Friday, August 10, 2007

Quilt Marking

I finished the hand quilting on Cranky Witch, the project I started ages ago in order to illustrate my technique for quilting freehand fans (the tutorial, including a picture of the Cranky Witch top, is here).

I quilted these fans in the spiral technique, which ends up with all the fans going smoosh in the middle:


I quilted almost the entire top without any marking. I did just a little bit at the beginning to illustrate how to mark without a template if you were a bit nervous starting out. But that was it. I love how these arcs turn out. When I started the quilting I was doing fat arcs, but by the end they were much narrower. That's the charm.

Continuing with this theme, a friend recently forwarded to me an email written by Joe Cunningham. He's a fabulous quilter and the co-author, with Gwen Marston, of the wonderful book Quilting With Style, which is where I learned how to do the freehand fans in the first place.

I wrote him a gushy email and asked if I could quote him here. With his permission:

"I was reading one of the many recent posts about marking implements and marking methods when it occurred to me that I needed to mention a traditional alternative: no marking. In the 1980's I studied marking at length and wrote about it a lot. But in the early years of the 1990's I realized that the loose, asymmetrical style of many of the feather wreaths, cables and cross hatchings I found on old quilts could possibly have been the result of the quilter working freehand, with no markings to follow. After many years of drawing and quilting these kinds of designs, I figured I could just do it freehand myself. It turned out to be much easier than I imagined. I have taught a freehand quilting workshop many times over the last dozen years and have taught many hand quilters how to make cables, feathers and all kinds of designs with no markings at all. I wrote an article for Threads in 1997 on this subject and I think it is still available on the internet at http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00030.asp

Since then I have hand quilted dozens of tops freehand, and I continue to see old quilts that I believe were quilted freehand. Any of you who have studied old quilts up close have probably wondered at one time or another how a quilter marked such a wobbly cable, such a lopsided feather wreath, or how many different templates would have been required for the dozens of different leaves on a quilt. Some, at least, were quilted without markings.

Joe Cunningham in foggy San Francisco, Still hand quilting after all these years"

This is me again. I'm still in awe and thrilled to the core that Joe responded to my email. Go check out his website and look at some of the improvisational, maverick work he has been creating in the last few years. Now he just needs to write a book. The link for his article on freehand quilting is in my sidebar.

Anyway, I have to admit I haven't done much freehand quilting with the exception of fans, straightish lines, and echo quilting. I do a lot of my marking myself, without templates, and then follow the marks loosely using them as guidelines so I still get a freehand look to my work. Not that I've done much in the way of feathers and wreaths. More like monsters and spaceships...

For another look at freehand marking a quilt, take a look at Too Much Wool, to see the progress of a Welsh Quilt. I didn't realize that so much of the hand quilting on these beauties was improvised.

It has been overcast, cold, and rainy here in Paris. August is not supposed to be 66 degrees Farenheit. The weekend's forecast is better, but I'll be going out into the sunshine alone since my husband will finally get to read Harry Potter.

11 comments:

McIrish Annie said...

Ton, I LOVE Joe! I saw him on Simply Quilts years ago and really enjoy his work. Still working on my "tonya" inspired quilt. Have come to an impasse and I'm waiting for it to speak to me. So far, it ain't talkin'!

Quilt Pixie said...

I think "free hand" quilting is the norm for me and my friends -- though we use domestic machines for the stitching itself, I seldom mark and more "play it by ear"...

jude said...

since i do all my quilting freehand or mark as i go, i enjoyed this post very much. some great new links and lots of inspiration. as always. tks.

Ms. Jan said...

OK, now I'm completely in awe. I simply can't imagine how you can get your lines so straight and even without marking. You rock!

jovaliquilts said...

I'm with ms jan! I really like the look of your quilting.

Thanks for the Joe Cunningham link. I love his friend's definition of a quilt (he gives it next to the photo of his quilt, The Perfect Existential Object).

Kristin said...

Lucky you to hear from Joe! I heard him on Alex Anderson's podcast and it was a great interview. He would be a wonderful speaker at a quilt guild and I'll be recommending him to mine.

I haven't made any progress on my free hand fans due to many things going on this summer, but I can't wait to get back to it.

Judy said...

#Excellent article and very informative! Thanks!

Kathie said...

Now there is a great quilt book I actually own!! I always enjoyed his work and have bookmarked his site for future reference.

Lily said...

Just got home from the local quilt show - stall after stall of stencils and templates. I walked past them all and thought, 'meh - can do better myself'!!! Haven't done any wreathes yet though! Will go check out Joe - thanks for the link. And great job on your crazy witches too - love the word smoosh. It's very descriptive!

Susan said...

As I was reading your post, it just dawned on me. I did all my longarm quilting, including feathers, etc., freehand, so why couldn't I do hand quilting the same way. Duh!

Jeanne said...

What a great post! I learned a lot and visited some new places. The pics of the building with gargoyles is fantastic! I love to look at the designs in architecture. Thanks for sharing.