Play­ing Fa­vorites: Rib­bon Candy Quilt­ing

Fill your sash­ing and bor­ders with this ver­sa­tile and easy de­sign.

Quilter's World - - News - BY DEBBY BROWN

I don’t like to play fa­vorites, but I do have a fa­vorite thing in quilt­ing—rib­bon candy ma­chine quilt­ing. For me, rib­bon candy is the world’s most per­fect ma­chine-quilt­ing de­sign! You might dis­agree with me, but I will stand firm in my opin­ion. I usu­ally stitch rib­bon candy in a bor­der or sash­ing, some­times in a block and often in free-mo­tion col­lage-type quilt­ing. Ba­si­cally, I stitch it wher­ever I can on as many quilts as I can!

When teach­ing quilt­ing, I rarely use the words “al­ways” or “never.” I make an ex­cep­tion for rib­bon candy— I al­ways stitch rib­bon candy be­tween lines. The lines can be seam lines, quilted lines or chalk lines, but there are al­ways lines of some sort. When given a blank piece of fab­ric and asked to stitch rib­bon candy in the mid­dle of it, I know from ex­pe­ri­ence that it just won’t turn out well.

If you have tried stitch­ing rib­bon candy and found it dif­fi­cult, fear not; I have some train­ing wheels for you.

How to Stitch Rib­bon Candy

First, set up your ma­chine for freemo­tion quilt­ing. Then make a prac­tice lay­ered piece with bat­ting be­tween two lay­ers of cloth.

It is help­ful to des­ig­nate a stitch­ing area. If the top layer is just one piece of cloth, out­line an area with a marker (about a 2"- wide strip is good for a be­gin­ner) and then stitch along the drawn line. You will stitch within that area. When you’ve fin­ished prac­tice stitch­ing in one area, move on to an­other area and do the same thing. The fol­low­ing in­struc­tions are given for ver­ti­cal strips, but you can prac­tice in hor­i­zon­tal strips as well.

Af­ter defin­ing the stitch­ing area, be­gin by stitch­ing left and right zigzags within the strip as shown in Fig­ure 1. This will give you the sense of mov­ing in the space. I pause at each point and take an ex­tra stitch to make a crisp point. If you need to stop stitch­ing to re­po­si­tion your hands, sneeze, cough, breathe or an­swer the phone, do so at a point. If you wig­gle when you restart your stitch­ing, that wig­gly stitch will hide well in the point.

For the next prac­tice, stitch to the left, stitch a half cir­cle, then stitch to the right, and stitch an­other half cir­cle as shown in Fig­ure 2. This is still the back-and-forth move­ment, but it is con­tin­u­ous be­cause of the curves at the end. This de­sign doesn’t have a built-in stop­ping point, so I start and stop care­fully, usu­ally at the far left or far right of one of the curves.

Af­ter you feel com­fort­able in these prac­tice runs, we’re ready for rib­bon candy. Di­vide the rib­bon candy space ap­prox­i­mately in thirds as shown in Fig­ure 3, ei­ther men­tally or by chalk­ing some lines. Again re­fer­ring to Fig­ure 3, stitch a half- cir­cle in the left third, stitch slightly an­gled up across the mid­dle third, then stitch an­other half cir­cle in the right third, and stitch slightly an­gled up in the mid­dle third to meet the pre­vi­ous line of stitch­ing. When stitched in those seg­ments, it re­sem­bles ice­cream cones.

When stitch­ing on a quilt make it a goal to stitch smoothly without pro­nounced points be­tween the half cir­cles and the an­gled lines as shown in Fig­ure 4.

Rib­bon candy doesn’t meet in the cen­ter; it meets about a third of the way in from the left and from the right.

Be Kind to Your­self

Rib­bon candy is ex­tremely for­giv­ing. My loops aren’t all the same size. Some loops are big­ger and some are smaller. Some loops touch the line and some do not. While stitch­ing, it is tempt­ing to say, “The third loop from the top looks wob­bly, and I’m never go­ing to be able to stitch a per­fect row of rib­bon candy.” The good news is that per­fect isn’t the goal; rib­bon candy adds tex­ture to an area of your quilt but no one ex­cept you is ever go­ing to check to see if each loop is ex­actly the same size.

Stu­dents often say, “I can stitch three or four rib­bon candy loops and then things fall apart badly.” This is a very easy prob­lem to solve. Stitch three or four rib­bon candy loops, and then stop stitch­ing. I usu­ally stop stitch­ing at the far left or far right side of the rib­bon. Breathe, blink, fin­ger-trace the pat­tern on the quilt so you know where you are go­ing, and then, and only then, start stitch­ing again. Stitch­ing only three or four loops at a time isn’t a for­ever thing. The more you stitch, the eas­ier it gets, and soon, you’ll be stitch­ing five, six or 10 loops at a time.

Per­son­ally, I can stitch ex­tremely small rows of rib­bon candy, but I find it dif­fi­cult to stitch larger rows. I pre­fer stitch­ing rib­bon candy rows from 1" wide to about 21/2" wide. Any wider than that and mine stop look­ing like rib­bon candy and start to look like spaghetti noo­dles. Try stitch­ing var­i­ous sizes of rib­bon candy and see which size is most com­fort­able for you.

Rib­bon Candy Adds Depth to a Quilt

I often al­ter­nate a row of rib­bon candy with a row of un­quilted fab­ric. Rib­bon candy is a rather dense stitch­ing pat­tern and where a quilt is densely stitched, it is flat. Un­quilted ar­eas on a quilt are as puffy as the

bat­ting al­lows. If I have a row of flat rib­bon candy next to an un­quilted area of the quilt, the con­trast be­tween flat and puffy adds tex­ture to the quilt and makes this quil­ter’s heart go pit­ter-pat.

When I use a thin bat­ting, I see lit­tle con­trast be­tween the quilted and un­quilted ar­eas. When I use a puffier bat­ting, how­ever, I no­tice more con­trast. De­ter­mine which bat­ting is the right one for your project and con­sider us­ing con­trast­ing depths of quilt­ing (quilted ver­sus not quilted) to add some fun tex­ture.

Some quil­ters may not want to stitch the same pat­tern on sev­eral quilts, but rib­bon candy is re­ally fun to stitch and will look dif­fer­ent on dif­fer­ent quilts de­pend­ing upon how and where it is stitched.

Happy quilt­ing!

The sash­ing strips be­tween the blocks show­case rib­bon candy quilt­ing.

This Rail Fence quilt has the per­fect spa­ces in which to stitch a rib­bon candy quilt­ing pat­tern.

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