Friday, January 24, 2014

(Not So) Free Motion

Anybody else ready for spring?

Not this guy, apparently. He's really enjoying the seed in the feeder. I haven't enjoyed filling it this week, though, often in nearly 0 degree weather, but we don't want these beautiful birds to go hungry!

Meanwhile, inside the house, after (mostly) conquering the static-cling problem with my polyester thread, quilting proceeded on the garrison landscape....

...only to come to another halt.

This is the largest landscape quilt I've ever pieced and layered, roughly 45 x 54 including the borders. Granted, the harp space of my machine is wide, 11 inches. Still, notice the excess bulk in front of the machine, which you can't leave in your lap without experiencing serious drag problems. However, bunching it up on the sewing table where it would cause no drag, I could barely see what was going on under the needle. And the sides of the quilt were rolled up so tightly that, as Leah Day warns in her quilting videos, it was like dealing with a couple of logs. Long story short, I was hunched over the machine like Quasimodo as I tried to stitch in free motion. There was nothing 'free' about the motion! The quilt was simply unable to move as needed.

Remember, this is not a bed quilt. Landscape quilts can be a bit stiff already at this point, with up to three or four fabric layers in some areas, plus batting and backing--and again, this is not a small one. You can't just smush it all up under the machine, and you don't want to crease any thick areas by folding them flat--hence the log rolls.

So, what to do? Well, considering a major part of the bulk is batting, there seemed to be only one solution. It's what my friend Kathy does when making a queen-sized bed quilt on her machine, which has a very small harp space. Back to the cutting table...

...where I un-basted roughly a third of the quilt on each side, and cut the batting out, leaving the center third intact. Of course the two cut batting sections will be put back later, after the center is quilted.

And what a difference! Here's the 'before' again...

...and here's the 'after.'

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but those 'logs' are flat and supple now, without the batting to stiffen and fatten them. And there's two-thirds less batting in that front bulk, as well. The quilt moved freely! It's looking more dimensional now, especially with stitching around every stone in the garrison wall and window.

After several days of intense stitching, I needed a break--not just from free-motion quilting, but from looking at the same thing day in and day out. Usually, I have two or three landscape quilts in the works, at different stages. But not this time. So, two days ago, I pulled a few fat-quarters off the shelf; prints I probably wouldn't use in a landscape, for various reasons.

Deciding on 5" squares, plus 2" sashing and a 4-3/4" border (do not ask me what bed in what world this would be appropriately sized for), I started cutting. Then I figured out where everything would go. Please keep in mind that I've only ever made two (crib-size) quilts, and those were on the fly. As you can probably guess, I'm not crazy about instructions or's kind of a phobia with me. Too much like being told what to do. This has, upon occasion, resulted in some odd-sized creations. Like giant potholders (which make great trivets). But it's also one of the reasons I love landscape quilting. No rules; just right. (Sorry, Outback Steakhouse.)

Anyway, this hodge-podge (or hotchpotch, depending on what side of the pond you're from) of fabric pieces resulted in a combination on the design board that made me feel pretty cheerful.

The border will probably be this blue batik, which is darker than it looks in the photo.

So now there are two projects to work on, each giving me a break from the other. And a third is in the works, at least in my head, on a Vickie Welsh hand-dye.

Hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup, and with Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday blog (haha, Sarah is also asking if anyone else is ready for spring--I think all of us are done with winter!). If you want or need quilting inspiration, you will find plenty of it in both these places, as well as with their reader hookups.

Have a great weekend, and again, those of you in single-digit temps, stay warm!



  1. Love your work! will have to review and see more. your thought of avoiding patterns etc - thats so me! i hate repeating much of anything, and plans change on the fly in my quilting ALL the time! One of these days i want to explore the world of landscape quilting - but there is still a lot of current ideas percolating to get there!

    1. Thank you! Flying by the seat of your pants keeps things interesting as well as challenging, doesn't it? Oh, I hope you do try landscape quilting, there is nothing more fun in my book. I know what you mean about the percolating ideas, though. If only there were more hours in the day!

  2. Oh Linda what a beautiful little cardinal!

    Until now I hadn't realised how big the landscape was. It can be such a struggle doing the FMQ and coping with bulk, which is why I am such a fan of quilt-as-you-go, but that just wouldn't work on a landscape. Cutting out the wadding is really good dodge - I suppose you could build up the sandwich in stages as you quilt.

    I love the way you decided you had had enough and went and started something completely different. Great therapy!


    1. Muv, most definitely great therapy. I felt so much more relaxed working on the little bed quilt today. I'll get back on the landscape as soon as the mood strikes and my shoulders and neck are less sore. This is one reason I don't accept work on commission--I wouldn't have the option to shift gears and would probably run myself into the ground.

  3. Glad you found that trick, Linda. I found it reading Marti Michell's Machine Quilting in Sections. (here's a link to a video by Marti: It changed my quilting life because I can now make quilts bigger than 42" square. It's going to be beautiful!

    1. Ooh, thank you, I am going to check that link out now! What I didn't share on the blog was my hesitation, at first anyway, to cut that batting. But there was really no way around it, and once it was done, it felt right.

    2. ...and I bought the book! Thanks again for the heads-up.

  4. I just fouund your blog and wow, there´s so much to see and read... this quilt is wonderful. Is it raw edge? I do it myself. I´ll be back,

    Nana from Germany

    1. Hi Nana, and welcome! Thank you, yes, it is raw-edge. There are some edges I may later decide to free-motion satin-stitch, but probably not many, if any. Hope your weather's warmer than ours is just now!

  5. I am so happy that I found your blog! I want to make a landscape wall hanging quilt for us of the barn and pasture we have on our place. A memory sort of the barn for my hubby. I am trying to figure out the best way to do this and add the dimension, fence line, etc. that I need. Love your quilts!

    1. Thanks, Teresa! I can't tell from your message whether you're entirely new at landscape quilting, but if you are, you can get some wonderful tips from the books by Nancy Zieman/Natalie Sewell and Joyce Becker. They're my go-to's. Have fun, it will turn out great however you decide to do it! And I can't wait to see it!


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