I don’t think there is anything more awesome than to have someone trust you so implicitly that they don’t care what you do, but as a word of caution if you’re quilting for others… sometimes they don’t mean it.
What I mean by that is, a customer might not have a specific preference because they really don’t have any idea what they want you to quilt, but sometimes they do have things they DON’T want you to do. So it’s always a good idea, even when you have free reign for something, to talk to them about the ideas you have for the quilting and get their general agreement.
In my case, I asked my customer if she minded whether I quilted on top of her appliques, and I could tell that she really didn’t want me to do that. I didn’t have anything specific in mind at the time, but I thought the animals would be cute with some texture. Her reaction told me everything I needed to know – unless I had something out-of-this-world-cool planned, leave the animals alone.
For the quilting, I decided to quilt with two colors of thread. In both cases I chose Superior So Fine – 443 Forest and 435 It’s a Boy! – for the top & bottom threads. Whenever I work on a quilt that has color changes, I like to quilt first with the thread that’s going to stabilize the quilt the most or that has the most coverage. Sometimes this isn’t possible or it’s a toss-up, so I will often add basting stitches where there are large areas that will be unquilted.
I’ve also started floating quilt tops more often – especially the smaller ones. Floating the top just means that I don’t attach the bottom edge to a leader, and I let it dangle on top of the batting. I’m actually starting to prefer this method, and it feels like I have a bit more control over the quilt, amazingly enough. And floating the tops does save a bit of time because I don’t need to prep the zipper on the bottom edge. I don’t know that I would float a really large quilt though – I would think the weight of the quilt would drag and stretch it if it dangled on the floor.
I started quilting in the outside border, doing some freehand leaves with small tendrils coming off of them. That was a really fun improvisation and I think it went well with the theme of the quilt.
While I was quilting the leaves in the border, I got the idea that the appliqued leaves would look better if they had veins quilted in them. I know that my customer was hesitant for me to quilt on the animals, but I didn’t think she would object to the leaves being quilted. And it really was a cool effect and gave them dimension.
Whenever I work on a quilt that has applique, 9 times out of 10 it requires outlining the applique shapes, regardless of whether you will quilt on top of them. This serves two purposes – it stabilizes the applique on the quilt so that you’re not forcing puckers into the unquilted areas, and it really defines the applique shape. The only time I will not outline appliques is when I’m doing an edge-to-edge pattern and ignoring the appliques altogether. Unless this is the case, applique on a quilt means custom quilting – which costs more because it’s so time consuming.
Outlining appliques usually involves using a ruler and contorting yourself to drive the machine with one hand and hold the ruler with the other, but I found this ruler on the internet that just has a cutout to go around the foot, and enable you to hold onto the ruler with both hands to drive the machine. This is still fairly slow work, but I really like the control that this ruler gives, and I was more accurate in outlines than I normally am with a one-handed method.
After the green was quilted, I went back with blue to do some spirals in the sashing, outline the animals, and then quilt loops in the background. I auditioned all sorts of shapes for the background quilting, but only the loops really seemed to fit.
Here is the back of the finished quilt. You can tell there are two different colors because the green is more prominent, and you can see the outlines of the animals, which were not quilted. Oh, and it was my first flannel backing, which was pretty much a non-issue.
And here is the finished front. I think it is super cute!