I’ve developed a simple way to machine quilt that’s not stitch-in-the-ditch but can still be done with the feed dogs up, and the walking foot in place. I guess you could call it shadow meandering.
My first quilts were quilted in straight lines, the most difficult pattern to quilt. Boring.
Then I tripped across Lise Bergene’s book, A Passion for Patchwork, and she has all these wavy lines criss-crossing her quilts. Have I told you how much I love this book? I haven’t made anything from it, so far, but her design style inspires me.
So I started quilting in wavy lines. It’s pretty easy, actually, especially if you are wearing sticky-fingered gloves to move your fabric around. You set yourself a steady pace of stitching, feed dogs up with walking foot engaged, and while the quilt is in motion, hold your fingers in one spot on the left. The quilt will pivot around the point you set so your stitching curves.
Lift your left hand, put down your right, and do the same thing so your stitching waves in the opposite direction.
Or plant both hands on either side of your needle, and use them together to shift your quilt gently from side to side as you stitch.
You can see the results from this in the detail of my Treehouse Steps quilt pictured above.
This was fine, as far as it went, but the result looked too scattered to me. I wasn’t completely satisfied.
Then during a conversation with a quilting friend, she happened to mention how much she likes to shadow quilt—making two identical lines of quilting, most often around a particular shape in a top to emphasize it.
So what would it look like if I shadowed my meandering quilting? I’m here to tell you, I loved the effect. I stitch a single meandering line from top to bottom, side to side or along a diagonal. When I reach the end, I return to my starting point, align the outside left edge of my presser foot with the stitching I just put down, and follow that line to the end.
Most of the time, I sew only two lines together but for my Werthy Sampler, pictured above, I used three and sometimes four, using different color thread.
Now I’m shadow meandering (shandering?) with different kinds of stitches, like the wide-open zig zag I’m applying to my orphan block quilt, a detail of which is pictured above. So far, I like the slightly ruffled quality it adds to the surface. I’m withholding final judgement until I get the stitching done in the other direction so I can see if it causes wrinkling problems at the intersections.
This is quick, good-looking utility quilting that adds a level of interest to a piece. Try it. Send me pictures if you do, and I’ll post them here for all to enjoy.
Four years later, I still have a drawer full of blocks created when I sewed and wrote Teach Yourself Visually Quilting.
And truth to tell, I’ve added to them in the intervening years.
For the uninitiated, quilt blocks that don’t have a home are referred to as “orphan blocks.” Strictly speaking, these aren’t scraps because a scrap, by definition, is a single piece of fabric that you don’t need at the moment for anything in particular.
Nope, these babies were destined for a life with others like them but along the way, they weren’t needed or didn’t fit in or the project was abandoned, etc.
They can be a real challenge to fashion into a quilt that makes sense to the eye. You’d think that all you had to do was pick out blocks at random, sew them together, and you’d end up with a quilt.
Not true. In some respects, orphan block quilts can be more of a challenge than starting off with all-new fabric because the blocks don’t work with one another very well or their differing sizes call for additions or subtractions in order to fit.
I hadn’t made an orphan block quilt for quite some time when a member of my guild started talking about them. Inspiration struck, as in “I haven’t made one of those in a while. I think I’ll do that as an in-between-other-projects project.”
Like I need another project.
Anyway, I dove into the odd-block drawer, and the quilt pictured at the top came out. Right now, it’s in the process of being quilted in a way I want to share with you as the week progresses.
And now we have a theme for this week—orphan block quilts and some fun utility quilting tips.