The Free Motion Quilting Project: To Quilt or Not To Quilt

Saturday, September 29, 2012

To Quilt or Not To Quilt

Tina Rathbone of Artelicious recently emailed me about her beautiful storm at sea quilt and asked an interesting question:

How can you tell if a given area on a quilt even needs to be quilted?

Photo from Tina Rathbone's Artelicious Blog
In truth, there's only one  rule that governs whether an area of your quilt should be quilted or not: the rating of your batting.

So let's say Tina is using Quilters Dream Poly (I have no idea what batting she's using, this is just an example) - this batting as clearly listed on the website can be quilted up to 12 inches apart.

Clearly the white triangles around the purple diamonds are much smaller than 12 inches, so Tina could leave them open.

But what if she was using a different batting that said "quilting up to 2 inches."  In that case, I might feel pushed to work into those areas to fill simply to ensure the batting didn't shift or bunch up after the quilt was finished.

So understand - when it comes to the utilitarian necessity of lines of quilting holding the 3 layers together, you only have to quilt within the rating of the batting and you're done.

This might be a relief for those struggling through UFOs that has already taken loads of time.  Quilt it minimally by using a batting like Quilter's Dream that can be left VERY open.  There's no sense making a troublesome project last longer than it has to!

But in there is a flip side of Tina's quilt - the artistic addition of texture and another layer of design created by the quilting stitches.  Does it NEED more stitching - not as a utilitarian "holding it all together" thing, but as an addition to the other stitched designs within the quilt?

The answer here is entirely subjective and honestly, entirely up to Tina.  I might quilt this quilt entirely differently or entirely the same. The only way to know what works and if the quilt needs it is to audition more designs!

free motion quilting | Leah Day

These are just simple sketches I drew up this morning with my cup of tea.  I like the idea of feathers or rings of circular echoes simply because they would add formality and structure to the quilt.  There's a lot of organic wiggliness going on and these might add a nice contrast.

Notice the difference of the two feathers (top and bottom).  The top has the feathers stretching out from the diamond, the bottom has the feathers curling in.  See how that simple change of direction really alters the entire effect of the block!

These are just 3 ideas.  There are literally hundreds of ways this block could be filled. Ultimately Tina will need to make the decision based on how she's feeling about the piece and how much time it will take to fill these areas as well.

So that's the most simple rule of thumb when it comes to filling more of your quilt - are you having fun yet?!

If yes, keep going and enjoy the process of adding more texture!

If no, slap a binding on that monster and get it out of your sewing room.  No sense in making difficult quilt into an intense torture session!

Let's go quilt,


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Leah. I just love your design ideas. To me, the feathers do say, "sunrise." Perfect. You are a wonderfully generous person. Your card is on its way! :)

    Also, click on this link to my Flickr page to see how else you have inspired me with Sunday's post. The photo's titled Scrappy Strips.

    Thanks again,
    Tina in San Diego


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at