you asked…

design, fabric, inspiration, quilting

I get questions. Lots of them. I thought I’d answer a few together in one post. So here we go…

Q: How do you decide on quilting threads and quilting patterns?

A: If we’re machine quilting, which is what we do 95% of the time, we ask ourselves the following questions:

1. What is the role of the quilting in this quilt? Is it to add another design layer to it? In which case it should contrast with the piecing in some way. Or should the quilting disappear and be secondary to the piecing? If that is the case, then you want an all-over pattern that doesn’t call as much attention to itself.

2. Is the piecing directional? Are there long thin strips or elongated shapes? If so, we look for a quilting pattern that works with the directionality of the piece.

3. Are the fabrics solids or busy prints? If you are using solids, you can switch threads and change patterns without it becoming too busy. If you’re using 36 very busy prints, don’t waste your time. The prints will dominate and the busyness of the quilting with just be an unwelcome distraction.

4. As for colors, unless we’re doing contrasting stitching, we look at the lightest and darkest value in the fabrics on the front and go for a value that’s halfway between the two and is neutral or close to the dominant color in the quilt.

The same reader said that she was stuck in the stipple and loopy rut. The solution is to put some muslin or cheap solid fabric on your long-arm or by making a small quilted “sandwich” for your regular machine. Then you put some dark thread on the machine and you doodle. Don’t experiment on a finished quilt. Practice and experiment. Hold onto those experiments to remind yourself of patterns you’ve developed. Also, we show in our books Quilts Made Modern and Modern Quilt Workshop the quilting patterns that we’ve developed. Practice a few and see if you can manage them.

Q: Will you show a detail of the fabrics in Fashion District so we can see the colors more closely?

A: Here you go:

Q: Where can I take a class with you? Do I have to crash someone else’s guild?

A: Believe me. This has been very challenging for us too. We used to teach very popular week-long and 3-day workshops near our studio at the university where Bill teaches. The spaces we used to use became unavailable during a period of construction. We tried another university and the space was unacceptable to us as well as the students. The big issue is that we are a for-profit company so we cannot rent retreat centers and other low-cost venues who only rent to not-for-profits. We think that we will be able to have classes in the Chicago area by next year, but we can’t commit to it at this point.

Periodically husbands email or call us and tell us that they’d like to give their wives a class with us near them. They suggest that we find a place in their town and put together a class and presumably fly myself to the other side of the country. If it were only so simple. We go where we’re invited because I can’t organize a class 1,500 miles away from our studio and assume that it will fill. Even if you’re not part of a guild but can get 10 quilting friends together, if I’m available and you have a venue, I’ll see if we can make it work. We don’t make a living teaching as many quilters do for a variety of reasons including that we have a 10-year-old daughter, have commitments in our community and have commissions and projects booked months ahead. We also think that we’re better and fresher as teachers when we don’t do it 30 weekends a year, which is what many people do.

Q: Will there be a blog tour for Quilts Made Modern?

A: So glad you asked! It starts on July 25 and I’ll post all about it later in the week. There will be some unusual prizes including two 1/2 hr private Skype sessions with us for anyone who wants design or technical help on a quilt in progress. Should be a ton of fun.

Q: Are you working on another book?

A: Our next book, Transparency Quilts,  should be out by December. I will write more about it when I do the blog tour for Quilts Made Modern at the end of the month but we’re very excited about it. I’ll start revealing the projects in the book, week by week beginning in November.

Keep those questions coming!

8 thoughts on “you asked…

  1. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions. You know what they say- go ahead and ask because there are at least ten others out there who were wondering the same thing. Hope you all are having a good summer.

  2. two 1/2 hr private Skype sessions?!? That’s the coolest blog tour prize I’ve ever seen. I am so excited for the book and now I’m even more excited for the blog tour. Woo hoo!

  3. @granny hall – Yes! All of our machine quilting is free-hand. I did chalk the hand-quilted circles on Small Change but everything else comes from years of drawing and good music while we’re on the long-arm!

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