Early quilters didn’t have time-saving gadgets to help them make their quilts. They cut individual pieces out of scraps with scissors and used a needle and thread to sew them together. They would piece their quilts by candle or oil lamp light. When it came time for quilting, they again used their trusty needle and thread.
These days the modern quilter is completely spoiled. We have busy lives and doing things like our ancestors doesn’t work. Modern quilters will purchase anything that will make the quilt construction easier and faster.
Instead of cutting pieces using scissors, now we usually use them for cutting thread. The mighty rotary cutter is the tool of choice. If the rotary cutter isn’t fast enough, there are die cast cutting machines that literally crank out cut pieces, manually or electric models are available.
Needles are still around, but mainly used to attach the bindings to our quilt by hand. All our piecing is done on electric machines. Small, featherweight models to behemoth domestic sewing machines are available. Quilters usually purchase the best model they can afford.
The next step is the quilting, historically done by hand. Again, the modern quilter is always looking for a way to quilt her tops easier and faster.
The choices are to either quilt her top on her domestic machine, purchase a mid-arm or long-arm quilting machine, or find someone to quilt it for her with one of the last two machines mentioned.
Many quilters prefer to hand their tops off to someone to finish for them. Once the thrill of finishing her top wears off, she just wants it done. There are many quilters who would love to quilt their own quilts, but the thought of tackling that task on their domestic machine is just too daunting. Quilting a large quilt on a domestic machine takes patience, strength and knowledge.
At our quilt guild meeting on May 8, we had a wonderful presentation by member Connie Duffey on how to wrestle your quilt into submission. She informed us of all the steps required to be successful in using your machine to quilt all your projects.
The first step is to research quilting patterns and motifs that you want to quilt on your quilt. Starting with pattern books and a sketch pad (or for you techies an iPad or tablet drawing program), you need to practice drawing your patterns until you have achieved good memory of your pattern and nice, smooth lines.
I use a magna doodle. It works great and saves lots of trees. Once you achieve this and feel confident that you can draw (quilt) the pattern to your expectations, then you can go to your machine and practice (Connie called it playing) on practice fabric.
When you achieve your quilting pattern to your liking, then, and only then, do you start on your quilt top.
Connie demonstrated how to baste the quilt together using pins, and rolling the quilt sides to achieve something that can go under the machine needle.
The system she uses to quilt around the whole quilt was easy to understand. The whole process demands that you have lots and lots of patience and it’s crucial that you take frequent breaks.
Quilting on your domestic machine might be faster than hand quilting, but it’s still a great deal of work and will punish your body physically if you’re not careful.
I’m sure it’s well worth it when you can brag to others that you quilted it yourself on your machine.
Nancy C. JUDD is a Herald correspondent.