Recently at a speaking engagement, I was asked what quilt batting I used. My favorites are Thermore for hand quilting and Quilters’ Dream Request Cotton or Wool for machine quilting. The person followed up with do use always use a thin batt. My answer was it was my preference. The better answer came to me about a week to late...
Thin batting is my preference because thin batting make my stitches look better. The improved stitch quality was something that I noticed on my own years ago. Stitch quality is something that as a Certified Quilt Judge that I look for in others quilts. While there are many characteristics to stitch quality, one of the most common is consistent stitch length. Whether you are machine quilting or hand quality, having a consistent stitch length adds to the visual appeal. I have found having a thick batt makes it more difficult to keep a consistent small stitch. Another feature of stitch quality is having the stitches align. While those babbles that happen are typically from moving your hands while machine quilting, or using a bent needle while hand quilting, having a thick batting also makes keeping the stitches aligned more difficult (in my experience).
I am looking for a quilt batt that helps my stitches look their best as opposed to a fluffy quilt to snuggle under. This is my preference, and my experience. If you are looking to improve your stitch quality, you may want to try a thinner batt.
There are 4 things I would like to share about working with scraps:
Thing One: Unity
When working with scraps there can be a unity problem...they can look disjointed/scrambled/in-cohesive. Now the ladies in Gees Bend don't have this problem. They work with the theory, if you cut it up small enough everything goes. However, they also balance color, line, and shape across their work to create unity. You can work this way also. However, if you like a more organized or matching look don't rule out working with scraps. You just need to organize a bit before hand. Sort your scraps into pleasing color combinations. Think easy palettes: spring, fall, winter, Christmas, Halloween... Or maybe cool colors (green, blue and purple) and warm colors (red, yellow, and orange). Or get out your color wheel and experiment with new combinations. You can always add another fabric (solid or print) at act as a unifying agent.
Thing Two: Be Prepared
It is easy to complete a scrap quilt while piecing a planned project if you always keep the scrap pieces next to your machine. Bonnie Hunter calls them "leaders and enders". Many people use a scrap of material when starting to piece/strip piecing. It helps with keeping the pieces from getting pulled down into the feed dogs and eliminates thread tails. Instead of using a scrap piece, use a pair of scrap blocks. Do your strip piecing for your planned quilt, then at the end of the strip add another set of scrap blocks. Cut off the planned blocks while leaving the scrap blocks under the needle and foot of the machine. This set of scrap blocks then becomes the leader for the start of the next set of planned blocks. Just set aside the scrap blocks as you complete them. Eventually they become a project unto themselves.
Keep strips of leftover fabric together. Keep squares of leftover fabric together. I recommend picking either sizes based on 2" or 3", so you can build blocks of either 4", 6", and 8" or 6", 9" or 12".
Thing Three: Build It
If your pieces aren't big enough, you can piece your fabric. Strip piece to create your own striped fabric. Use blocks to create checkered fabric. Use triangles. Crazy piece it. Make your own fabric... improvise. In the words of Tim Gunn "make it work!"
Thing Four: Keep It Simple
There are enough basic blocks and combinations to keep things interesting, especially if you make your own fabric. Think about it...
If you just worked with stripes: Rail fence, Roman Coins, Log Cabin, Pineapples, Chervons. Now, what if cut a strip of striped fabric and used it in place of log or rail... or substituted a row of half triangle squares for a log or rail...
The same is true if you are working with a four patch or half triangle squares!
Let's start by talking about what a print board is, and how it is used. I use my print boards when I am printing fabric with thickened dyes. I pin fabric down to the board before I print it. This keeps the fabric taunt and straight while I roll or scrap thickened dyes over it. It helps keep my imagery crisp. There are probably as many ways to make a print board as there are people printing fabric. I like to use 1" insulation board (found in hardware/home improvement stores). I put a layer of quilt batting down, then cover both the board and batting with a painter's drop cloth paper product. It is called "One Tuff Dropcloth". I like it because it absorbs any liquid, is reuseable, typically doesn't need to be wiped down and doesn't allow any thickened dye onto the next piece of cloth I pin down. I know others cover the insulation with clear plastic. I have found the clear plastic needs to be carefully wiped down in between each pinning and allows moisture to get into the batting. However it does work. I typically use a thin cotton batt, however, I will use any scrap of batting that is the right size. As far as the size of the board, it depends on the size of fabric which you want to print. The board should be several inches bigger, in both directions, than the piece of fabric. The boards typically come in 4' x 8' sheets. They are fairly easy to cut with a box cutter. You should be able to get 8- 24"x 24" print boards from one insulation board. This size should be suitable for working with fat quarters. I use t-pins to stretch the batt and drop cloth over the insulation board, then I duct tape all the edges to hold it secure. Here are some pictures to show you want I mean:
So blogging has never been my thing; as writing is more of a chore than joy for me. I am going to try to get better about regular, monthly posts. But in this first one I am going to explain a bit about the new site. I recently received an invitation to join TAFA (The Textile and Fiber Art List). One of the things that they talk about is consistent branding... using the same name in all locations. It's kind like having your work look consistent, so people can recognize it. A subject I find very difficult. I am a bit scattered, as is my style and my branding. I started out trying to sell my hand-dyed fabrics, and my business name, SELC Fabrics LLC centered around that. But then came teaching and judging. And now my work getting more visibility. In a effort to tighten things, up I started this new website, and changed the name on business Facebook page. While I am making an effort to tighten up my branding and my art work, my post will be about whatever I am working on at the moment. It could be about quilt construction, fabric dyeing, fabric printing, or what is on the long-arm. Maybe judging or teaching... Possibly even about how I fell over in yoga this morning. Hope you will check back for future posts.