Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stars, Thistles and Birds: Plans for Wholecloth Quilting

Maybe this is a bad thing because I haven't finished the Green Star quilt yet, but I've already started planning my next two Wholecloth quilts. The Green Star quilt probably won't get done until the end of this year. It's harder to get quilting done when it's hot; I'm probably about halfway done right now. Getting one quilt done a year is, I think, a decent goal.

The Plan

Introducing: the Thistle Quilt

So the next quilt is going to be a bed cover for a twin-sized bed. The backing is a piece of deep grass green cotton; the top is a piece of white handkerchief linen with strips of tan floral quilting cotton and various remnant squares of linen. The batting is a remnant of "Warm and White" cotton from work. The design plan is to have a Scottish thistle as the central medallion, with a Celtic/Norse flavor.

Pinterest: I generally dislike using Pinterest, but it is a good place to store idea pictures

For the next next quilt, it's not all settled yet. It's going to be a queen size again, and I know I want to buy wide cotton muslin quilt backing($7 a yard from so there aren't any seams on the back side, and use linen/cotton for the top(possibly the $7 a yard Kaufman Essex also from I'm thinking this quilt might have a bird theme.

How I Quilt

I don't have a quilt frame. I don't baste. I just break all the rules. That's how I roll.

When I'm drawing out my design on the quilt top, I usually mark the central medallion with a water-soluble pencil. I also use a fine-tip disappearing ink pen for more detailed, smaller designs. I usually begin by penciling a basic graph on the quilt top so as to mark the center point and a square around the size of the medallion. I haven't used stencils much, and mostly I do freehand based off my graph measurements. Since 18th Century quilters didn't have lightboxes and would have had to free-hand or stencil the designs on, I figure I'm in good company.  Quilting does require much more geometry and math than I would like!

I may not keep all the rules, but one rule I stick to is always start from the center and work outwards. I certainly don't have room for a quilt frame, so I'm always dragging my quilt around the house to work on it. Even though the layers are safety-pinned together at about every three inches, sometimes there are still small ripples on the underside from the quilt being moved around and not being kept flat or rolled. I'm ok with that, since I only quilt for myself, but it's something to be aware of.

It's been hard for me to find online resources specifically on wholecloth hand-quilting, but I recently found this old post by Natalie at Sewing Room Secrets. It's a great post with pictures of her hand-sewn wholecloth quilt(Personally, I think all wholecloth quilts should be hand-sewn). She also talks about her fingers getting torn up by the needle- that happens to me too, because I'm too lazy to learn how to use a thimble.

Quilting Accessories

Leather thimble from Clover: something I haven't tried, but should.
Fine-tip disapearing ink pen. This is the one I have. It's lasted me two years at least, and works well.
Water-soluble pencil. Get the one specifically for quilting, not apparel: there is a difference.
Hancock Fabrics(the only local fabric store that I'm acquainted with) has cotton, poly, wool and bamboo batting. They also have quilt backing, but at my store it is all patterned with a modern print and is $12+ per yard to boot. I get my quilting thread from Hancocks, when it goes on sale. I know people have said using normal thread is fine, and I'm sure it is, but I like working with the thicker hand-quilting thread. has muslin quilt backing for $7 a yard, and free shipping for orders over $35.

So there you go! Way more details about my quilts than you ever wanted to know.

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