The Tree of Life 17: slowing the pace

As some of you already know, the attempt at machine quilting this epic has failed. 

There are simply too many changes of direction to make it even remotely viable. I blithely imagined myself whirring along at speed. Amazing how one conveniently forgets the wrestling with fabric, cursing, rolling and unrolling, aching shoulders, sore neck and all the other associated joys of machine quilting. Now multiply that 3 or 4 times taking into account outlining every leaf, branch, fruit, flower, root, blade of grass, bird and fish. I was ludicrously ambitious! After starting and stopping, sewing and unpicking several times, it was clear that I was going nowhere fast, and in order to preserve the fabric without further damage, I followed the Husband’s eminently sensible suggestion to hand quilt it. That man never ceases to amaze me. I assume all this quilty stuff is going right over his head, but actually, he’s paying attention and actually processing the information.

Three middle birds and three branches completed

Three middle birds and three branches completed

So, it’s being hand quilted. And you know what? It’s going well. I’m not going to pretend that my stitches are neat and Amish-tiny – I’m doing ‘big-stitch’ quilting because I want to finish it in my natural lifetime – but it looks nice, softer and a little puffier than machine quilting, and the stitch police aren’t coming round to check my work any time soon. Plus I don’t have to worry about aching shoulders, burying the knots or unpicking wonky bits. I’m using a combination of a round frame and just stretching an area over my hand to hold things flat, and so far that’s working well too. When I made my heirloom bed quilt and hand quilted the whole thing with an overall clamshell design, I didn’t use a frame. I had it rolled up on a table, and worked along the table edge, using tension from the roll and a hand underneath to keep things flat. That worked perfectly. Unfortunately I don’t have such a big table here, but I may see if I can make it work, since the quilt’s smaller too.

So there won’t be any dramatic visible changes for a while. Small increments of achievement, probably not very exciting to look at. Big celebration when I’ve finished in the central circle. Another big celebration when I’ve finished the rest, and then a final whoopee when it’s completed. Meanwhile, I’m going to allow myself to start contemplating other projects, so long as I don’t start taking major chunks of time away from this one.

Time to get those needle calluses back on my fingers. I’ve already left blood on the quilt…

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5 thoughts on “The Tree of Life 17: slowing the pace

  1. I cannot imaging wrestling something like that in a machine! How long do you think the hand quilting will take?

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s going well, and if I can devote a few solid hours here and there, I should get the stuff inside the circle done in a couple of weeks, and the outside a couple of weeks after that. So, in time to take on my trip with me!

  2. tialys says:

    I actually like the ‘big stitch’ quiliting effect. I think it looks good and it is obviously hand stitched whereas some people’s hand quilting (certainly not mine!!) is so tiny and perfect it looks like it was done on a machine anyway. That’s my excuse for using big stitches and I’m sticking to it.

  3. I find I can’t look at any of your quilt posts without wanting to see them up close and touch them! I love the Tree of Life quilt so much that this urge is substantially worse….

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m really pleased with how the hand quilting is going on the ToL; there’s much more loft than you get with machine quilting, and things have dimension. The pears especially have a lovely roundness. I’m looking forward to seeing how the water ripples and big billowy clouds turn out. Once again, we must ask WordPress to produce more sensory information: smell, touch, taste. Maybe one day. My photography is a bit sad at the moment and I can’t capture the light and shade of the quilting. My camera has died and I’m using an old and not very good one of my husband’s. I’m promised a new one when we go to Barbados in April, thanks to duty free!

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