Monday, January 24, 2011

Quilting the quilt

Traditionally, a quilt is defined as having three layers held together by stitching. While some contemporary quilts veer from this tradition, perhaps using only two layers or using something other than thread to hold them together (for example, staples were required for one challenge on the Quiltart e-list), most art quilts follow this format. After the quilter assembles her quilt top, whether by applique, piecing, or fusing, she adds batting and a backing fabric and uses thread to hold the layers together. Most of the quilters in our gallery use a domestic sewing machine to quilt their work, though we do currently have a hand-quilted textile by Cindy Grisdela in the gallery. Here is a detail shot of her quilt, Hint of Lime. You can see her quilting stitches.

The quilting stitches may form a general all-over pattern that is intended to hold the quilt together without distracting from the patterns formed by the fabrics. One commonly used approach is stippling or meandering. Here is an example from a quilt by Ann Graham, Waiting for Spring, where there is an all-over scribble of stitching, much as one might doodle with a pencil:

Cindy often uses more regular stitching patterns on her quilts. Her stitching can be so regular that viewers sometimes mistakenly think that the pattern is controlled by the sewing machine rather than by the experienced hands of the quilter. She says that she quilts freehand, without any marking, using her needle to draw the designs she wants to create with thread. Here is a detail of Red Totem that shows both the patterns of her stitches and the resulting texture:

I (Floris Flam) use several of these approaches in my quilts. Sometimes, like Cindy, I use freehand geometric patterns. Sometimes I combine straight lines of stitching with freehand patterns to create a play of textures and perhaps a sense of depth. I try to have my stitches follow the patterns in the fabric if the fabric lends itself to this approach, as it did when quilting the multicolored snow-dyed fabric I used in Autumn View:

You can see that approaches to quilting can be as varied as approaches to quilt design. We are lucky to have a broad range of quilting styles represented in our gallery. Please stop by and see our current show's array of quilts.

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