Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This Piece is Over-Quilted!

But, that's alright because the piece is mine, and after all, I planned it that way. But, seriously, on this piece there are so many different motifs and styles of quilting designs:

Straight line quilting, stitch-in-the-ditch, curved crosshatching, feathers, ferns, stars, free-motion Baptist Fans, ribbon candy, outline quilting, echo quilting, long loops, and even a Zentangle© design called Rick's Paradox. Frankly, it took longer to find the designs, and figure out where to put them than it did to actually quilt them.

Stitch in the Ditch finished

I usually hold myself back to three motifs (with slight variations to fit into the spaces) on any one piece. Continuity is key here to keeping down the chaos.

Background motifs in

But, on this I wanted to go all the way. Kind of like the pieces I see shared in other blogs and in the big quilt shows. Over the top, quilted to death pieces...I am sure you've seen them.

Put a fork in it - it's done!

But, is this even a good idea? To go all the way, quilt to the “endth” degree, get as complex as you possibly can? Just to show you can? Certainly, that is what quilt show judges are looking for...Just how talented are you? How much time do you have to devote to the quilting of a piece?

Of course, when you are quilting for customers, their vision for their piece and your vision can be wildly different. And, their budget will certainly come into play. Karen McTavish once told a class I was attending: “You will never make a living quilting whole cloth quilts for customers because no one will ever pay you what that level of work is worth.” Same holds true for the 'quilted to death' project.

My quilt “Tangled Up in Blue” was in the American Quilters Society show in Phoenix this month. My category was won by a quilt with 27,000 Swarovsky crystals on it. First of all, that's a LOT of money in crystals. But, I wonder...was it really necessary?

Even cool on the back. Two layers of wool batt...has a mind of it's own before blocking!

Yes, I make pieces for competition in quilt shows. And, yes, I have had customers tell me they want a blue ribbon in the next show, so “do what you need to do to make that happen.” But, how much farther will quilting have to go to win in the next big shows? What's the future hold?


  1. I know this post was a while back, but I just found it. I agree with you 100%. I think a quilt is just that layers of fabric batting, backing. have to put 27000 crystals on a quilt to make it stand out, or be a cut above the rest. Another thing that I don't like is people painting on the fabric. Isn't it the fabric that makes a quilt? Never have understood why a quilt that is painted would qualify as a quilt. Thanks for letting me vent and will be following you in the future. By the way I love this quilt and your quilting.

  2. Sadly, there have always been other quilts that won using the 'overdone' method -- Sharon Schambers won an AQS Paducah competition years ago with a quilt whose back was absolutely encrusted with Swarovski crystals. (But she didn't win because of that -- I know this on sure testimony. She won because of workmanship.)
    So keep doing your wonderful work -- judges notice it. Honest. Being a national judge myself, I am certain of it.

    P.S. I would like to show a photo of your French Braid-style stained glass 'shamrocks' quilt from 2013 on my blog -- I'm writing about the French/Pioneer Braid technique, and it's a lovely variation. Would that be ok? Please e-mail me at

  3. I "stumbled" over your blog through pinterest. I love your work! I want to comment on your sentence about the customer who wanted a blue ribbon... I have been to a few quilt shows and sometimes you see many quilts, pieced by different people, but long arm quilted by the same person.... so who reaaly wins the ribbon? I think the prize should be for the entire quilt, piecing, quilting, binding - and then to enter in a competition where sometimes more than half the work has been done by somebody else somehow doesn't feel right to me. To me it falls kind of into the same category as entering a quilt made from a kit, where somebody else have made a pattern AND chosen all the fabrics for you... Everybody loves to win prizes, but some are more deserving than others...