Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Orange and Grey Completion

When I left off in my previous post I was trying to decide the FMQ pattern for my charcoal dotted fabric, orange weave fabric, and grey large scale floral fabric. I wanted the charcoal dotted fabric to receded into the background when used as a block frame. The dominant opinion of other quilters was to do pebbles on the charcoal fabric. Two suggestions were to play with the size of the pebbles or perhaps experiment with the thread color.

I tentatively agreed but knew I was terrible at pebbling, even more wary of doing it in a contrasting thread. I practiced pebbles of different sizes and came to the conclusion that circles a bit smaller than the size of the ½" hopper foot would be a good scale. I auditioned a charcoal grey thread, a variegated grey thread, and white thread. White was what I had used throughout the rest of the top. My charcoal grey was too steely blue. The white would look like scribbles. The variegated had a decent chance of being tolerable and hiding flaws. This viewpoint was not a convincing one to entice me to do pebbles.

I slept on it and then I had an inspiration. Why was I trying to repeat of pattern of the dots if I wanted them to recede? Maybe I should echo the flowing form of tree branches. I liked that idea. I did not practice and went ahead and did it before I changed my mind. When it is right you just feel it. I very often overanalyze, but this time I went with my gut. Besides I had been itching to use that new ruler I'd bought. I stayed with white thread. I would have had to test that grey variegated one and I wanted to just charge ahead. Frankly, I was sick of thinking about it.

I used the shallow waveform side of a Handiquilter Ruler Wave C.  I purposely did not center the waveform on the block side in order to get that swirl sensation and I shifted the ruler at right angles to the curve to get parallel curves about ¼" apart. The ruler is 8" long and my blocks are 10" square. I stopped it at each seam. That way, only on the longest of the four sides, did I need to shift the ruler along the curve to extend the stitching line to 10". I also learned from my struggles with the birdie mini print border. This time I consistently held the ruler horizontal and stitched above it. Since I always started at the inner edge of the block frame and worked toward the outer edge, it made sense. I maintained the ruler in the same orientation relative to my hopper foot.  When I did a different side, I rotated the quilt 90°. I did not try to use the ruler sideways or upside down without rotating the quilt.

The same wavy framing enhances a landscape format tree as well as a portrait format tree. It echoes the undulating branches and ignores the spots. I think it gives the effect of sweeping winds in a snowstorm.

The wavy lines do show up as texture on the back as well.

For the large grey floral print, I experimented to see what I would get with outline quilting. I echoed each flower, then echoed it again, and again, and again until I had these interesting little pond-like ripples of FMQ with flowers puffing up as islands among them. If the flowers were the large ones, I spiral stitched in their white center. If the flowers were small, I left the centers unstitched so the flower would free to puff up without restraint. On the outer orange weave framing, I looped back and forth like a ribbon stitch at about 1/4" or less spacing. It barely shows but the texture is great. It really feels like a basket.

That basket weave  FMQ shows up more than just texture on the back where it is against the orange polka dot. This frame is around one of the tulip and ball centered blocks. 

There were four blocks remaining and these had the birdie border and just a big blob of that blender type orange weave in the center – not a great focal point like the trees or flowers or beads or tulips or balls. Someone suggested I FMQ in a contrasting grey thread. I really liked that idea and left a local HQ16 club meeting thinking that is what I would do. A friend suggested stitching a flower shape like was in the large floral print. I liked that idea too and searched through my brain for how I would copy it and mark it on the quilt top. Then I had second thoughts. Would grey thread look weird since everywhere else was white? Would it be a big effort and then not show up? 

Aha! I had a light bulb moment. I had some scraps. I would appliqué one of those flowers or perhaps some of those grey beads or balls on the orange weave centers. But would appliqué be in keeping with the modern clean lines of this quilt? Probably yes if I kept it simple. I told my husband my plan. He said bluntly, "But you hate appliqué!" And he is absolutely right. I love the look, but dread doing it, and so I generally keep it to a minimum. I was fast approaching the point where I was ready to have the quilt finished and hardly wanted to take on a technique that ranked pretty low on my fondness level. 

So I decided to adapt a texturing FMQ technique I had seen in the 2015 opportunity quilt  of the Diablo Valley Quilters' guild. By densely quilting alternate squares, a checkerboard-like image emerges in the background.

I did the same thing in my central woven blocks. I divided the rectangle into three by four smaller areas and then densely ribbon stitched in alternate ones. I aligned the stitch direction with the longer length of the rectangular center. The following photo shows a block that has been already quilted. The stitching lines are barely visible I hinted where they are with the blue lines on three of the six quilted squares. Use your imagination or zoom in on your computer to see the other three.

But the overall effect is like one of those pin image relief games or displays in a museum.

Can you see the bulges in these orange weave blocks where there is no quilting? The flower puffs are also visible in blocks where that fabric is a frame.

Throughout the FMQ on this quilt I have been a bit disappointed that the quilting has not shown up. Several friends with good ideas had suggestions. I like using bamboo batting because of its drape. Perhaps using a double layer of batting would give it more loft? It is too late now, but perhaps using a second layer of batting, only in the inner rectangles kind of like trapunto, would have given me more of the effect I wanted. Then we discussed thread. I typically use Essential Thread by Connecting Threads, a relatively inexpensive but very serviceable cotton thread. I have been very happy with it. It does not cause excess lint in my HQ16 and it does not break readily. When I started this quilt I was out of white thread. Yes. I know. How can a quilter be out of white thread? I found a spool of white thread by Aurofil amongst samples I had acquired from various shows, shops, etc. I had heard the brand name and that it is pricey but supposed to be very good. There was nothing wrong with this thread but I failed to notice – rather let's be frank –  I failed to look at the thread weight. It was  Aurofil's 50 weight 2 ply thread. The manufacture on its website described the best machine quilting use for this thread as follows:

Use for very detailed machine quilting with a lot of back tracking such as feathers and heavy background quilting. Perfect for quilting that creates texture when you don’t necessarily want to see the quilting lines. Use the same thread in the bobbin and a Sharp/Microtex, quilting or even denim needles 80/12.

The thread had performed exactly as advertised. I had just identified another major area to grow and learn in my quilting experience. Beside batting, thread selection is another set of data to record for my quilts. I need to record the thread so I can learn what to use to get the effect I want. I did not remember until I was looking for thread to attach my binding that I remembered I had been out of white and had substituted for my normal Essential Thread, a 50 weight 3-ply cotton thread. It is double mercerized which gives it a satin lustrous finish. Could that third ply or satin-like finish have made the difference in visibility? Hmmm... that is another factor for me to consider in the future.

All that was left to do was labels and binding. I made my traditional grosgrain ribbon labels, one with the quilt name and one with my name and year and placed one on each lower corner of the back. I do wish I had thought up a more clever name for this quilt. But I didn't. So here it is. Orange and Grey. Ho-hum but concise.

The entire back of the quilt looks like its name – orange and grey.

I'd bound the quilt with ⅜" binding in the charcoal grey dot fabric. Here is the completed quilt from the front. It measures 40" x 50".  It has not been washed yet but after understanding a bit more about the characteristics of the thread I used, I do not hold out much hope that it will puff up. Oh, well. Live and learn.

A closeup of the center six blocks does reveal some three-dimensionality. I am not sure quite why, but I have a special fondness for the frames on the blocks bordered with the tiny bird print - maybe because they have texture and its pattern does show up. The orange weave and the charcoal dots you have to feel to appreciate. They are tactiley pleasing but did not turn out like "flexible cardboard", a description coined by my daughter. I think my favorite blocks though, are the trees. If I get inspired I can always go back and FMQ densely behind the tulips, balls, and leaves, with more of the 50 weight 2 ply Aurofil cotton. I could fill in the white of the stripes so they stand our more, also. But for now I am counting this as a completion!

I've listed the past posts that document the creation of this quilt.

November 4, 2015         Caving In and Starting Something New
November 11, 2015       Easy Sewing but Challenging Cutting
July 27, 2016                 Resurrection of the Orange and Grey
August 3, 2016              FMQ-ing the Orange and Grey
August 10, 2016            Orange and Grey Completion (this post)

Now I will join up to Let's Bee Social #137 and revel in my finish.


  1. That is truly some inspired quilting! I love the waves, and the way you use dense and spare quilting to create a texture. I know you're disappointed that your lines didn't show up, but I still think the textured effect is pretty neat.

  2. I love your quilt; the colours, the design and the quilting. Great finish.

    1. Thank you very much, both for visiting and for the kind words.