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.


1 comment:

  1. Great tips Marjorie. The transition from graph paper idea to actual size is often problematic as you have written. I will often draft something up actual size and photocopy it several times to mock up a real sized view before marking ( either for appliqué or quilting).
    I treasure your workbook and just about every page has a yellow post-it on it!! One day I'll make a whole cloth.
    Best regards, Kate