The Free Motion Quilting Project: How to Quilt a Log Cabin Quilt - Part 4

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to Quilt a Log Cabin Quilt - Part 4

Here's a special thank you to both Linda and Sally for commenting on How to Quilt a Log Cabin Quilt - Part 2.

Linda asked a question about thread color. On all 3 designs I've suggested, the lines of quilting extend over several different colors and Linda wondered what thread to pick in this situation.

So here's the deal on thread color:

For a quilt like Meredith's quilt, which is mostly dark colors: black, purple, and red, if you wanted your thread to not be very noticeable, the best color will probably be black.

Even over the red and purple, black thread will tend to recede into the background and be less visible.

Likewise if you wanted to contrast sharply with the quilt top, you could choose white or silver thread and really show off your quilting lines.

A third option is to partially show off your thread. Dark purple or red thread that matches the values in the fabric colors would work fine and show off slightly over the black areas.

My best advice for picking thread colors is to buy extra fabric and stitch several colors over the fabrics to see what looks the best. You never know, a dark green may end up being the best choice for this quilt!

Sally commented today on Part 2 with a request for something other than straight lines.

I hear you! I'm not a super fan of straight lines either, but they sure are easy to use in Paint!

For the record, you can take all 3 of the designs I've shared so far and instead of drawing straight lines, use a Wave Edge Ruler to make wavy lines.

If things are still a bit geometric for your tastes, here's a new design for you:

This is the same quilt with Pointy Paisley quilted over it in a meandering fashion.

Haven't I always said that you can expand the filler designs from the project to cover large areas of your quilt?

Well, here's a great example of it!

These pointy paisley motifs can stretch as big as you like and cover loads of surface area, but still give the quilt a texture that regular straight lines can't.

Of course, Pointy Paisley is still using straight lines, but who says you can't interchange this design for Heart Paisley, Mussel Shell, or Bleeding Heart?

All of these designs would work exactly the same as the design shared today except they use curves rather than sharp angles.

So how would this design for Meredith's quilt fair on a bed?

This design is employing the idea of a large scale meandering. You're securing the top, batting, and backing down to the quilt top, but not really working to enhance any particular areas of the quilt.

This will work great on a bed because it will hold the quilt together and definitely survive many washings.

Unfortunately this design won't fair as well in a quilt show.

Judges see this style of quilting (meandering, not the pointy paisley) all the time and are not very impressed by it.

This is definitely a design you should use for a bed quilt or as a gift quilt. Even in a small, local show, a large scale meandering pattern over your quilt will not win you any awards.

And let's face it, if you're going to bother piecing all those pieces together, you might as well draw attention to them! Why meander over the whole thing when you've obviously gone to the trouble of picking different colors?

Here's a bit of homework for everyone tonight: look at a quilt top.

Really look at it! Hang it up in your design space and stare at the top for a good 15 minutes.

Now look at some pictures of Wholecloth quilts (that's a link to mine, but please google more).

Look back at your quilt top. Wholecloth quilters manage to make an entire design just with thread and fabric - no piecing and no colors!

What if you were to take your quilt top and quilt it like a wholecloth? To actually create designs on the surface that are only formed in thread, not applique or piecing.

Look and think! Start planning your designs for quilting just like you plan your designs for piecing.

It's fun and challenging, but so rewarding in the finished quilt.

Now let's go quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Hi, Leah. I've been following your blog for a while and am certainly enjoying it. I'm quilting my first quilt for a show and have taken your advice to heart. That poor quilt is so heavily quilted it almost stands up by itself. But, it's beautiful. I'm pulling paper where I marked my motif and quilted through it and will let you know when I post more pics of it. I've posted a few pics here and there. I'm almost finished with the last border and then I have some mistakes to correct and I'll be done. ;-) Thanks for the encouragement! Lane

  2. That's it you've put me on the spot - I'm taking up your challenge and will 'play' with my problem Round Robin top to see what I can come up with - thanks for your inspiration and challenge

  3. Ok - I've started to play with my RR top and come up with something I'm starting to like - the larger areas in one fabric I'd infill with one of your designs, which I don't know yet - but I've still to make a decision on the 9 patch and rail fence border strip, oh and also the square on point border, but, I'm sure the light bulb will flash on at some point.
    Thanks for encouraging me to try Leah


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