Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Wholecloth Quilting - Development of Ideas Part 2

Following on from my last post, launching into part 2 of the development of ideas and how to go about designing your wholecloth. This is about medallion type wholecloth quilts that have a center motif usually surrounded by some background fillers and some borders.

My first introduction to this was through Patsy Thompson who was one of the experts on Quiltshopgal's FMQ challenge in 2012. While I did not directly participate in the challenge I was so inspired by her very simple, yet so effective method. She took a center motif and just went around adding border after border, increasing the width as she went along. I think I stitched this out in a couple of days
I was hooked. Next, I followed Patsy Thompson's style of creating wholecloth quilts which often start with a feather wreath in the center

All I did is add a background filler (in this case micro-stippling) and put some feather motifs in the corner. Very basic to start with, but I was impressed with these initial attempts.

As I went along and gained more experience with wholecloth quilting I started to get more elaborate and learned about some basic rules like:
- add several smaller borders around your center design and fill with simple designs like swirls, ribbons, loops or just lines; experiment with a straight square design or put the borders on the diagonal
- stick to a few selected shapes in your wholecloth
- work with repetition, i.e. have a motif that can also act as corner motif like in the following quilt
- think this through in terms of how much background you have to fill as this can take a long time to fill (i.e. see above...that micro-stipple was an absolute killer)
-  add interest by using grids and if you are really keen, learn how to fill those grids to really make your center design pop
- once the center design is done and you have decided on a background filler around it, add a few more borders, again keeping in mind to repeat already used shapes; you can see in the picture above that I put in a larger 'seed design' to enclose my center, thereby repeating the shape of the cnter motif. I then added some straight 1/4in lines to extend this out a bit and finished it off with a feather border.

This is one way to construct your wholecloth. While the result usually looks quite striking, the process is actually quite simple. In terms of designing this from scratch it depends on how much work you want to put into this and whether or not you enjoy designing. If you do not, you can make use of the many books that are on offer, all of which have a variety of motifs and designs, or find some spectacular motifs on the web for free. Or you can purchase stencils that are designed for wholecloth quilts. Here are some resources that I found useful:
- Quilting Wide Open Spaces by Judi Madsen
- Custom Curves by Karen McTavish
- Mix & Match Quilting Patterns by Helen Squire
- Inside the Lines by Pam Clarke
- The Secrets of Elemental Quilting by Karen McTavish

Some links
Quilting Creations  and
The Stencil Company for stencils and pre-printed wholecloth designs
Forest Quilting for free motifs
Cindy Needham's Craftsy Classes
Patsy Thompson's DVDs (particularly the Feathers DVD range)
Leah Day's Feather and Heart Mini Wholecloth (this is a workshop offered over on Leah Day's website; this was the first wholecloth I ever did and I remember the anxiety this produced just looking at it...however, as it is a mini project it was very achievable and turned out beautifully)
...and many, many more; hopefully this will spark your interest and you might give it a go.

Designing your own motif will take a little bit more time but is very rewarding.


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Wholecloth Quilting - Development of Ideas Part 1

This is probably the hardest part. How often have you looked at a wholecloth in a quilt show and wondered how people come up with those brilliant ideas. This took me a long time to work out. I started to research this a bit over time and also delved into how best to draft designs. Over time I realised that there are a number of different ways on how to approach a wholecloth quilt. While you need to have some sort of inspiration to start with I believe the more critical point is how you are going to approach it. This dawned on me when I was doing a very traditional wholecloth quilt with a center motif last year. Thinking about this I started to categorise wholecloth quilts into several categories, i.e.
  • An allover design consisting out of repeated motifs
  • Medallion type quilt with a prominent centre design and various variations of that, i.e consisting of numerous borders or Mandala type quilts 
  • Pictorial wholecloth quilts
  • Modern wholecloth Quilts, and also 
  • Rulerwork based wholecloth Quilts
Each of them will require a different approach to designing, different tools and obviously a different level of skills and I found it helpful to have that structure as a guide. So if I am inspired by a particular motif or design I will think about which category would be the best fit. Is it a smaller design which would lend itself to repeating it over the whole quilt or is it maybe a design that could be done with a ruler where I could then extend outwards. I am finding this a bit helpful as it will guide me to a particular way of designing it and gives me that overall structure to work from.

Looking then at the categories, my current project falls within the first category of an repeated all over motif. Must emphasise that this is not my original idea...I have seen this on Cindy Needham's

‘Wholecloth' Craftsy class a couple of years ago. I first used this in a pillow challenge that was run over at Quiltshopgal in 2015 (see my post HERE) For the challenge I took a seemingly very boring stencil, put it on point and repeated it. Looked absolutely fabulous!

I remember thinking then that this would make a lovely allover pattern for a wholecloth quilt.
You can apply this principle to all sorts of stencils and like I have done with my current project, mix and match different stencils together. The options are really limitless. Here are a few more ideas:

These two stencils are from Pam Clarke’s book 'Quilting Inside the Lines'. All I have done here is repeated the stencil in a straight way across the quilt. I particularly like the second one and you could imagine that you could now extend this out with a bit of a border maybe taking part of the motif and designing an accompanying border stencil or you could just simply stitch a very formal feather border around this. Or you could set this on point and have a bit of a look what that looks can really play with this and come up with quite exciting ideas. I did this on the Ipad with the Adobe Draw App. If you prefer to work with paper you could copy your motif several times and lay it out in front of you to have a bit of a look.

If you look back over my most recent posts you will get an idea of how I tackled getting my motif repeated over my piece of fabric. 


Wednesday, 14 March 2018


Short post, working out how to get my photo onto this post from my Ipad at a reduced size and obviously managed after some unbelievable mucking around.

Making slow but steady progress


Saturday, 10 March 2018

Wholecloth - Miscalculations and Other Disasters

Well, I would not have thought that I come across a major issue that quickly, but I did.

When putting down my framework I noticed that I did not have the planned 1/2in around the perimeter. Normally that would not matter as you have one solid piece of fabric, but for this one I added a border, so it did sort of matter.
When stitching out the framework, I thought that I had about 1/4in. The idea was to then stitch a 1/4in line around this...however, stitching this out I ended up a bit all over the place, sometimes hitting the 1/4 in mark and sometimes not. As you can see hopefully, I may have a bit more than 1/4in here to the border which is indicated with the red arrow. I think this occurred because the ruler work (you can see my 10in HQ ruler in the background) was much more difficult than I had anticipated and in the end I was just happy to get it down.

I then stood back and tried to figure out how to best overcome this issue. I had at least six arcs which were completely out. Decided to stitch a 1/4 in line around the perimeter to assess the issue. Did it at first in white thread which looked absolutely horrendous. Next issue presented itself...I have a light coloured backing! Thought that a black line would be nice, but then had to have the bobbin thread in beige to go with the rest of the back. Lots of tweaking, but I managed to pull this off in the end without pokies on the front or back. At least something was working.

That is just it with Wholecloth quilts. Things rarely go smoothly and you do come across a variety of issues as it is close to impossible to think everything through. The drawings always look great, are exact and cause no issues, but when you are dealing with fabric you could have some issues around shifting, compaction (which will affect your measurements) and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. You will have to decide what you can accept in terms of imperfection and what will continue to bother you.  Can you hide the imperfection or draw the eyes away from it? In my case I had to undo some of my arcs as they were just not meeting the 1/4in black line and this stood out like a sore thumb. Was very grumpy about this as doing the arcs was challenging. But, happy I did it in the end...looking good! So now I can pretend that I had wanted it this particular way in the first place😆

After I finished this I finally got around to insert the motif. Decided to trace and pounce it rather than stitching through the paper so that I would get the alignment right. Bit of a process...

Tracing and stitching through the paper to make the stencil...
Aligning and pouncing it with you can see this is fairly faint and I must admit that I have mentioned to my family that I have once again surpassed myself in terms of crazy design ideas. This is indeed quite challenging.

And finally

Yep, made another mistake amongst all of that...traced the wrong drawing initially...the space between the two parts of the motif was a tad too wide, so will have to undo the two that I did already. The motif above is the right alignment and looks great. The joys of Wholecloth quilting. Hopefully it will be plain sailing from here on.

Amongst all of this our computer broke really broke down, black screen, no play, so I had to figure out a different way to post. Lucky for me I had printed off what I needed for the center from the EQ8 program. By the time we get that fixed, I will hopefully be at the stage to do the borders.


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Wholecloth Quilting - Laying Down The Groundwork

So you got your fabric and your design...what's next?

Actually a fairly simple but hugely important step. You will need to iron your fabric and mark in the crosshairs. I usually do that with the iron first
It is very important that this is correct as your whole design is based on those simple lines. See my marker...I have decided to use the trusted Sewline Chalk Pencil. If you are like me you probably have a variety of markers. It pays to test them out beforehand. I had another chalk pencil where you could wipe the line with water and it disappeared. Next day though the lines were back, even after a second rinse. So that was too dicey for me. Then I got another pen that has a liquid chalk tip...nice to use but am always a bit skeptical when you can remove the lines with heat...means that there is some chemical reaction that makes the lines disappear. So in the end I settled on the old Sewline pencil. Obviously if I was using light fabric, I would use the common blue water erasable marker...tried and tested to work well.

Once the lines are ironed in, I mark them in
And now for the fun part, marking in the framework. I used Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape for this part of the marking process.
First hiccup...I had a half inch line next to the border. Somehow over the distance of marking with the stencil, inaccuracies must have crept in (or my measurement of the center might have been out) and I only got 1/4in clearance. This was not what I had in mind but decided that this was the new design choice and pressed on. I also marked the half line in the border as I know from experience that I am going to struggle later on with finding the half point...once it is all quilted I will also have some compaction, so I thought it is better to mark the border as well while I was at it. This took most of the afternoon. Then came the basting. I could have used spray basting, however last time I did this I had to wash the floor twice as I had ended up trampling the sticky stuff all over the place. In hindsight though, maybe that would have been the better choice. Definitely would have been quicker!
Anyway, I always pin baste the wholecloth first and then baste all over it with thread to avoid any shifting of the fabric.This takes forever!
My lines have softened but are still relatively easy to see. Once I work out how to approach this in terms of stitching path I will lightly strengthen the lines with the Chalk pencil as I go along, if that is what is needed.
Must admit that I am having second thoughts about this as I am going along. This looks so involved and I am wondering whether I can actually pull this off. I am planning to now stitch the framework using my straight and arc ruler. This sounded ok on a theoretical level but looking at all those lines now, I am beginning to wonder whether I have bitten off more than I can chew.

Will keep you posted 🙀.


Sunday, 25 February 2018

Wholecloth Quilting - Where To Start

Where do you start.

I wrote a post last year on what goes into the preparation for a Wholecloth. Currently thinking of doing a number of posts on the topic of wholecloth quilts to demystify the process.

First and foremost is planning. I spend an extraordinary amount of time on planning these projects given that I am going to spend the next few months on this one project. Once it’s basted and you are stitching there is very little you can do to alter your design or re-draw sections. Trust me, I becomes incredibly messy, is very unlikely to work and you will be in a world of pain.

Personally I like to see a picture of the Wholecloth before I start. This can be achieved by drawing it out on paper (or sections of it) or using the computer. I tend to use EQ8 or my Serif Drawing program. No consistency in which I use, whatever suits the design I will use. For the current Wholecloth I used the EQ8 program, as I am using one of their stencils. I printed the stencil out and then put it in the shape, photographed it and imported this back into the EQ8 program to make into a block. This is how I started off to just have a bit of a look at the overall picture. As I liked the design I then found the shape I was looking for in the block library and placed my stencil into it.  Then I just explored different settings and arrangements until I liked the look of it.

I did a lot of playing around with this...different sizes, different arrangements and different colour ways (EQ8 has a whole range of Aurifil thread colours in their thread library). Love the EQ8 program as it is fairly easy to move things around (although I am still getting used to the update) and get a good look at the end product. In addition I find it very useful in looking at dimensions, i.e. how big should my motif be in this arrangement. If you make it too big it is going to look too busy and crowded, if too small it is going to create a problem in terms of the surrounding open space.

Alternatively, if you had a motif that you liked and wanted to put it into a cathedral window shape, you could draw out your cathedral window and trace your motif into it or, even easier... can use Cindy Needham's Ultimate Shape stencils which makes that job superfast. All you do is mark your shape and off you go...

My first attempts at this from last year with the feathers oriented in different ways. I made some photocopies of this initially and cut out the squares to see what I liked better

After all of this I started to stitch out the motif and surrounding plumes to get a bit of a sense how this would work, i.e. will I work freehand, use rulers, trace the motif? Also trying different threads and  batting, getting a bit of a feeling for the design. Stitched this out about four times and noticed that I needed to do a little bit more work on aligning the motif. Went back to the EQ8 program and edited the motif, drawing in some diagonal lines for alignment in the center. Also adjusted the size of the motif just by a tad to allow for a bit more space around the curve.
As I am stitching this on very dark grey (charcoal) fabric, I am thinking that I will only use minimal marking as it is much harder to mark with the white sewline chalk pencils. Decided to use Cindy Needham’s Shape Stencil to get the framework down, then use rulers to stitch this out. The curve of my ruler does not magically correspond with the Ultimate Shape, however this does not matter as the Ultimate Shape will give me the points to align my ruler. The curvature of my ruler will be slightly bigger than the Ultimate Shape curvature (hence I had to do some adjusting of the size of the motif in EQ8). The motif will most likely be pounced using Golden Threads paper.
The feathers....unsure...don’t feel like marking them in, but will need to think about consistency. Probably will do some semi-marking, i.e. just lightly draw in the tops, so I can follow this and have the same number of plumes on each side.

Next step is to draw this out on my trusted IKEA paper (love that paper roll) using Cindy Needham’s stencil to align the motif, draw in the plumes...
You can see that my ruler is slightly more curved than the shape. This is only a rough I am not tracing off this, this is good enough to give me an idea of how this will work. Yesterday then I tried out a number of different markers, but decided in the end to stick with the one I know...the Sewline Chalk pencil. All I need to do now is to draw in the shape across the quilt top and I am ready to go. So I thought 😆 Discovered today that my fabric width is not wide enough, hence had to extend the center by adding on individual borders. Not what I had in mind, but so be it. Given that this piece will have a very distinct border, that all fits.

This will be a busy Wholecloth with lots of individual stops and starts, so a busy backing fabric is in order.

...and this is only the beginning! If you are thinking this is a bit obsessive, you are absolutely right. However, I have learnt my lesson of being unprepared in the midst of months and months of stitching when you arrive at the point of...hmmm, that does not work...not a good feeling, let me tell you. Thinking about writing a bit of a series on Wholecloth quilting. Let me know if you are interested and/or have particular questions about the topic. Not that I am an expert, but I obviously have done a lot of learning over the last few years and thought it might be helpful to share some of the resources or point people in the right direction.


Friday, 16 February 2018

Patsy Thompson's January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course

Running a bit behind but I finally managed to knuckle down and finish the last 2 lessons of Patsy's free online workshop. The end result is stunning of course as I have followed Patsy's design pretty closely to have a sample of the lessons that we have done over January.

Just need to bind it now and then it is done.

Really enjoyed this workshop...if you want to have a look, head over to Patsy's blog and read over the 9 lessons. Lots of really good information to get you started on ruler quilting coupled with handy hints and lots of inspiration. Particularly enjoyed the last lesson where Patsy showed how to extend the outer arches to cover the length of the area...this would not have occurred to me. I probably would have looked at the ruler and thought...'oh, that does not fit' and moved on to a different ruler or different design. While it did not work for me on the first trial, I did manage to get those arcs down in an orderly fashion and Patsy was right, once you fill the areas you will not see those little hiccups that happen on the way.

This is a lovely design and I would not mind doing something similar to that on a bigger scale, i.e. extend the design out, maybe adding a different frame and another border. Lots of possibilities. But first I will do another wholecloth that has been on my list all of last year and I am determined to stitch that out
Like always, I am curious as to what this would look like...I am thinking black background and cream or gold thread. This could be an adventure on the new Sweet 16 as I am still struggling at times to get the tension 100% right. Have started to work out dimensions in the EQ8 program, just need to fine tune now and work out how I am going to mark this and what parts are going to be marked. I am intending to put the framework down with one of the new arc rulers and am still debating whether to mark the feathers in or just do them freehand. The motif in the middle will definitely be marked in as this design relies on the precise alignment of the motif, particularly in the border. 
So lots of work ahead.