Break­ing the Rules of Quilt­ing

The rules of quilt­ing ex­plored.

Quilter's World - - News - BY DEBBY BROWN

If you ask any quil­ter about ma­chine quilt­ing, even if they don’t per­son­ally ma­chine- quilt, they can tell you the rules of ma­chine quilt­ing: “Don’t use polyester thread.” “Al­ways use the same thread on the top and in the bob­bin.” “If you are stip­pling/me­an­der­ing, never, ever cross the lines!”

I dis­re­gard these “rules” all of the time and have never been pun­ished. If you choose to use polyester thread in your quilt, your quilts will not dis­in­te­grate. If you are com­fort­able us­ing dif­fer­ent threads in the nee­dle and bob­bin when ma­chine quilt­ing, feel free to do so. I’ve crossed ma­chine quilt­ing lines lit­er­ally thou­sands of times with no ill ef­fects.

Please hear me when I tell you that the only rule in ma­chine quilt­ing is “Don’t bleed on your quilt.” If you ask, “Should I stitch to­ward the left or right?” I will re­spond, “Will ei­ther way cause you to bleed on your quilt?” If the an­swer is no, then it doesn’t mat­ter. You can ma­chine-quilt in any way that pleases you.

Let’s look more closely at the rules, start­ing with the stip­pling/ me­an­der­ing pat­tern:

Stip­pling/Me­an­der­ing

I’ve been told that there are dif­fer­ences be­tween me­an­der­ing and stip­pling but in two decades of ma­chine quilt­ing, I’ve never fig­ured out what they are. When I was teach­ing this pat­tern in Rus­sia, my stu­dents called the pat­tern “brains.” For the rest of this ar­ti­cle, I will re­fer to this pat­tern as me­an­der­ing.

I can me­an­der in a va­ri­ety of sizes, and the magic of this pat­tern is that it adds tex­ture to the quilt with­out over­pow­er­ing the pieced de­sign. When I me­an­der all over a quilt, the world will not end if I ac­ci­den­tally cross the lines. Typ­i­cally, I use thread that matches the fab­ric and no one will ever no­tice my so- called boo-boo. If some­one points out a crossed line, I con­grat­u­late them for find­ing the hid­den de­sign as if I had stitched it there on pur­pose!

Crossed Me­an­der

Ac­ci­dents aside, I have learned that I can cross the lines on pur­pose and make a pretty rib­bon de­sign.

This de­sign is par­tic­u­larly use­ful when I’m not happy with the way my me­an­der­ing looked the first time. My thought is that if at first I don’t suc­ceed, stitch over it again. This looks great whether the threads are the same color or dif­fer­ent col­ors.

You can also dis­re­gard the “rule” of quilt­ing that says that me­an­der­ing should have no straight lines or points. See what hap­pens if I add another line of me­an­der­ing over the first two but also add some stars where the lines cross.

Help­ful hint: I make the stars where my me­an­der­ing looks the worst. If I have any wob­bly stitches, this is a great way to cam­ou­flage the wob­bles. This also cov­ers up where my thread broke or the bob­bin ran out, and I had to restart. I never tell any­one that that is why I chose the pat­tern and act as if I meant to stitch it that way from the be­gin­ning!

I’ve heard that it is supremely im­por­tant to keep the me­an­der­ing stitches the same size. Some­times,

though, my mind wan­ders, the phone rings, or I just lose track of what I am do­ing. I have ac­ci­den­tally dis­cov­ered that dif­fer­ent stitch sizes of me­an­der­ing look great to­gether.

Re­mem­ber, me­an­der­ing is for tex­ture. If some­one holds a ruler to my quilt to mea­sure each curve, they are stand­ing far too close. I tell them to take three gi­ant steps back­ward and to view the quilt from a po­lite dis­tance.

Den­sity

Have you heard the rule about keep­ing the same den­sity in quilt­ing de­signs to make sure that it isn’t too close to­gether here and too far apart there? This rule is founded in the idea that quilt­ing very closely in some areas while leav­ing other areas com­pletely un­quilted will leave those un­quilted areas with some puck­ers. This can hap­pen, but a change in den­sity in your pat­tern if you wander off here or there won’t make much dif­fer­ence.

I change the den­sity of my stitch­ing on pur­pose, and I love how it looks. When us­ing a con­trast­ing color of thread, it can ac­tu­ally have a col­or­wash ef­fect on the quilt.

Re­peats in Me­an­der­ing

Another er­ror I’ve heard about with me­an­der­ing is when the stitches make a re­peat or show a dis­cernible pat­tern. Breathe! Re­lax! Don’t worry if a few of your curves are headed in the same di­rec­tion. I make stitch pat­terns in my me­an­der­ing on pur­pose. I love to me­an­der in spi­rals, cir­cling in and then back out again. I think this can evoke im­ages of roses, es­pe­cially if I stitch a leaf here or there.

When it comes to ma­chine quilt­ing, do your own thing. Don’t worry about the rules. Quilt your love into each project and have fun!

Hints for Stitch­ing Me­an­der­ing/Stip­pling

In my class­rooms, I’ve dis­cov­ered that 75 per­cent of my stu­dents strug­gle with me­an­der­ing. If you strug­gle, you are not alone.

Many peo­ple de­scribe me­an­der­ing as puz­zle pieces or dog bones, but I pre­fer to de­scribe me­an­der­ing as pieces of a gin­ger­bread man.

When I start stitch­ing, my big­gest con­cerns are the size of the me­an­der­ing stitches and the ran­dom­ness of the pat­tern. To help keep my size con­sis­tent, I use my quilt­ing foot as a guide. Ev­ery time the edge of my sewing ma­chine foot hits a pre­vi­ously stitched line, I curve away and con­tinue stitch­ing. This keeps me from stitch­ing my lines too close to­gether. When I get stuck and don’t know where to stitch next, I think about where I’m go­ing and stitch a por­tion of a gin­ger­bread man. I talk to my­self as I quilt and say “leg … arm …” and that will typ­i­cally get me un­stuck for a while. The next time I’m stuck, I might tell my­self to stitch an “arm … leg … leg …” be­fore get­ting back in the groove of me­an­der­ing.

Some ma­chines have dif­fer­ent ma­chine- quilt­ing feet for echo stitch­ing in dif­fer­ent sizes. By chang­ing the di­rec­tion of my stitch­ing when­ever the foot touches a stitched line, dif­fer­ent-size feet help me achieve dif­fer­ent sizes of me­an­der­ing.

Have fun learn­ing to try new tech­niques for me­an­der­ing quilt­ing de­signs!

Roses.

Two me­an­ders.

Three me­an­ders and stars.

Crossed me­an­der.

Big and lit­tle me­an­der.

Me­an­der­ing.

Ma­chine foot and stitch­ing.

Dif­fer­ent feet, dif­fer­ent size me­an­der.

Gin­ger­bread man.

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