Sometimes it can be very intimidating to touch a lovingly created quilt top, a piece that has taken hours of hand crafting. Will your quilting make it better? Will it make the piece sing? What if you think you are not up to the challenge? What if your hands can't do what your mind sees?
Well, guess what? Even the most successful, award-winning quilters are scared at the start of a project. Karen McTavish, a pioneer in heirloom machine quilting, and the originator of the McTavishing fill design, says she is nervous and fearful every time she faces a new quilt top from a customer. She has a couple of suggestions. The first and most basic is “take a deep breath, relax and have fun.” I would also add, “have a plan, but be flexible.”
Quilting the hand-applique quilt is a special challenge, and should be handled much differently from quilting a patchwork piece. On the applique quilt the stitching should be subtler, playing a more supportive role, that of texture. On patchwork, quilting can be bold. But, hand-applique work is delicate, almost fragile in appearance. Especially when it is well done.
This piece is small, just a little over 2 foot square. The spaces between the flowers and leaves are especially tiny. So, I chose a form of McTavishing that Karen calls “clam shelling.” This begins with lazy “S” shapes, echoed over and over until the space is filled. When necessary, the lazy “S” shapes can slip in between the leaves and tendrils, giving the piece an evenly quilted texture.
A few other suggestions from Karen – Do the hardest thing, it always pays off in the end. Ouch, that one hurts! But, she is absolutely right. She also says what doesn't kill you makes you a better quilter.
So, be scared! We all are. But, we do this because we love this. So, relax, take a deep breath and have fun!