Monday, March 14, 2011

Stumbling through the town and the batting debate...

I have finally moved past just outline quilting the applique shapes of my "All Around the Town" quilt (Sue Garmon).  The outlining is pleasant because it requires no marking and very little thought.  That kind of mindless quilting was perfect while I was sick recently.
This weekend I started adding texture and personality to the actual applique shapes.  The outline quilting makes the shapes a little puffy (which I'm not crazy about), even though I use a minimal loft cotton batt.  I add quilting to tame that effect (and it also further anchors the applique pieces).  I like to hide little quilting motifs that reflect my personality (see the peace sign on the brick building?  it's a subtle message...).

I love trees and nature, so I decided to reflect that by filling the trees with hearts.

It's also fun to let the fabric tell me how to quilt something.
When I use architectural fabrics on buildings, I challenge myself to quilt them with little filler motifs that "match," like these roofing fabrics.

 I am also adding fill to the large grassy lawns of each house.

Some of the little features get a few quilting details.

I decided to quilt the borders before quilting the sky.  I guess I'm saving the sky for last because I think that will really make things "pop" (kind of like saving the outlining for last when doing counted cross-stitch).  It doesn't snow up very well on the border fabric I used, and I'm a poor photographer (which doesn't help).

I'm a little disappointed in my batting choice.  I like to make as small of stitches as possible when I quilt, especially when I am trying to add tiny detail to tiny pieces.  But it is a trade off.  The greater the batting loft, the better the stitches are displayed, but with greater loft it is harder and slower to make tiny stitches.

I found this to be a problem with my Civil War Bride as well.  On that quilt, I chose a light brown quilting thread which compounded the problem.  With minimal loft and matching quilting thread, it is hard to see the stitches.  My "ta-da!" moment was lessened because I spent all that time doing a lot of pretty good quilting, and it wasn't even visible.  Major bummer!  The border has double piano key quilting behind all the applique and it doesn't even show up!

There's a better picture of one of the quilted corners here on the Civil War Bride Blog where the quilting shows up pretty well.  Susi of Susi's Quilts used a loftier batting on her finished Bride quilt, and her beautiful quilting is shown at a good advantage, as seen here, also on the Civil War Bride Blog.

The low loft of the cotton batting doesn't quilt with enough dimensional contrast...there's no shadow, not enough cool 3-D effect.  When I look at the pictures, I even doubt that it is hand quilted, and I quilted it!  All that work and effort on hand applique and hand quilting, and I blew it on my batting choice!  When it was hanging in a show last year, I overheard someone comment, "it's not even quilted..."  I died right then and there...

That is one reason I decided to use natural colored quilting thread on this quilt which has so many dark fabrics.  I used a low loft batt again, but wanted to stitches to be seen.  I'm still not happy.  When I made "Home Sweet Home," I used an heirloom wool batt.

 It was a little harder to make tiny stitches, but I managed to do it.  It had enough loft for my quilting to really stand out.  It also has a beautiful drape.

The wool was a little more expensive, but I think I've finally learned my lesson.

If you are a hand quilter, is there a particular batt you like to use?!?

Thank you for all your input on Block of the Month programs (see my last post if you would like to wade in and post an opinion).  As this post is SO-O-O long, I will talk about that next time.

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. Teresa....this post was so interesting on the batting choices. First....your quilting is beautiful, and I am in love with these 3 amazing quilts! They are stunners!

    I haven't hand quilted in years, since before my carpel tunnel surgeries.....I guess I should give it another go now that my hands are good for something! I never really thought about the batting, other than I wanted all cotton....but I guess I'm going to have to do one of those trials with a bunch of sample pieces, so I can see what they turn out like.

    And yes, I would have been mortified if I'd heard someone say that it wasn't even quilted, when in fact, you did amazing quilting on it....I hurt for you! But your pain is a gain in knowing that you will never match thread to fabric for hand quilting again! A lesson learned by a good beating, complete with black and blue marks. I'm so sorry!

  2. Love all the photos of the detailed work - what a pleasure to see handquilting. I think I read on Chitter Chatter Designs, where she used two batts - on low and one high, to accomplish more defined stitching and Trumpino affect. I use a medium 100% cotton (Quilters Dream) or a poly-cotton with handquilting - just to get the stitches even. A super low loft, you lose the affect - unless I am using a colored pearl cotton as accent design. I've never used the wool batt as I am allergic to wool.

  3. Thank you for posting so many beautiful pictures, I am so enjoying so all your wonderful work on this quilt. I do not know how to hand quilt but you sure are giving me a desire to learn.

  4. My stitches show up best after I have washed/rinsed the quilt...particularly withe the wool I find that true no matter what loft I use.

    Love the quilting on your townie quilt!

  5. Oh it is fantastic! I'm so excited to see the quilt.. and it is amazing how far you have already gotten on the hand quilting.. FAST, FAST you are!! I'm still stitching on my hexies.. trying so hard to move along on this quilt.. (I will finish!!)

  6. Wonderful pictures!! You have almost persuaded me to order the pattern for this quilt.
    As for hand-quilting....I always use Hobbs Heirloom Wool. The only time I used 100% cotton I hated it, as quilting seemed so hard going. But that may have been me.... You seem to have a turbo needle, though, you go so fast..!!

  7. Wow! You got so much finished already! It's looking amazing, and I love the peace sign and tree hearts.

    So sorry about the comment you overheard at a show. Actually, it surprises me the things people will let pop out of their mouths. If I were at a show and saw something that maybe looked unfinished, the first thought would be that I must not be looking at it closely enough. I know we'd want more visibility on our hard work, but honestly - the gal was not thinking at all when she said that!

  8. Your applique is so inspiring..and some of it is just plain fun! I love your work! The CW Bride and the Home Sweet Home are also amazing works of art. The quilting looks wonderful to me. I'm not a hand quilter but can surely sympathize with you wanting your detailed efforts to show up. The wool sounds like a good way to go but it looks to me that your All Around Town will show the stitches pretty well, especially with the contrast in the thread you have chosen. Don't get discouraged. It is looking great!

  9. Your quilting is beautiful? Love all the detail. Sorry about your batting woes. Have you tried quilter's dream orient? It's a silk, bamboo, tencel blend and has a little more loft than cotton but not quite as much as wool. It's super silky and easy to quilt through. It is a bit pricey, but you can find it on sale regularly from places like fabric depot in portland.

    I'm curious, when you do mark, what do you use?

  10. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool WOOL batting person! :-) There is differences between them, too...I like Hobbs brand. Quilters Dream and some of the others do not quilt the same way as the Hobbs wool. I like the Idea of cotton :-) and I'll probably use a thin cotton on my Dear Jane because of the limited quilting I can do in those small blocks. I haven't felt any discernable difference in the silk or the bamboo, either. So, wool it is for me! :-) Love the ease of quilting, the loft without washing, the warm, the weight...Yeah. I'm sold! :-)

    You are so ahead of me! :-) I already have background and patterns for the Civil War Bride (it's on the LIST! :-D), and I'm waiting for the patterns for Around Town (since I didn't win them! If I don't have them by then, I'll ask Crispy to share! LOL) Beautiful, beautiful work, woman! Maybe I need a quilt cave to inspire me!!
    Mary Lou

  11. I agree with Jane in Wales about cotton, but I haven't really tried enough other than poly to know what I like best yet. I do have a silk batt I am looking forward to trying. But cotton does seem more difficult to quilt through to me.

  12. I love all the close pictures of your quilting!! It's so lovely - it brings the quilt to life. You are so creative with the shapes you quilt. And so fast!
    I like to use silk batting for handquilting. I'm working on my 2nd larger quilt with it and I just love it. I especially like how easy it is to get small stitches. I have found a store on the other side of the city that sells it quite reasonably priced.
    What a horrible thing for someone to have said at a quilt show! I'm shocked. Your CWB quilt is gorgeous and the quilting is lovely.

  13. Teresa your quilting is lovely! I can understand your terrible disappointment at the cruel comment on your CWBQ. I am about to baste a quilt and am nervous about what batt to use. Originally purchased Quilt Lite but I've decided to go with a Quilters Dream cotton. Although it's thin it's got more poof than the Quilt Lite and I agree - you want all those stitches to show and add that little extra dimension.

  14. There are so many surprises in your town quilt when viewed close at hand. So whimsical.

  15. I love visiting your blog to become inspired. I love the style you use with everything looking so cheerful (not to mention, beautifully made)!

    I want to start working on some apliqued houses now too... you make it look like so much fun with all of the wonderful details that you include.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Your quilting is wonderful!! Most of the time I use a low loft poly bat. I like the ease of needling and the stitches are always small. I'm usually not after high texture in my hand quilting so it works for me. As someone said, once it's washed it shows enough texture :0)


  17. so interesting!
    I always use dream cotton and feel I see my stitches fine. One thing I have noticed is it shows up soooo much better on almost solid or solid fabrics. It's interesting. I'll have to look at some of my stuff. I've sworn off trying new batts, but which wool did you use? I'd be willing to give it a go.

  18. I have been holding back quilting my two larger quilts with lots of applique, because I was not sure how to go about it. I love how you are quilting All Around the Town and think I'm ready to go for it now! All Around the Town is looking good Teresa!

  19. I love your quilts. I agree with those that have said Hobbs Heirloom Wool. I really don't care to quilt through cotton. Beautiful quilting and photos Teresa.

  20. What a fabulous post. I love talking about batting and the pros and cons. I used quilters dream cotton almost exclusively but when it's washed and crinkled, elements like feathers don't show up much. I was going to try the Hobbs wool and was surprised that you found it harder to get the small stitches. I would have thought it would quilt like butter being wool.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  21. P.S, I forgot to say how wonderful your quilts are, really gorgeous and beautiful hand quilting!

  22. great photos of your quilting. Love the "skeery" woods sign.
    I like the way you add the quilting to reflect your personality. I don't hand quilt much but when I do it is usually low loft cotton. The thinner the better for me to get tinier stitches which I am still not good at.

  23. Your quilts are amazing! I have used wool and have found that I was able to make very small fairly even stitches. I have used the quilters dream request, it was okay a little harder to quilt through, but draped well and not too heavy. I am working on a small whole cloth using Mt. Mist Heritage Collection a Touch of Silk. It is a 95% poly 5% silk batting. My stitches are tiny and even. The loft is giving me some nice definition in my quilting design, without being too lofty. I have heard, but not tried yet (will someday soon), that Mt. Mist's Rose batting is a great cotton batting for handquilting. I want to see if I like it better than the Quilters Dream batt. Good luck.

  24. I love your appliqued work! I will TRY applique one's a goal of mine! thanks for sharing all your photos!


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