Ok…in review…. Here is how quilting in a floor frame works: it starts by putting the quilt in the frame.
I learned to quilt from a group of Mennonite woman at the Hubbard, Oregon Mennonite church. At the end of my year in Oregon, I came home with quilting legs just like the ones I’d been taught to use, and made by Mennonite men from the church and I’ve been using them ever since. A floor frame consists of 4 quilt boards held together at the corners with C-Clamps, which hold the quilt once it’s stretched in the frame, and four quilt legs, which hold the frame.
Now it’s time to start the quilting. This conversation is about starting the quilting without marking the top and without figuring it all out in advance. It’s about starting…and figuring out what you will quilt as the work is in progress. Seems scary, but having done it numerous time, I know completely trust the process. Actually it’s exciting because I can’t wait to see how it develops.
This way of quilting (figuring it out as I go) works well on the quilts I have been focusing on recently: abstract quilts in solids. For these quilts I am using a fairly small number of quilting designs, which I’m now very comfortable with. These include quilting various triangle designs and letting them “wander” instead of trying to keep them regular, straight line quilting in groups of close lines with wider spaces between the grouping, and standard ideas from traditional quilting such as quilting ¼” away from seam lines which defines areas and avoids quilting in and through seam allowances. Also I use variations on Welsh quilting designs and my own simplified leaf and feather shapes, all of which have a decidedly organic look.
There is a way to quilt with no knot at all, while still effectively securing both ends of the thread. It’s the smart thing to do whenever possible because there is no knot to accidently pop through the top at a later date, and the thread is less likely to break if the finished quilt is stressed by sitting on it or pulling it. The advantage of the no-knot method is that the thread has more flexibility and can adjust to the physical stress’s a quilt may experience through years of service keeping people warm.
The idea is to start with a thread long enough to quilt two lines. After taking the first few stitches, pull half of the thread through, leaving the other half to be quilted later. Once you finish the first line of quilting, tie off by running the needle along the seam line twice in one direction , and once in the opposite direction. This is the method the Mennonites who taught me to quilt used for finishing a line of quilting. The thread gets securely embedded in the seam allowance and there is no way it can work it’s way back out. Now thread the other end of the needle, and quilt the second line, finishing the same way. That’s it. Images 4–6 show you how it works.
Image 4 shows a partial line of quilting with the tail of thread left unquilted, the tail is then threaded with quilting continuing.
Image 5 shows starting a new quilting line in the purple, leaving half the thread loose, and Image 6 shows the re-threaded needle slipping through to the pink section where quilting will continue.
Embrace the Pucker: While I’ve always appreciated the fact that hand quilting creates texture; it wasn’t until I started mimicking the quilting style done by our sisters in India and Pakistan, that I discovered how effective their close-line quilting was in creating dramatic texture. They historically quilt close straight lines (1/8”–1/4” lines) from one side of their quilts to the other. These close lines are on the straight of the goods, rather than on an angle. When I tried this I changed it somewhat, quilting three to five close lines and then skipping 1/2”. The combination of these factors, groupings of close lines on the straight, with a larger space between the groupings, created a look similar to smocking as seen in Image 7. If you look back at my previous entries, you will see discussions and examples of this effect.
Moving along now, after quilting two borders with straight lines and half of the third border with straight lines, I turned to the feather shape I’ve used in other quilts. This feather actually looks more like a feather than do the traditional feather designs we all know and love. (Well at least I know and love them). With these simplified feathers, I scratch the shape with my needle Image 8 quilt it and repeat the process to complete the border shown in Image 9. Image 10 shows the feathers and the groupings of close lines separated by spaces creating the now much-cherished pucker.
I used a quilter’s ruler to divide the center of my Medallion into sections. I scratched the line with my needle, quilted it and moved on. See Image 11. Once I had the initial lines quilted, I added more lines by eye.
The Zig Zags were scratched with my needle. See Image 12. I know there are specific tools you can buy for scratching lines on fabric, but I like to use my needle because it’s already in my hand when I’m quilting.
When you quilt in a full size frame, you quilt from the outside in, unlike you do in a hoop where you start in the middle. The way it’s done in a full size frame is that you quilt all the way around the outside edges as far as you can reach. Then you release the C-clamps, roll the quilted section under, re-clamp the quilt, and continue. Look at Image 13 which shows the part I finished quilting rolled up so I can reach the middle. You do not have to worry about accumulating fullness in the middle as you would if you were quilting in a hoop. I’ve quilted all of my quilts using this method and with the exact same quilting frame and never had an issue because the frame keeps everything stretched out perfectly and it maintains the same tension throughout the process. Also, did I mention that you don’t have to baste when you quilt in the full size floor frame.
This should be enough for today. Actually it’s enough for you to see that quilting without markings isn’t hard, and once you get started you will find your own way and reap your own, much deserved rewards.