Friday, April 17, 2015

Anatomy of a Pebble

This is one of the hardest things I've done with a longarm....pebbling.

Well, actually, all backtracking is hard, especially without a stitch regulator. You see, a pebble is made up of a circle-and-a-half. You must stitch a circle, then stitch along part of that stitched circle to make it to the place you begin the next pebble. With a stitch regulator, you can slow down when backtracking the original line. Without one, you are doomed to stitch it all at the same speed.

A pebble is a circle, small or large, round or oblong. In this photo, the quilter has laid a penny on the surface to show you how small the circles are...6 to 8 circles in the space of a penny! Well, it does create awesome texture, but, really, is that necessary?!! (Quilted on a Domestic Sewing Machine by Julie Baird.)

You should never see a line traveling between the pebbles. The connections between them should be invisible, right at that point where each pebble touches another. Clear as mud, right?

This Labyrinth Walk quilt just screams for pebbling, mainly because of the maker's use of the Stonehenge fabric line. However, at a recent quilt show I saw this very quilt pattern, and it was quilted with what I would call River Rock-sized pebbles. And, if you study rocks, you will see that most of them are not exactly circles. Ovals, oblongs, kidney shapes, and something like a round-cornered triangle. I knew this is what I wanted to try on this quilt. And, I love it!

Now, most of the time, that backtracked line hits right on top of the original line, and all is well. But, it does not take but a hairs-width of a miss to really stand out and say “Hah, hah, hah! You missed it!” But, you must remind yourself that when someone looks at the quilt, they are seeing the whole of the texture that the pebbling creates, and not that one missed line.

So, have I discovered the secret to perfect pebbles? No, but I know I have to go at it very slowly. Barely over the speed that I use to baste or do ruler work. And, I have to remember to breathe! Oh, and if you have the choice, I don't recommend pebbling large swathes of space. You will be at it way too long!

And, while striving for perfect pebbles is a noble goal, remember that only you will see the imperfections so clearly.

Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering. 
There is a crack in everything; 
that's how the light gets in.
                                             Leonard Cohen