My name is Debbie MacLeod and I live in Island Lake, Alberta, Canada. My blog shares my quilting projects and my website showcases my quilting business. I am excited to be a guest blogger – thanks, Michele, for the opportunity!
I have been piecing quilts since 1990, have been machine quilting my own quilts since 2000, and quilting for others since 2001. My desire to machine quilt came out of not being able to hand-quilt (a skill I deeply admire), so I took a class and discovered that machine quilting was for me. I started quilting for others soon after on my Husqvarna Lily. That machine is a workhorse and has quilted close to 200 projects on it! Of course, the dynamics of quilting on a domestic sewing machine takes its toll on your back, neck and shoulders and I wanted to try a larger machine.
My chance came in 2002 when I started working at a local quilt store on their longarm, a Gamill with Statler Stitcher. I enjoyed the work but found that my creativity was just not being used with a computerized machine. I wanted to quilt my own patterns!! The answer came for me in 2005 when I purchased my HQ16. I could now be as creative as I wanted too!! I love my machine and have been quilting madly ever since.
At first, I only quilted freehand patterns – I just wanted to be free –LOL; however, it soon became apparent to me that if I was quilting for others I would need to offer pantographs – which I now do. For me, quilting is my creative expression and I often piece tops just to quilt them! Many, many times I am figuring out what I am going to quilt before I have chosen the fabrics for my next quilt!
Over the years many people have said to me, "How do you know what to quilt", "What made you chose that design – it looks great", so I thought I would write about choosing quilting designs – either for yourself as a machine quilter, or choosing designs with your longarm quilter.
The first thing that you have to consider when choosing a quilting design is the capability of the quilter. If you are a new machine quilter you may have to start with simple meandering or a simple loop design. Always choose a design you feel comfortable quilting, and of course practice your design. Capability of the quilter is also a factor when choosing a longarm quilter – a new quilter may not be able to stitch a feather design, while an experienced quilter will be able to do this. Usually a longarm quilter will have samples of what they have done in the past so this should not be too big of a problem when you send your quilt out to be quilted.
Cost is also a factor if you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter. Overall designs and pantograph designs are usually more economical than custom quilting.
I like to find out who the quilt is for and what the quilt is to be used for. If the quilt is going to be for a child and will be well-loved, used and washed, it may not be a good idea to quilt heirloom feathers on that quilt. If that quilt is going to be used as a couch quilt, then maybe an overall meander will be just fine.
After deciding who and what, a design decision can be made. If the quilt is for a man, I would not suggest feathers; I might suggest leaves or swirls. If the quilt is for a woman I would definitely suggest feathers or flowers. If the quilt is for a child, I might suggest hearts or loops. If the quilt is for a couple I might suggest swirls and loops, bubbles, or a suitable pantograph. I usually try to keep the designs "feminine" and "masculine" according to who the owner of quilt will be.
There are times when I may ask a customer if they like feathers, for example, to see if this might be a possibility. A definite "no way" clearly indicates to stay away from a feminine design! There are many pantograph designs and free-hand overall patterns that can be classified as a "neutral" design. Spending a few moments in discussion and showing customers samples of my work also gives them an idea of what might look good on a quilt.
Most times customers come with a clear idea of what they would like. There are times when suggesting alternative designs may make their project turn out even better! When a quilt has a clear "block" look to it (meaning that the blocks are well defined and stand out), sometimes it is wonderful to do an allover swirly free-form design that does not take away from the piecing.
When quilted with thread that blends into the quilt, this type of design adds movement to the quilt, without taking away from the overall look of the project.
There are many books available on quilting designs and many websites that have free quilting design patterns. I have also used Webshots to see what other quilters are doing and this is a great inspiration. Quilt shows are also a great inspiration.
After a suitable design is chosen, thread must be discussed. It is usual to match the thread to the quilt but there are times when a variegated thread might just be suitable for the project. I love variegated thread and would use it all the time, but it is not so well-loved by everyone, so this is always a discussion.
My choice is cotton thread for 99% of my customer quilts – there is the odd time when a rayon thread might be used for decorative purposes, but this is never done without the customer’s knowledge and consent. Another thread discussion that should be discussed is bobbin thread. I always use the same make and color of thread in the bobbin as I use in the top, so if there is a light colored top and a dark colored backing, the customer may get a wonderful "quilt art" piece on the back of their quilt – this has never been an issue for me when I have quilted for someone else.
When I quilt for myself I showcase my quilting!!! – feathers, McTavishing, bubbles, decorative threads.
This is not always suitable for customer quilts which I fully understand. I do have some customers that tell me "Just quilt it however you like, I know you will do a good job" – I don’t take chances, I still take a few moments and go over who, what, where. There have been a few times that I have loaded a quilt and then discovered that the design agreed upon just wasn’t going to "cut it" – a quick phone call to the customer usually does the trick and I can continue the process.
For me, quilting design inspiration is all around me and I am constantly trying new things and learning new designs. I love the quilting process!
I have a tutorial on my blog, How to Make a Seamed Quilt Back.