I've never been one for following directions. I love to sew, but patterns make me snore. When I'm getting my creativity on, it's freedom I crave, so it might seem strange that quilting has become my favorite fiber art. Most quilters are all about precision. My favorite quilt gurus, The Sometimes Crafter and The Happy Zombie, seem to thrive on carefully trimmed angles, methodical planning, and flawless stitchwork. What they do is amazing, especially to someone like me, who never quite got the knack of coloring inside the lines.
When I quilt, there is little to no planning whatsoever. I find a few piles of fabric that look pretty, then I start chopping them up. I try to chop in uniform pieces, like rectangular strips, or mostly square patches, but really, I'm just going for it. Once I have cut up a decent sized pile of fabric, I start thinking about how I'd like to piece it all together. I imagine how the pieces might fit together in order to create a big square or rectangle. Sometimes, I even pull out a piece of paper, and scribble down my thoughts.
Then, I start shuffling the pieces to randomize the pattern that I will sew them in. Usually, I've ended up with an uneven amount of pieces in each color, so shuffling is the only way to go. I don't let myself get hung up on the order. Instead, I embrace the chaos, and keep my eye out for too many obvious repeats.
When my piles are sufficiently shuffled, I start to sew. The trick to sewing together a bunch of badly cut pieces is to keep one side of the panel straight at all times. The other end of the panel will be jagged and uneven, but that won't matter in the long run. You see, once my panel is finished, I'll just cut all of that uneven fabric off. Once I've created all the panels I need to create the quilt top, I sew them together, then trim the edges of the top again, making sure that all four edges are fairly straight and smooth.
So that's pretty much how I tackle the patchwork. Since this method sometimes results in quilt that is not quite standard-sized, I may have to do a little more patchwork for the quilt bottom. Oh well, such is life. Pinning the top, batting, and quilt all together is a real "B" too, but I suspect even the most fastidious quilters hate that part of the process.
One technique that really lends itself to my flexible approach is applique. I have a monstrous stash of fabric scraps that I keep on hand for this. I have no idea how applique is meant to be done. I have a feeling that my method is again, pretty weird. I start by ironing double-sided interfacing onto the wrong side of a whole panel of the fabric I've chosen to work with. I use a pencil to sketch out shapes on the paper backing, (keeping in mind that I'm drawing backwards) then I cut them out, and iron them onto my quilt.
I stitch the edges of the ironed-on fabric either by hand or machine depending on how I want it to look, and how much detail there is. Hand stitching lets you work in much finer detail than the machine, but it also takes forever. For mult-fabric images, like the fox quilt I made for my sister, I use the cut pieces like stencils, creating a big, puzzle-pieced picture before ironing anything onto the actual quilt.
As for the actual quilting, (the process of sewing all three layers together) I prefer to do this freehand whenever I can. I've sewn a few quilts that were just too big for that, and in those cases, I like to use a free-motion presserfoot while machine sewing.
I always, always, always sew the binding on by hand. Since my edges tend to be a bit wonky, this gives me the chance to hide those imperfections with slow, careful stitching. It takes a long time, but then that is sort of the nature of a quilt, isn't it?
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