Have you ever wondered how many stitches go in to making a Best in Show quilt? It's not something I've ever really thought about, but I can tell you on this occasion that 854,631 stitches went into quilting my fabulous Unique-Orn Quilt that just won Visitors Choice at Lullingstone Quilt and Craft Festival. Although the show is now finished for this year, if you've not been to Lullingstone Castle you are missing out, the gardens are just beautiful and well worth a visit.
The whole thing started as a bit of an experiment, a blank canvas so to speak for me to play on, I didn't have a plan or any expectations I just had the freedom to do something different and fun with no real purpose. I can hear the quilt police cringing at my lack of planning, but as you well know we don't tolerate them here, it doesn't mean the words don't hurt though. My quilting experiment started because someone recently implied my quilting wasn't special enough and it really hurt, in fact it actually made me cry. Did I let it get me down and stop me? No I didn't, I won Best in Show!!
When you don't place expectations on yourself the pressure suddenly goes and you are then free to just have fun with something that ultimately should be bringing you joy and every time I look at this quilt, that's what I feel - joy! So ignore the quilt police and make something beautiful, just for you.
The quilt top itself was made as part of a pattern test, it's a foundation paper pieced pattern that took around 55 hours to make, measuring 60" x 80" and is the biggest quilt I've made using this technique. Would I do it again? At this point I'm undecided because it took about the same amount of time to take all the paper out! Although once that was done, the fun could begin.
I used a mixture of free motion and hand guided quilting, something I've not done on my longarm before but will definitely be doing from now on - is it perfect? No. Do I care? Not even a little bit! The things I've learnt and the skills I've developed far outweigh the little errors that most people won't even notice and I hope you take comfort in that. There seems to be so much pressure on everyone to be 'perfect' that many new quilters or would be quilters give up before they've even started, out of fear of not being good enough and it made me think of one of my favourite quotes
"Flowers don't all compete with each other, trying to bring one another down, they stand together looking beautiful in the garden"
I think we should all be flowers.
If you've read my previous post you'll know that I'm an Aurifil Artisan for 2022/23 and that I was sent a fab welcome package that had a range of thread colours and weights in it, many of which I used in this quilt.
For the piecing I used a 50wt thread and for the quilting I used a mix of 40wt, 50wt and Mako' 50wt all of which stitch beautifully on the longarm machine. For most sections I started with the 50wt laying down a base of colour and then went back and added more texture and variation of colour with the 40wt.
I also tried to vary the density of my stitches to add shadows/darker areas as well as areas of light, in an attempt to bring her to life.
When it came to the hair I stitched along the shapes already created so it looked like it was blowing in the breeze, if you look closely you can see that the lines of stitching don't really change shape because I wanted to give the look of strands of hair, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. My control and steadiness of hand got much better the more I did and like with anything, practice makes all the difference.
Not long before this quilt was taking shape I was sent a sample of the new V268 Bamboo wadding from Vlieseline to put through its paces and review, having recently sampled the Soya mix, I was looking forward to stitching with this one to see how it compared. Bamboo wadding is not something I've previously used and I've got to say it handles beautifully! It's a medium weight 50/50 mix of bamboo and cotton, OEKO-TEX certified and suitable for a wide range of uses. You can find all of the technical information along with stockists by visiting the Vlieseline website.
While is might appear to be slightly thinner than the average 80/20 mix it's really soft, has a great drape to it, holds stitches really well and maintains its shape and fibre structure even when being vigorously stitched with highspeed free-motion quilting. Vlieseline recommend a quilting space between 10-20cm which I completely ignored, happily nothing came through the stitch holes on either the front or the back and there was next to no fibres/lint gathered in the machine or the bobbin case area during or after stitching, which is particularly great from a longarm quilting point of view. Something else worth noting is that it is 96" wide and cuts cleanly and evenly with both scissors and a rotary cutter before and after quilting. I particularly like the way it keeps its softness and drape after dense free-motion quilting, so will definitely use it again in future projects.
It's often said that the journey is as important as the destination and I feel the same can be said about making quilts, whether functional or as pieces of art the process is just as important as the finished product. Enjoy it! Have fun with it! And always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn!