Free-Motion Quilting Decisions and a Printed Panel

teddy bear printed panel enhanced with free-motion quiltingFrom the Sewing Room: Printed Panels and Free-Motion Quilting.

I have been free-motion quilting for a while now. It’s probably 4 years or so since I crawled out of my ditch and started being more adventurous in this way. 😉 But I have just discovered something that I wish I had thought of right at the beginning!  And that something is pre-printed fabric panels.

Yes, I knew they existed….. But I have been a patchwork and appliqué snob and I have shunned them. Because I didn’t appreciate the benefits of putting my patchwork aside for a bit and developing my free-motion skills in a way that would let me put all my focus into the free-motion quilting part of a project. And this week I learnt a thing or two. Because I was forced to quilt a pre-printed panel….. and I liked it!

Got my free-motion quilting up and going again

Ice-cream Tones color scheme from Clever ChameleonThis week I have been concentrating on colour boards and  fabric mosaics, triggered by the Summer Crush contest from Stitched in Color. This resulted in 4 colour blog posts and was a lot of fun, but left much less time for sewing than usual. So, to stay happy and in touch with my sewing room, I pulled out a quick project that I have been avoiding a little. My next charity quilt.

The next charity quilt on my list was a child’s printed panel. It was all pinned and ready to go, but it just wasn’t going. Partly because I was out of the mindset of quilting because I have been sewing tumbling blocks patchwork lately instead. Partly because I had no idea what pattern to quilt on it. And a big partly because it will go to a very sick baby with seriously stressed out parents. I have been that parent in the past, and I didn’t want to think about it. All these things added up to a serious lack of momentum.

Teddy bears charity quilt
My latest charity quilt – a teddy bear panel

But I wanted to take a show-and-tell to my next Handiquilter Club meeting on Friday, so I fired up the Sweet Sixteen and got started. I knew I needed to outline the main motifs of the print. I knew I wanted hearts in the aqua border and I knew I wanted some texture contrast between the sections, but I didn’t know what.

When you don’t know where to start, start with what you know

It is my experience that ideas flow better when you are creating rather than thinking. So I started. I outlined the big bears in brown. Then I outlined the little bears and balloons in white by travelling around the inside of the string of motifs and then the outside. Once I had done this I decided to add free-motion quilting in the area between the aqua border and the balloons in a motif I know well. I did loop-de-loops, with the occasional little heart thrown in. That went quite well.

Loop-de-loop free-motion quilting with hearts
Looping stipple free-motion quilting with hearts

I hope you can see the quilting…. it is there mostly for texture. Here’s a diagram of the basic idea….

loops and hearts
Loops and hearts quilting plan

Now my confidence was up. I removed a stack of pins, which made the quilt easier to handle and also look better. And I recognised that the memories of my baby being in hospital in intensive care upset me less when I was working on the quilt than when I was anticipating working on it. Of course, thinking about the thinking was worse than the thinking! Anyway, at this point I felt inspired to fill the background with straight lines to show off the bears.

Straight line quilting to produce diamond grid
Straight line quilting to produce diamond grid in background of quilt.

The print has a grid of yellow and aqua flowers and I considered joining the flowers to form a diamond grid. But then I decided to make the flowers the centre of each diamond by quilting straight lines between them. I marked the lines with a hera marker (I am seriously scared of marking white quilts with wash-out pens). Then I free-motion quilted the lines in white thread. I wish I had a quilting ruler….. and knew how to use it! But I got by.

Hearts in the border – testing a new free-motion quilting motif

About the only thing I knew right from when I first unfolded this little quilt for a first look, was that I wanted to do a heart motif in the aqua-coloured border. 

A browse through my Quilting to Admire and Inspire board on Pinterest turned up a useful idea. It is this double heart leaf vine motif from Lori Kennedy. 

double heart leaf vine from Lori Kennedy
Double heart leaf vine motif from Lori Kennedy’s blog, The Inbox Jaunt.

I didn’t want the extra petals inside the hearts, and I had to decide how I was going to turn the corners, but this was a great launching place. Thanks Lori! The design I settled on after several drafts looked like this.

heart border doodle
How I eventually decided to turn the corners with the Heart Vine motif

I used chalk to place guidelines on the quilt top.

Here is the border quilted onto the baby quilt.

hearts border free-motion quilting motif
My hearts border free-motion quilting motif

I finished the long ends of the quilt with straight parallel lines to the edges, cut off the excess and sewed the binding onto the front of the quilt. The binding will be finished by hand by another quilter. I hope this little quilt does a little good in a bad situation. ♥♥♥

Clever Chameleon logo in blueMaybe next time I might go into more details on my thoughts of why I should have started quilting fabric panels a long time ago. And one reason I can think of as to why I didn’t. What is your experience of pre-printed “quilt tops”? Let me know in the comments below!

Until we chat again, go Quilt Your Own Story!

P.S. The follow-up blog post, where I did actually get around to arranging my thoughts on printed quilt panels, is here: 7 reasons to Quilt Printed Fabric Panels.

P.P.S. Linking up this week with The Quilting Room with Mel. Visit the linky party for more great new projects on the web this week.

Now it's your turn.... what do you think?