Monday, December 23, 2013

Marking Small Cable Motifs on Welsh Quilts

One of the patterns that is often used on Welsh quilt is a cable or chain.  Its generally used as a narrow border pattern but its also been used as a motif.  I've used it several times and it's a nice filler motif when you need one with a little 'curve' to it

The picture above shows the cable as a motif with rounded ends rather than being connected to another part of the quilt design. I'm showing it on paper so I can show the steps for marking it.   The broken lines are part of the marking process and aren't quilted.

To get started, you need to look at the space that will be filled with the motif. This diagram shows the space created when the larger parts of the quilt design come together.  There are lots of patterns that would work here but the cable as a motif is kind of unique, even for Welsh quilts. 
 The next step is to figure out how big the motif or curved cable will be so I usually mark the general shape right on the fabric of the quilt top (as shown with the sausage shape marked with the broken line in this next picture).  On the red sateen quilt, I've been using soap slivers to mark which stay long enough to quilt and can be marked again if needed.  Soap makes a great marking tool but be sure to use soap that IS NOT a moisturizing soap which will probably have oil in it.

So now its time to mark the cable itself.

I've marked a broken line down the center of the shape and I've decided I only have room for three sections on this cable so I've also drawn 'X's on the line where the cable lines will cross the center line to give me three sections.  Now the cable is drawn using the 'X's as the guide.  You can see in the next picture that the lines of the cable have crossed on the 'X' and the ends of the cable are rounded.
This is all there is to marking a really simple motif pattern.  They can be as long as needed or just a short one like this one but remember that it's not about drawing and quilting the pattern perfectly, each section will be a little different from the others but that's what makes them interesting in the finished quilts. Very useful little pattern.  Enjoy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Catching Up

Back again.  I recently took some pictures of the yet unfinished red Welsh wall quilt.  It should've been finished ages ago but life has been pretty fragmented and I don't function well when distracted.

Anyway, here are a couple pictures.  The picture on top shows the outer border before quilting, the lower picture shows the quilting and other details of the patterns that make up the design.  As I've said before, the color difference is due to the way the cotton sateen is woven.  The light reflects differently off the sateen when it's turned 90 degrees.  The color variation isn't usually noticeable but will show up in pictures.  The top photo is the color of the sateen in normal lighting. 

The lower picture shows a variety of patterns in one of the corners of the quilt. The challenge of combining patterns into designs seems to be getting the right mix of contrast between patterns.  I try to get a mix of straight lines and curves such as spirals (snails).  I also try to mix smaller patterns with larger ones.  In the early days of figuring out Welsh quilts, I designed and quilted a pillow top which was visually boring.  Eventually I figured out that all the patterns were the same size and even the space between the lines of quilting were the same.  It was a good lesson for me.

A really easy way to add interest to a quilt design is to add small patterns to simply fill up space.  An example of this is the loops that sort of hang down between the church window pattern.  If you look closely at Welsh quilts, you'll see lots of examples of these little patterns and from what I understand, they served a double purpose... they added extra detail to the overall quilt design but also served to hold the wool batting (wadding) in place.

On the lower left of the bottom picture is a corner with a circle pattern.  The circle is repeated and an 'X' has been quilted across the center.  The double lines of the circle and the 'X' make the very simple circle more visually interesting.  A plain circle would've been boring.  It's also noticeable that the circles were marked free-hand rather than using a template.  I'm doing a lot of free-hand marking these days because I think it is more interesting which reflects a more modern attitude on my part but this attitude wasn't traditional.  Traditionally, the quality of the design was important but when Welsh quilters of the late 19th century quilted on popular floral cotton fabrics, the floral prints made it easy to get sloppy with the pattern marking and this period of quilting on floral prints has been blamed by some Welsh quilt historians for causing a decline in the standard of Welsh quilting pattern and design.  For me, I enjoy the softer lines I get with free-hand marking but it wasn't always that way.  I've had to learn to loosen up with my marking.

So, now to dig out the pink and green strippy from the cupboard and show you what Welsh quilting can look like when done in a hurry or in the dark.  It's interesting to say the least.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Technical Difficulties, New Job and the Handbook

It's a pet peeve of mine to read a blog post where the writer starts out explaining why they haven't posted but here I am, doing just that.  SORRY!

Shortly after my last post, my laptop did an update and now my picture files aren't accessible when I want to dip into them and use a picture on my blog.  I tend to let these sort of problems go too long because I'm not technically savy with computers and don't have a resident computer nerd.  Irritating but not the end of the world.  I just need time to learn how to fix it or whatever.  I'll try to get the pictures I need on the unfinished red Welsh quilt project.  Maybe it's a good thing that I was running a little slow getting it quilted.

Another distraction has been my going back to work part-time.  I'm now working a couple days a week at Gee Gee's, a quilt shop in Yelm and I really like it.  It isn't that I'm working so many hours, it's just that there's been a lot to learn above and beyond just cutting fabric and offering some quiltmaking advice.  It's my first time using a computerized register and while it's really a great system with a lot of common sense built into it, I'm still a bit slow because I don't want to make any mistakes.  I feel like the old Far Side cartoon of the kid in the classroom with his hand up, asking the teacher if he can leave because his brain is full. It's times like this when the perfectionist in  me creeps out into my life and tries to do life without mistakes which we all know is not going to happen.  Actually, I find my struggles to learn all the details about the computerized register kind of funny because I haven't worked on a register since 1973 and even then, the registers I had worked on all had gold decorative scrollwork on them... in other words, they very old and very basic.  They were the kind that when you pushed buttons, the numbers popped up in a window.  I think I missed a generation of technology.  Oh well.

Now to more important things.  Many people have commented that they'd like to have a copy of my Handbook and since I've discovered a few in a box over at the shed, I thought I'd let you all know.  You can contact me through the email on the blog information page and we'll work out the details.  I will sell it for $25 (post paid) to anyone here in the lower 48 States but I can't sell overseas due to the cost of processing but you can contact the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre and order one from them which helps support the Centre.

When I wrote above that the books were in the shed, it occurred to me that it might make you think that I kept them in a leaky old building which isn't the case.  The 'Shed' is a building that my husband remodeled for a teaching studio and I did do some Welsh marking classes there but it wasn't to be.  Now I use it for getting away and fiddling with metal jewelry making and collage.  It's like going back to those long ago art classes in high school and picking up where I left off.  The little garden to the left is nice on summer evenings.  My 16 year old yellow cat, Yellow Max, still goes over and lays in the middle of the catnip plant... and nibbles a few leaves.  Maxine, our gray cat meets her friend, the black neighbor cat there also... no dogs allowed.

I'll get the Welsh quilt project back on track this week as soon as I figure out which pictures I still need.  Below is a picture of the project I started after deciding to stop teaching earlier this year.  I thought I'd just use the book to make 6" blocks when I had a few minutes but instead of it being a fill-in project, it turned into one of those projects where you just can't stop until it's done,  It's been a great way to use up fabric scraps but I still managed to buy fabric for it.  I really like the way the purple fabrics sash the blocks.
6" blocks from the book 100 MODERN QUILT BLOCKS by Tula Pink, published by D&C.  The first 15 blocks are all based on cross patterns, I repeated them until I got 49 so the throw will be 7x7squares.  I'll let my friend quilt it with her Statler  Stitcher, I'm not in the machine quilting mood.  Actually, I just don't want to take the time.  There are more important things to get back to like hand quilting the red Welsh sample.  Right?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Welsh Quilting Pattern and Design Handbook... A bit more info

I thought I'd provide a little information about The Welsh Quilting Pattern & Design Handbook that I put together in 1999 for my students. 

It isn't a fancy publication and the one in the picture is well worn.  There are 79 pages of drawings and notes about how different patterns were marked.

This photo show a page where I try to explain how I divide space up, mark the double lines and then divide and mark double line again.  In the Handbook, I used the term 'outlining' for the marking of the second but I think the word 'echo' might better explain how the second line 'echoes' the first.  One of the things you have to decide is which side of the first line you wish to mark the echoing line.  Mark them all the same... for instance, if you have marked the lines that divide the outer border on the outside when you start, mark all the lines the same on the other sides of the design.  But, if you make a mistake, the world won't come to a crashing end.

These pages are about marking motifs and tips for folding paper to make templates.
These pages show how I divide up border for filling with different patterns.  The left page shows the basic division of the border space and the right page shows the divided area of the border filled with repeating patterns and motifs.
The Handbook isn't like a book off the shelf at the quilt shop but it seems to get people started and when you've become good at looking closely to Welsh quilts, it'll help you see how the designs were divided up and the patterns were marked.  
May the Welsh quilts capture your imagination.

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Welsh Pattern Marking - Zig-Zag Borders

It's been raining here in Western Washington and it's too cold and dreary to do much of anything outside.  It's good weather to quilt so I've been working on my Welsh wall quilt and it's getting close to completion.

This is where the red quilt is at today.  I have two outer borders and one short border to finish and then I'll be ready to do the folded edge finish.  The finish size will be about 20" x 31".  My favorite part of the design is the zig-zag pattern in the short border.   I first saw it about 15 years ago stitched on a red and white Welsh quilt owned by Jen Jones and I've used it a couple times.  It's a great border pattern to mix with other Welsh patterns.  (There is a basic diagram for marking the zig-zag border in my Handbook on page 47).

To start, I divided the border into sections which is marked with the vertical soap lines.  There were only four because the border is so short. The next step was to mark horizontal lines along each edge of the border (ignore the diagonal lines for a moment).   I used a 1" ruler to mark the horizontal lines, the lines can be marked along the whole length like the lower line, without any breaks in the line or the line can be marked where it crosses the section lines as the line on top shows. 

Now it's time to start dividing the border sections into triangles.  The last photo (above) shows the first diagonal lines which is drawn and the photo below shows the second set of lines. The lines of the diagonal zig-zag  should be parallel.

The zig-zag is now complete and the lines are outlined on the outside of the zig-zag, not the inside.  The outline was done on the outside because I didn't want to lose any of the design space inside the zig-zag due to the small size of the quilt. The outlining could be done on the inside but make sure it's done the same way on all the borders of the quilt.
So now, it's time to fill-in the zig-zag.  The vertical lines that fill the zig-zag can free-handed or measured. The good news is that imperfections in marking or stitching don't show up when the design is finished.  I always wash and dry my quilts when finished and the texture of the quilting hides imperfections.
The nice thing about marking with soap and hand quilting is that you aren't stitching fast as with machine quilting.  If a soap mark isn't quite where it looks right, just use it as a guide and quilt where it looks right.
I'll show the marking for the little patterns altogether in a later post.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rainy May Day

Back again... I doubt that anyone would ever get the idea that I really enjoy blogging but I do.  I struggle with simply walking downstairs to my sewing room and turning on the laptop.  There are so many distractions and I really struggle with keeping focused now that I have another person bumping around the house when I'm trying to concentrate.  God love him, he's a keeper of a husband but I've always struggled when distracted.  It's time to develop some new coping skills...

I'm not scheduling anymore classes in quilt shops and have just a couple to finish up my existing schedule.  I've actually pieced a quilt top that wasn't a class sample... what a new thing for me to do. 

Pieced from batiks with a flying geese ruler and free-form squares, very quick.  It'll be machine quilted so my non-quilter daughter with cats can enjoy it.
I'm working very short hours at Gee Gees Quilting in Yelm which is about ten miles from home which around here is really close.  I really enjoy keeping my hand in the bigger picture of quilting and being around quilters and as a former teacher of many quiltmaking techniques, I still get to help quilters with their questions. After all, teaching isn't something you can just turn off when it seems to be part of a person's very being.

I've been part of a Tuesday quilt group for years and the blue and white Celtic applique quilt below is a Califonia king, hand appliqued, hand quilted by my quilt group friend, Opal.  It's a stunning quilt.

Below is a picture of a Dear Jane quilt that was finished recently by another group member, Julie.  The quilt is amazing and the pictures really don't do it justice.  The whole quilt was hand pieced and hand quilted.  It's truly beautiful.

The red Welsh quilt sample that I've been working on has been on hold but I plan to do some more marking, quilting and pictures this evening.  If I don't get a new post up in a day or so, please bug me about it.  I could use a poke or a shove once in awhile.  So, please, don't give up on me... I'm hoping for good conditions to hang some of my old quilts out to get pictures of them.  For now, it's raining... normal for here in May.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Marking Spirals On Welsh Quilts

Spirals patterns are one of my favorite patterns on Welsh quilts.  Spirals may seem to be a very simple, ordinary pattern but like other patterns on Welsh quilts, the magic happens when the spirals get combined with other  patterns into the overall design. 

When I started working with Welsh quilt patterns, it took a while for me to relax and just draw spirals without trying to make them all perfectly round or matched to each other.  In the early 90's, quilting stencils were still in wide use here in the States and American quilting was overly dependent on them.  I had used the stencils but didn't like them because of the limitations of the stencils and this was a big part of my attraction to Welsh patterns... they seemed so free.

Over the years, I've generally marked patterns two ways.  The first was to make my own custom-fit stencil and the second was to just free-hand mark patterns.  In my early years, I mostly used the stencils, partly because it speeded up the marking but still looked like a hand drawn pattern.  When I was teaching workshops, it was much easier for students to adapt to stencils because they also had stencils in their quiltmaking background. 

The basic steps for making a stencil was to draw the design onto template plastic with a black Sharpie pen and then cut along the lines to leave a gap big enough for the fabric marker to get in and mark the pattern.  I used narrow strips of masking tape (on front and back) to bridge the gaps and stiffen the stencil.  Sometimes, I did a whole pattern but often I marked the whole pattern but only cut and taped half of it.  It isn't the way the original Welsh quilt patterns were marked but it works.
These are stencils from an earlier quilt, laid out on the current quilt to show the marked lines and how the gaps are bridged with narrow strips of masking tape to hold it all together.  The stencil would be flipped to mark the other half.

My favorite way to mark patterns is by hand.  I do the dividing of the main parts of the design with rulers but I've come to really enjoy the hand marked patterns which are more consistent with the old quilts. 

In the picture below, part of the patterns were marked with help from stencils and some free-hand.  The spirals were marked free-hand with a little help with the spacing.
The picture below shows how a circle can be divided up for spirals or any other pattern.  I took a sheet of printer paper and cut a basic curve for a quarter circle and then folded the circle into 3 sections from the corner out (the folds barely show in the picture).  The folds are nipped at the ends to help with seeing them and the remaining square corner of the paper is positioned into the center of the circle and the circle border can be divided up for the spirals.

Now the curved border has been marked using the paper shown above and a ruler was used to finish the marking the spaces.

This picture shows how the spiral was marked with soap but the quilting doesn't have to exactly on the marked line.
I like patterns that fill the space so when I go to mark a spiral, I often put soap marks where I want the lines to go as is shown in the center of the picture... then I just connect the marks for the spiral.

Another tip for spirals is to know which way you prefer to hand quilt spirals because some quilters have a definite preference.  You can try marking samples of spirals going both directions and see if one direction is better than the other.  If you like clockwise spirals better than counter-clockwise (like the ones above) then it'll save you time to mark them for easier quilting,  The best way is to be able to quilt in any direction with different fingers.

May you have many happy hours quilting spirals.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Story For Today

I usually re-read my posts and find myself going back and fixing things that don't make sense or are just spelled wrong. I caught a spot on the last post that didn't make sense so hopefully it does now.  As I've read over the first part of what is intended to be my Welsh marking tutorial, I find myself wanting to include so much more information, especially step-by-step sketches like I used to do on a big dry erase board in class.  I think I've got that sorted out now so I can expand a bit more on some of the techniques.

It's been a really busy week which is the way I like it but it's also been such a big news week with the Boston Marathon Bombing and the manhunt. I feel really bad for all the affected victims.  Yesterday was the board meeting for ApParent Project in Haiti and I'm really excited about their jewelry being featured on one of the major morning news shows this week.  They are also preparing to be used in some hunger relief in an area of Haiti that lost crops to severe weather this past year and are hoping that the weather doesn't take out the crops that are coming to maturity at this time.  They intend to buy the food for relief in Haiti rather than buying from outside because it will also help Haitian farmers who struggle to compete with the huge imports of cheaper food from the States.  You can check them out at

Today is my art quilt group meeting and I'm really looking forward to it, it's a great group of women and one man... it isn't what most would think of as an art quilt group because it isn't strictly new, innovative techniques.  Over the four years we've met, it has become much more about the encouragement of each person's creativity and oftentimes the pieces that show up are very rooted in the traditional but I think it should be that way.  I've taken Welsh quilts to show because they are the ultimate art quilt to me.
This is Betsy, showing the two pieces on the right.  The piece on the left was a joint project of the whole group a couple years ago.  I drew up the line drawing, cut it into 6' squares and then each person did a small collage in black and white printed papers and then it was repeated in fabric which is what is on the display panel.  It was really beneficial to different people in different ways partly because it was just a small collage of fabric that wasn't big enough to intimidate after doing it the first time on paper.  We'll be doing an exhibit at a library later this year and our group piece will be there.

Tomorrow will be a big day for me too.  I'm going up to train on the cash register at Gee Gee's (my local quilt shop) to be their fill-in part-timer. They won't have to instruct me about their fabric cutting system, I've already got it memoriazed.  I decided to get a part-time job in the shop since my teaching as an independant in the shops has come to an end.  I'm like a border collie, I have to stay busy or I'll get into trouble.

And, last but not least, I have the sample from my last class to finish machine quilting before class on Wednesday.  This shot is of it a couple weeks ago.  I'll show it when it's done this week.  I have pictures in my camera of it but time has run out this morning.  Gotta get in the shower and run into town to meet with the group.
May we have peace on Earth.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Marking the Fabric... Just a Series of Decisions

I've chosen my red sateen for the front of my Welsh-inspired quilt and I have a big bold print for the back.  I've chosen a cotton batting with just a bit of polyester for stability.  I've pre-rinsed and dryed my fabrics and the batting got sprayed with water and tossed into the dryer to take the folds out of it and do a bit of gentle pre-shrinking.  If you don't follow the same routine, that's fine by me but I've done it like this for so long that it's just habit.

My red fabric for the quilt top is laid out on my work surface and due to the small size of the sample, it works fine.  If you want to mark a larger top it's much easier to use a larger table... sometimes you can borrow the tables in your local quilt shop to get started with the marking.  The marking process is just a series of choices and the first one is to decide how big the quilt will be.  My sample quilt will be marked 20" by 32" but when the quilting is finished it'll be smaller due to the quilting.  I'll be marking with a soap sliver (don't use a moisurizing soap with oil) which is very temporary so once I've marked the basic lines, I put the front fabric, batting and backing fabrics together and baste right on the lines that are important.  I usually change to another thread color to do the rest of the basting so that I don't get confused over which basting lines are to be quilted.  The soap or chalk works well on dark fabrics but won't on light fabrics.  I've used the rinse-out blue markers for years on light colors and I think the key to using them is to soak the quilt when rinsing rather that just dabbing the marks with water.  More on this later when I take my sample through the finishing up.

To mark the quilt top, think of it this way... decide how big it will be and then divide the area up into borders and center circles... outline as needed and then divide and outline again and fill the created spaces with patterns.  Sounds easy?  Don't worry about doing it all perfect, if you don't risk imperfection, you'll never get any pleasure.  I don't work at perfection, I like the quirky quilts best.  I'll share one of my marking mistakes later....

First of all, I mark vertical and horizontal lines in the center of the quilt.  Usually, I mark temporary lines with a broken line and quilting lines with a solid line but here I marked both center lines with a solid line.  The rulers show how I got the lines square to each other.

Now I'm ready to mark the outside lines of the quilt.  I'll measure out from these center lines to mark the outside lines which will be the outermost line around the quilt design.  There will be 3" borders on all four sides and these will all be outlined from the border side of the line which will show up in a picture when the quilting is being done.  It isn't a big deal which side of the lines the double lines are marked on but they should all be the same.  There will be a 4" border on two of the sides which shows up in the picture below to the left of the marked circles.  The circles in the center are about 12" and 7.5".  I tend to like larger circle designs for the center rather than smaller ones.

This picture shows the all of the lines that do the basic dividing up of the space marked and the layers basted together on the lines.  This isn't the traditional way but a way that I've developed because I'll quilt this in a hoop.  So, the space has been divided into the basic spaces and is ready to mark the double lines which will give definition to the different spaces and keep things from blurring together.

Notice the different color of the fabric?  Same quilt top but it's been turned 90 degrees in this picture and the cotton sateen shows up as a very different color.  Gotta love sateen, it's full of surprises.  So, here's the same top with the dividing lines and double lines quilted.  Notice how the outer quilted lines aren't double at this time.  These will stay this way for the time being.  I've always struggled a bit over what to call the lines that echo the dividing lines... I've referred to them as 'outlining' and 'double lines' but they are just one line echoing another.  It doesn't matter what they're called as long as they get included.  Now the quilt is ready for the patterns to be quilted into the divided spaces but I thought I'd add a bit about how I make templates.

These are some of the tools I use for marking.  The picture below shows how the circle template was made for the center circles.  The funny ruler in the back is a yardstick ruler point fitted to a yardstick and a small hose clamp to hold a Sharpie marker which is what I use on template plastic.   I use this homegrown yardstick compass for big circles.

This is how I make templates for marking.  I mark a quarter or so of the circle.  The inside circle is marked and the line cut away wide enough to allow marking. I place narrow strips of masking tapes across the cut slits (on both sides of the template to make it more stable).  I also have a very small black dot marked where the very center of the circle would be.  I prefer to make the template a little larger and mark the center where I can see it better to center it with the lines on the fabric.

So, in the next post, I'll show how the circle is divided up to be filled with spirals,  also known as Welsh 'snails'... stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Little Trick For Burying Hand Quilting Knots

Cotton sateen is my favorite fabric for handquilting and a solution to one of it's quirks has developed so I thought I'd see if it works for other quilters also.
This picture shows the texture of cotton sateen.
Quilting on sateen creates lusious texture on finished quilts and some quilters describe quilting through it as like "quilting through butter".  Now, I can assure you that it's very nice to quilt on but like butter?  I've never been able to quite figure out that word picture... but after years of quilting, one quirk that has always stood out as a nuisance is burying the knots properly.

When it's time to end a line of stitching, I make a small knot right against the surface of the quilt and then I pull on the thread gently to pull the knot out of the way and I attempt to stick the needle in the same opening created by the knotted thread as it comes up out of the fabic.  If all goes well, the needle slides between the layers of the quilt and is pulled back up through the quilt top fabric and with a gentle tug, the knot slips through the tiny opening made by the needle and thread and disapears inside the quilt layers.  The needle gets pushed  back up through the fabric nearby and the thread gets clipped... any remaining tail is pulled back between the layers or helped along by the point of the needle.

But, sometimes the knot burying doesn't go so well... the needle didn't quite get in the right little opening and the knot hangs up on an unseen thread and won't pop under the fabric.  The knot has to be carefully poked and prodded with the needle to pull it back up to try again.  Now it's possible I'm the only person this happens to or maybe it's the way I bury my knots... whatever, but it's really frustrating. 

The other night I was quilting on the red sample piece that I'm using for the tutorials and I spent about 20 minutes trying to get a knot back up so I could start over (this was a new world's record for me).  I was'nt able to get the knot up and out of the little hole but it wouldn't bury either... it was hung up on those little sateen fibers and the more I dug away at it, the more little threads of sateen I was causing damage to.  So, my little razor-sharp brain went to work and figured out a solution which is really simple. 

Now when I go to insert the needle to bury a knot, I do everything the same but just before pulling on the needle to pop the knot into the quilt, I take a piece of waste thread a couple inches long and I stick it through the loop of the thread that is being pulled down through the layers.  Now, as I pull on the thread, I can see the knot disappear into batting and I can pull the waste thread out and keep going.  But, if the thread won't pop down into the quilt, I can use the waste thread to gently pull the knot back up and do it again... no damage to the sateen.  It works, I've been using the technique for a couple days and while it takes a little longer, it has actually saved me time.  But more important than that, it's really reduced my frustration level.  I'm enjoying the quilting more and I don't have to have magnifying glasses and a bright light to see to bury those pesky knots. 

A great help to those of us with 'mature' eyes.
A sateen quilt at Beamish Museum, it appears to be different colors but it's all because of the way sateen reflects light when it's cut and turned 90 degrees.  The difference here is the result of the camera flash and the angle of the camera to the quilt.  For best results taking pictures of sateen quilts, shoot them almost straight on and if possible, without a flash.  Taken during a visit to N. England in 1997.

Happy quilting.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Welsh Quilt Marking Tips... Tutorial

One of the challenges for me when it comes to teaching this process is that it's very easy for me to assume that others understand some of the foundational basics that I take for granted so I thought I'd cover a bit more before going to fabric.

Marking a quilt for quilting can be really intimidating.  When it comes to marking a Welsh type quilt top, it doesn't have to be a scary thing because it's basically just a series of choices which are made one after the other.  The quilt can be planned on graph paper first or with some experience you can go straight to the fabric.  I still make a basic plan on paper but I rarely stick to it. Allowing innovation along the way makes for more interesting quilts and I suspect that the Welsh quilters understood this well.  (The Celtic ancestors of the Welsh had a highly developed understanding of design and creativity).

So, a few more tips on sketching your design on paper.  When I was working with quilt guilds, I usually did a 2-day class.  The first day we worked on paper and the second day we marked fabric.  The first thing we did was mark around a 6"x24" ruler on a very large piece of paper and then proceeded to divide the 6"x24" 'border' into triangles or whatever so we could fill the divisions with Welsh patterns.  This was the point where many of the students froze up, afraid to make a mistake but after making a few marks on the paper, they were off and running and by the end of the second day they were fearless.  Try marking around your 24"x6" ruler as a 'border' and then fill it with patterns, you have nothing to lose but much to gain by just doing it.

Here's an important tip... when marking, rulers are good for straight lines, creating and dividing the whole quilt surface into borders and so on but when it comes to measuring a border to be divided into triangles or any other shape, the best measuring tool is simple paper tape like you'd put in an adding machine (for those of you old enough to have ever used such a thing).  You just roll the tape out to the length of the border and cut it off neatly... don't tear it.  Now you can fold the tape and use it to figure the spacing within the borders..  I'll get into this more a bit later and also, if you have access to a copy of my Handbook, page 36 has some information on using paper tape to figure spacing.  This really simplifies the marking... there's no fractions to remember as you mark and if you still need to fudge a bit on marking, it's no big deal, just slide the paper strip a bit whichever way you need to..  For now, go find a couple rolls of paper tape, any will work but don't get the thermal kind, just the plain stuff.  Paper is far more useful with this style of marking than rulers and it's a lot more fun.

Here's another tip to remember when marking on graph paper... just because you can draw a pattern into a space on graph paper doesn't mean it'll fit the space in real life.  For example, you've drawn a corner square and on graph paper it's 4 squares by 4 squares and you've planned each square to equal 1".  Now you draw a pattern in the corner block within the 4x4 little squares and tell yourself how great it'll look but will it?  To check out your plan, draw a 4" square on graph paper and draw the chosen pattern in it's true size and then ask yourself again if it'll work or if the pattern looks crowded in the block at real size.  It's been my experience that it's better to error on the side of simplicity with Welsh patterns and design rather than overdoing the design. 

Here's the last tip for today (I think).  When planning your design, choose patterns like you would printed fabrics.  Include some large scale patterns, but also some medium and small scale patterns.  Choose organic, flowing patterns like spirals, hearts or leaves and complement them with the more geometric patterns.   It's like choosing a variety of printed fabrics to work together.  If something looks awkward, check the combination of the patterns and the scale.  I made a pillow with Welsh patterns back in the early days and when it was done it just didn't look right and after studying it a bit I realized that the trouble was in the scale of the patterns, I had small, close patterns around the outside and a larger, more open pattern in the middle and it just didn't look right.  Go find pictures of Welsh quilts and study the patterns and the way the patterns are combined.  There is a simplicity to the whole process that is a bit of a challenge for those of us in these modern'ish' times who often seem driven to make the process as hard as we can.  Relax

So, here's a picture to look at and consider what I've said above.  This is a close-up of the quilt shown below.  Notice the variety of geometric lines and patterns alongside curved, organic lines.  There are smaller patterns (the spirals) and larger patterns (the leaf).  Also, some of the patterns started from templates (more on that later) and some were drawn free-hand.  The cable pattern shown on the gold was spaced using paper tape.

The full photo doesn't show as well as I'd like but you can look at the patterns and see the variety and ideas for how they might be combined.  This isn't a traditional lay-out for a Welsh quilt.  I had seen an antique American quilt that was pieced this way but which was quilted in a very nondescript design so I adapted the Welsh patterns to the pieced top and this is one of my favorite quilts.  Also, notice this one has a binding sewn on the outer edge rather than the folded, knife edge finish.  The pieced design needed the colored binding around the edge to finish it off.  Wholecloth quilts are a challenge to photograph, mine were shot by Mark Frey,a professional photographer who has done many quilts.  And lucky for me, he's a neighbor (around here, that means he lives within 10 miles).


Enjoy... and if your brain gets too full, take a catnap... it always works for Frank.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Welsh Quilt Marking Tutorial - Getting Started

When I discovered Welsh quilts almost twenty years ago, there was very little information in print on how to mark these quilts.  As I studied them and figured out the marking process (the best I could), I discovered that I had to rethink the process and separate it so to speak from what I had already learned as an American quilter and product of the American quilt revival of the 70's.  The best I can do as a quiltmaker is to create a quilt that is inspired by traditional Welsh quilts because I'm creating my quilts in different circumstances.  I've learned differently, the materials are different and I've been influenced by traditions from outside Welsh quiltmaking such as the modern emphasis on perfection.  If anything, Welsh quiltmaking can be a pleasant escape from modern perfectionism.  However, don't get the idea that I see Welsh quiltmaking as a shrine to the past.  I enjoy working in the very traditional style but I've taken everything I've learned in the process and applied it throughout my quiltmaking.  Welsh quiltmaking is my dominate influence now, it's influence is present throughout everything creative that I do.

Right from the beginning, I worked on graph paper to design and I tend to think that my Welsh ancestors would've used it too.  So, to get started, I ask myself a couple questions.  How big will it be, how many borders and so on.  When I work on graph paper, I can figure out options for enlarging it.  For example, if the corner blocks are 4x4 squares on the graph paper, I can figure that one square will equal 1" and then figure the square to be 4"square and so on.  However, the best way to get started is to figure the overall outside dimensions and work towards the inside.

This picture shows a page in my sketchbook with the basic design for the quilt I'm working on at this time.  This give me an outside dimension, the width of the outside borders, an additional set of borders because the quilt is a rectangle and the circle in the center.  I will often try out different patterns in different spots.  Sometimes I use what I sketch in but often times, the design takes on an organic nature and a life of it's own but the design on paper is still a good way to get started, even if you don't stick with it.  You can see where I've written notes around the outside which will help me remember ideas.  I've also included the double lines (lower left corner of sketch) to tell me which side of the dividing lines I plan to put the lines which are a key feature of Welsh quilts.  The double lines define the borders, ect.  Resist the temptation to leave them out, they define the design and are worth the extra marking and quilting.  The double lines are also helpful in defining any pattern that you want to stand out a bit such as a leaf or heart.  Patterns not double lined tend to blend together... more on this later.

Now it's time to choose fabric.  The fabrics shown in the picture are both cotton sateen.  The red will go on the front and the floral will go on the back.  I really like florals on the backs, they show the texture differently and hide imperfect stitches.  When florals became popular among the Welsh quiltmakers, the quality of the quilting tended to take a turn for the worse because the stitches and patterns didn't show up as well.  But, I can put it on the back and enjoy it there.  When planning your quilt, quality of the fabric does matter... use the best you can afford.  Sateen works best with sateen, you can put regular, flat cotton on the back but it gives differently and I find that it needs closer basting.  If you plan to use sateen, expect to hand baste it.  Sateen is made up of finer fibers and can suffer from holes left behind by safety pins or other quick methods.

So, go make sketches on some graph paper, choose your fabric and get ready to start marking your top.