Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Freeform Fan Quilting

I'm very gradually getting back into the swing of things here. Still not feeling real good - leftover remnants of anesthesia or the sinus infection I may have caught flying with a cold then walking around in wet weather? Or could it be that I have continued to brush my teeth with tap water, even tho I'm back in Cairo...

I'm always complaining about my health, sorry about that. I haven't felt like picking up my quilting or anything else, so I guess that's why I bring my ooginess up. Knee is doing well, so there is that. While I haven't been quilting, I have been reading blogs, of course, and waging warfare on the hordes of tiny ants that I can no longer ignore. I tried to live and let live, but now they're getting into the cereal (and I don't know what else - I'm afraid to look) so that's it. No more mister nice guy.

Before I departed home, I started quilting and documenting my freeform fan process. I don't want to freak anyone out who wants to try this, so we're going to take it easy. We'll be doing a bit of marking. That's how I started out way back when. When I talk about how I used to mark my fans, believe me, they weren't pretty. You could call them half-assed or call them folky. I never used a pre-made template or precise home-made templates. I always winged the marking. So that's what we're going to begin with.

So you remember my cranky witch? Here she is again, auditioning the quilting thread. That's size 8 perle cotton on the left, regular quilting thread on the right. I don't like how her face is obscured with the thicker thread, so going with regular.

My next step was to find something circular to use as a template for the smallest arc. I tried demitasse cups, the bottom of drinking glasses, plastic lids from various containers, and finally settled on this little jam jar. All my various arcs which I soaped on as I decided which size I liked best are still showing. Don't stress about this too much. Really.

Sometimes the arc will be flat, sometimes it will bubble up funny on the top or bottom. It's ALL alright. Just do it.

By the way, I am a rightie, so I always start in the lower right hand corner. I suspect that lefties would want to reverse that and start in the lower left.

I decided to make my arcs as wide as the first joint on my pinkie. It's just easy to use a "tool" that you always have with you. So here I am making marks.

And here are the marks. I was trying to make mine big enough so that you could see them. You can either quilt using just the marks themselves OR you can draw each arc out, then quilt it. You can quilt an arc, mark the next one, quilt it, mark, etc OR Draw them all out first. Your choice.

As far as how much space to leave between arcs? That's up to you. You can do big arcs or small. Have to admit the ones that I have done with a half-inch gap between them have worked out "smoother" than the one I did with an inch and a half between.

How many arcs to make in each fan unit? That's up to you. I often like five - it's just a good number of them. But with Halloween Faces I decided I had to make more than that otherwise it would be too clunky and too much the same size as each face - so I did seven. Plus, the more arcs you do in a unit, the easier they are - you can pick up more stitches each time on your needle.

Oh, and as I do them, I usually alternate where I start quilting the arc. First from the top, then from the bottom. For some reason my arcs usually start out wider and get narrower and by alternating it keeps it a bit under control. Oh, and I travel thru the batting to get to my next arc (rather than knotting and starting over), which wouldn't work if I always started at the top.

You can keep marking for awhile, we won't worry about eyeballing it just yet if you don't want to. Please please please keep in mind what our goal is. NOT perfection. Fun. Each arc is going to be different. Don't strive for that, but it will happen naturally.

Unfortunately my choice of black fabric and black quilting thread makes it hard for me to show you how my arcs are turning out as I quilt them. I decided once again on seven.

I have a secret to tell you. As I was quilting them, I decided I didn't like using my pinkie measurement - the arcs were a bit farther apart than I wanted them to be. When I get to the end of an arc, I do a backstitch and then travel through the batting to my next beginning. So I started making the arcs whereever the needle naturally popped back up. Guess what, I can do that. All of these arcs are going to be unevenly spaced. That's okay.

It's also okay if you forget to make five arcs and only do four. You can either leave it be or the next time you're in that area you can make six arcs to make that spot tall again.

I hope you're getting my (overbearing) message. Don't stress. Have fun. Start going. By the time you've made a few units it'll be easier, trust me.

Any questions? I know this is probably only semi-coherent. I do, really.


Quilts And Pieces said...

Oh Tonya! This makes sense! And I'm a bit relaxed that I'm not going to totally free-from it! Just a few marks will help a lot from keeping me to panic!

What you wrote makes so much sense! And I've never traveled in the batting before for template fans so that is pretty cool.

Can't wait to try it! But I guess it might not be until next week now - I'm going on a quilt retreat this weekend!!! Wooo Hooo!!!

Tonya Ricucci said...

Dawn, enjoy your quilt retreat - whooohoo. You can begin whenever you want to, unless you panick and start stalling - then I'll get after you :)

Finn said...

Hey Ton..thanks for starting the free form fans lessons. I'll go hunt up my basted Halloween faces..and be ready to roll.

Love the booilious below..especially the spider..*G* He's fine!!!!

Quilts And Pieces said...

I've just printed this out so if I feel well enough next Tues after my root canal I can start!!!!! I'm so excited!

Anonymous said...

Tonya ... I'm so glad your knee is behaving ... mine is paying-me-back for being so darn cocky (about walking so soon after the surgery, I guess) ... but it's still better than pre-op.
And cleaning your teeth with tap water ... I bet that was a thrill, eh?
I'm off to try-out your hints on fan quilting.
God bless, Christine in Los Angeles

Tonya Ricucci said...

Silly as it sounds, yes, brushing with tap water is a thrill. I'm still doing it, days later, and I haven't fallen over yet so I think I just may continue.

I'm thrilled several of you are giving this a try and that you are letting me know you're doing it too. That gives me warm fuzzies.

Hope everyone's knees and teeth are behaving so that you can have fun quilting. cheers.