Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Utility Quilting I: A Bad Job for a Good Cause?

Charity quilts are the best win-win situation in the quilting world.
People in need receive an item of use and a message of care.
YOU receive the practice needed to become a better quilter (aside from the many benefits of "doing for others").

Last week I did a demonstration of "Utility Quilting" for my guild, and here is an example.
Utility Quilting simply means it is enough to hold the quilt run for the blue ribbon here! There were to motivations for this demo:

1. A large number of tops are waiting to be turned into quilts

2. People claim they want to learn machine quilting, and they come to classes, but they don't quilt on anything larger than a small baby quilt...or never machine quilt at all.

The only way to learn is by doing...and there is far too much invested in a quilt to just practice and throw away... so your answer is making charity quilts.

Start easy, get fancier as your skills increase.

But what about people who are afraid to even start?

The quilt above has a batt that doesn't require close stitching (Warm & Natural). The quilting is not the dreaded "in the ditch". It is ON the ditch, a nice hand guided wavy line, done with a regular stitch and machine set up. It helps you get the feel of handling all that quilt sandwich through the machine.
Here's the finished quilt:

The top was made from a charm square exchange (thanks, Rita!). Just arrange the lightest ones in the center and set the darkest ones around the outside....a great practice for learning values vs. colors!
(it's pinned to my design wall, which is only 4' high and has the ironing board underneath, just so you know why it's curly at the bottom!)

Here's another quilt made to practice free motion quilting. I never thought I'd buy a pre-printed panel, but that's another sacrifice for the guild!

Just match the thread to the lines in the picture, lower the feed dogs and top tension, put on the darning foot and away you go!
Actually, it's harder than you'd think!
So that means an important lesson is learned: Quilting along a permanent line (printed) allows all the wiggles to be seen. Quilting on a line that disappears (chalk or washout marker) allows for a little variation or waviness!

Matching up black thread to thin black lines was more of a challenge that I'd thought.
The free motion quilting in the sky was more fun.
Sometimes what we think will be harder is really much easier. Free motion on disappearing guide lines is the best!

So get out something to practice on...learn some new skills...and if it isn't exactly perfect or up to your standards, don't worry.
There are many people who need a quilt, and will be happy for the both of you!

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