over your stitching.

Then you move the hoop around the fabric. Your quilt is held in place by the needle. You move the hoop around the next bit you want to sew, lock it all in again, and do the next bit.

That's it. Not rocket science. Why do we put the outer ring in first? Well, you want the fabric you're sewing on to lay flat against the bed of the sewing machine. If you put the inner ring in first, your fabric will be floating above the bed of the machine.

Now one of the comments from one of the judges was that perhaps I should take a bit more time to plan. And I wholeheartedly agree. Had I planned everything out in this quilt, you'd be able to read all the writing clearly, and it would look more cohesive.

It's actually, as it is, a pretty good representation of my (if you can call it that!). As in, there is precious little process to any of my thinking. Like the bits of text that are very difficult to read because there is so little contrast between the color of the thread and the color of the background. I know what it says, and my friend who is the recipient knows what it says...and if you read the book (The White Deer, by James Thurber) you'll know what it says! But if I had planned it out properly, and taken just a wee bit more time, everybody would have been able to read it.

My marks suit the quilt perfectly. I am content.

And I still love my quilt, imperfections and all!

(If you want more pics of this quilt, see this posting!)

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