Polka dot obsession
I’m working now on a quilt that I was compelled to make. My inspiration came directly from this book:
I know, I know, it looks suspect with its generic title and a Foreword by Martha Stewart. But this book is filled with exquisite quilts made with skill and artistry and it is an inspiration for any kind of quilter: Modern, traditional, art, contemporary. (I have no idea why all the photos in this post are not “clickable”-sorry!)
And here it is, the source of my obsession. I love this quilt in a way I cannot fully explain. It sounds overstated, but it reaches into my soul. It’s simple and beautiful and interesting. The more I look at it the more I revel in its detail. And those polka dots. I HAD to do a quilt with those polka dots. I was obsessed.
I think part the obsession with the polka dots is that it reminds me of Dotted Swiss-remember that, those of you old enough? Didn’t YOU have an Easter dress made of Dotted Swiss? I remember going to the fabric store when I was maybe 7 or so and picking my very own color of flocked Dotted Swiss for my Easter dress. And I think I remember that the bridesmaid’s dresses in my sister’s wedding were Dotted Swiss.
There’s something about its innocent, simple, repetitive beauty that speaks to my soul. Mr. Google tells me that it originated in Switzerland in the 1790’s-who knew? I just knew that I had to recreate those dots in my own quilt. Given the childhood memories that it stirred, I chose to make a Midwestern themed whole cloth, with symbols of my youth incorporated into the quilt. I have included stylized wheat, corn tassels, feathers, daisies and of course, Dotted Swiss via polka dots.
I’m only about half way done with this quilt. I decided to trapunto the motifs, which affects the entire trajectory of the quilt in two main ways: it cannot basted in the way I normally baste and the trapunto benefits from very close quilting. Let me address each of those separately.
The machine trapunto process requires that you trapunto the entire top, then layer and baste. Because of this, it was not possible to use the Terial Magic or Misty Fuse basting methods which I prefer. I had to baste this the old fashioned way with pins. This makes for a much less secure quilt sandwich, creating all kinds of issues with moving parts and the constant possibility of tucks.
Also, trapunto benefits from dense quilting to further enhance the dimension of the trapunto. Dense quilting takes much longer and can be tedious. This quilt will end up a mere (guessing here) 36″ square and will take maybe a month of work. It’s that dense.
For some reason I chose to use a white-on-white print backing which somewhat obscures the beauty of the back. I LOVE the feel of those dimensional dots. It’s the same kind of silly-good feeling you get squishing bubble wrap! I just rub my finger over and over those dots.
Because I pin basted, I do have a lot of rogue puff to control. The photo doesn’t really show how much puff there is, but if I was not savvy about my quilting, I would definitely have a tuck in there. So here’s the trick:
You have to divide and conquer that puff. I think this photo pretty clearly shows how I am doing that. The white thread you see is the water soluble thread used in the machine trapunto process. Also visible is the blue wash out marker used for temporary marking. Both will disappear after a good soak.
I am NOT a fan of ruler work. But this quilt seemed to ask for it as it is somewhat formal. So I have done about a 2″ border of straight line ruler work all around the central motif. As a Bernina girl, the #15 foot is my favorite for free motion quilting. Recently Bernina came out with a #96 ruler foot for the sit-down long arm Bernina. It also fits on their domestic machines. They “do not advise” that you use it on their domestic machines because if you were careless, you could hit the raised lip with your needle and really screw up your machine. But I’m not that careless and neither are you!
So I tried the 96 ruler foot and I actually did not like it. The raised lip, necessary for a really snug fit against your ruler, also inhibits my view of where the needle is hitting and that is unacceptable to me. So I just used my normal quilting foot and had no trouble with the foot slipping under the ruler. This is just me-you may love it.
There are a ton of rulers out there and a lot of press about domestic sit down quilters and rulers. For straight lines I love this ruler by Angela Huffman of Quilted Joy. Its sticky back keeps that ruler in place and it’s easy to keep clean and grippy.
A word about puff. I think that free motion quilting is all about the puff. If you choose the wrong motif or if you quilt too densely, you will flatten the puff and then you just have fabric and thread, without dimension. I had to be very mindful in my choice of motif and scale to preserve the beauty, puff and sheen of the Radiance (silk/cotton).
Because I had excess puff to control in order to avert tucks, I chose my “Saguaro” motif. It may look at first like a stipple, but it’s not. The Saguaro is a great motif for working in excess puff and it highlights the beauty of the puff better than a stipple.
I also had to find the optimal scale-small enough to highlight the trapunto and yet loose enough to show the beauty of the silk. I think this is the optimal scale.
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry Christmas. I leave you with this moving rendition of Amazing Grace which I saw on Margaret Blank’s blog. The real Reason for the Season after all is Grace. Enjoy and listen here (starts at 2:40).
Betty Jo Tatum says
Fabulous. I love the look of the dots and the close background saguaro motif. Interesting comments about the ruler work. I’ll bet this quilt is a winner. Merry Christmas.
This quilt is meant to be a fun little breather-not sure it’s competition quality but I am having fun! Merry Christmas Betty Jo!
Betty jo Tatum says
You may be surprised…though I too enjoy doing a fun little breather every now and then.
Oh I’ll take the surprise Betty Jo! But I am just in this one for the romp. I may enter it, but I’m not going to fester over a tuck or two.
I am a tad mystified/not understanding what is meant by the possibility of the “needle hitting the raised lip” of the foot. How??? Is it possible to post a photo of what’s meant?? I would think that there’s greater risk w/o the depth/thickness of the foot!!!!
I am not sure actually Doreen. I think it refers to that moment when you turn on your machine (speaking Bernina’s here), the needle comes to its top position and zig zags before settling in the center. That initial movement could break your needle if you had the foot in the upright position.
Betty jo Tatum says
I think it is when you drop the needle to get the bobbin thread up at the beginning. If you don’t have the foot down the part that holds the needle hits the top of the foot. I did this with mine, but it just shut it down and didn’t do any damage. I just turned it off and on and it was fine. Since then, I lower the foot before any other sewing action, and there is no problem at all. I’ve used mine a fair amount now that way.
Thank you Betty Jo-I’m glad that one had a good ending! It makes sense now that you really could injure your machine with this foot. I am forewarned!
Debbie Moyes says
Nice post Jenny! I almost always fight puff so I am glad to read your take on it. Dotted Swiss….. loved it! I wore a pale blue tucked dotted Swiss dress (that I’d made) on the first date with my husband (in high school!) with brown patent leather heels…(sigh). I adore dots of any kind and have a huge fabric collection. I even made an all dot mariner’s compass quilt! I recently saw a Christmas tree that I loved and wondered why I’d never seen it before. The tree was decorated with tiny white lights and it had some big white lots. The effect was so dotty!
Ooo-another Dotted Swiss lover! I love your story and how charming that you wore it on your first date with your husband. Now a dotty Christmas tree is a new concept for me Debbie-I’d love to see that one.
Martha Ressler says
I always learn something from you.
Oops-did I write rough puff? I don’t see that anywhere but I do have issues controlling puff. If I isolate it, then divide and conquer, I don’t have tucks. Hope that helped?
I too have issues controlling puff, but it’s the puff around my middle. Even with my kack handed FMQ I can use your tip for preventing tucks. I’m so glad you explained the extra stitching around the dots as I was wondering about its aesthetic effect.
LOL Joanna! Once I wash out that white thread the whole dot will puff up.
Thanks Jenny for your post. I thoroughly enjoy reading them and seeing your work. Been reading since I found you when you were posting work for the Master class
Thank you Ruth-what a sweet note. I enjoy sharing!
Audrey Harris says
This looks great. Speaking of polka dots – you may be interested in this website that only has polka dot products! amazing http://www.thedotiest.com
Ohhhhh now that is cool Audrey-thank you!!! That’s a fun site.
Can you add the title/author of the book to your text? The photo is missing (at least on my laptop), so I have no clue which one you’re talking about. :-) I love trapunto, but it’s often so traditional — the dots are FUN!
It’s “Quilts” by Elizabeth V. Warren. I don’t know how that photo dropped out of the post, but I added it back in. Sorry about that! Thanks for writing.