Since I have written Improv Patchwork–Dynamic Quilts Made with Line & Shape, I have received a dozen or so emails asking me all manner of questions about my quilting.
Today, to the best of my ability, I will try and answer those questions.
I use Warm & White by the Warm Company. I like it because, even though I heavily quilt my work, with Warm & White the final result is still thin and flexible.
I use Aurifil 28wt. in my bobbin and I use Aurifil 40wt in my needle. I do this because I want to thread on my backside to stand out, but I do not want thread build up on the front of my quilt. I have tried many combinations, and this is the one I always come back to. I have every color of Aurifil thread. I love this thread for so many reasons—my machine likes it, it hi-lights my quilting, it glows, and there are dozens of colors to choose from.
I always use Cross Weaves for the backs of my quilts. A cross weave is a fabric where the warp and the weft are different colors. My favorite brand is Kaffe Fassett Shot Cottons by Free Spirit. After much experimentation, I have decided that I like the lighter shades best. They truly help my quilting look its best.
I use a Gammill Classic Plus for all of my quilting—even on little itty bitty quilts. Her name is Priscilla, and she is purple.
I create a lot of drag on my Gammill by making sure the uptake bar is tightly next to throat of my machine. Not all long arms have adjustable uptake bars. This snugness creates drag—resistance—which gives me the control I need to stitch carefully.
I outline each area that I am quilting twice. This creates a firm outline while also locking my stitches. I do not buy my threads. Many years ago, I attended a lecture about tips for creating award winning quilts. The lecturer was a credentialed quilt judge. She said that it was not a requirement to bury threads. That was a good enough reason for me to stop burying.
I change out my top and bottom thread for each color. I use the same color of thread in my bobbin as in my needle. I always try to match the color of the thread to the color of the fabric.
When I am stitching a large piece, I will start with a common color—usually black or white—and I will stitch from the upper left corner of my quilt towards the lower right corner, working slowly back and forth across the entire quilt. Then I will select another common color, but this time I work from the lower right to the upper left. I do this again and again.
I am a quilting turtle. I go slow.
I consider my quilts to be two sided objects. The fronts of my quilts are full of color, line, shape, repetition, and usually celebrate the traditional quilt block.
The backs of my quilts are all about the stitched line.
I often describe the backs of my quilts as the negative of my quilt. Not negative as in bad, but negative as in photography.
According to Wikipedia, “In photography, a negative is an image, usually on a strip or sheet of transparent plastic film, in which the lightest areas of the photographed subject appear darkest and the darkest areas appear lightest.”
This analogy is not perfect. The backsides of my quilts are not the reverse of color, but rather the absence of the piecework.
The first real experiment with creating a double sided quilt was Family Plaid. You can read the entire story here, but the jest is this. I had a hypothesis that giving each pieced color on the front of my quilt a quilting “motif”—circles, feathers, lines—would create an interesting backside.
That experiment lead me to make the whole cloth quilt Albert Hoffman’s Obit, which you can read more about here.
Albert Hoffman’s Obit is essentially the back side of Family Plaid.
This is the back side of Albert Hoffman’s Obit where I experimented with using a pieced background in shades of blue.
If there is enough space in the piece work, I will often fill each pieced color with a different motif. You can see that happening here in Lines + Triangles = Squares.
Tribe is another example of that.
If the quilt contains printed fabrics, I will frequently outline the printed image. Haru is a good example of that.
At some point, people began asking me why I didn’t exhibit the backsides of my quilts. That is a good question.
I realized that I wanted to do that, but in order for it to happen, I needed to regularly photograph the backs of my quilts. I started doing that a couple of years ago.
If the piece work is very small I will frequently fill the space with lines instead of motifs.
That is it. All of my quilting secrets in less than 1,000 words. If you have questions, please ask. I will try my best to answer them.