A Restrained free-form quilt

My free-form quilt top

My free-form quilt top

Now that I finished my improvisational quilt I thought I’d tell you how I got from completed top to finished quilt. Rather than stitch an overall quilting pattern, I decided to use a different design in each section. For me this was a big commitment because the quilting is usually my least favourite quilting task; not the binding or the squaring up or even sewing the rod pocket. The quilting.

I used black backing fabric because there was no way to match or coordinate the backing with all of the colours on the front. Unfortunately, the black bobbin thread randomly deposited little dots on the quilt’s front in contrast to the lighter and brighter top threads. This resulted in much ripping and re-quilting.

The upper half is truer to the colour of the fabric and shows a rejected pattern. The bottom half shows the final quilting. Click to enlarge.

And since I wasn’t keen on how some of the quilting patterns or workmanship looked, there was even more ripping and re-quilting. Being somewhat impatient to fix these imperfections, I didn’t keep a pictorial record of most of the changes. There is one example posted here, to the right.

As soon as the quilt top was assembled, I knew the centre right-side block was going to be embellished with beads. The blue section separating the two “cross sections of the earth’s core”, as I’ve come to think of them, reminded me of a funnel, and it was calling to me to let it channel beads. Once the piece was quilted I auditioned some beads I had on hand and decided to go with blue seed beads and silver delicas, with a few bugle beads thrown in. The seed beads wouldn’t distract from, or overwhelm, the rest of the composition, while the other beads would add depth and interest.

Detail, Restrained Free-Form

Detail, Restrained Free-Form

All of the beads were sewn on by hand; the bottom part first, then vertical section. Several times I thought I was finished and I let the quilt rest for a few days before revisiting it. On at least 4 occasions, I decided the beading wasn’t dense enough in one or more places and added more beads.

Next, it was time to decide on the borders. But wait. The black and white X in the bottom-left corner suddenly struck me as out of harmony with the other fabrics. Committed to making this quilt as best I could, I thought I would applique strips of fabric over the existing X. After much anxiety and the auditioning of several alternatives, I decided the contrast or tension created by the black and white was more interesting than the homogeneity of some alternate fabrics, and I stuck with the black and white.

Auditioning alternate fabrics. Clockwise from upper left: green batik; blue & green floral on white; black and multi batik; bright stripe

Auditioning alternate fabrics. Clockwise from upper left: green batik; blue & green floral on white; black and multi batik; bright stripe

Okay, now I could focus on the borders. How wide or narrow should they be? After positioning my longest (6”x24”) ruler behind the top of the quilt, I wrapped the excess border around to the back, sliding the ruler up and down to increase and decrease the width of border that showed on the front until I found a proportion I liked. One inch looked good to me. Then I grabbed a second ruler for the side, positioned it to show an inch of border and pulled the rest of that border to the back. Symmetrical one-inch borders it would be.

Knowing I wanted the quilt to be taut rather than floppy, I decided to mount it on wooden stretcher bars (tutorial to come) and I’m very happy with the results. Here is “Restrained Free-Form”. I called it that because for all that it is a free-form quilt, its creator was still rather uptight about getting it right.IMG_0644

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