Bonnard: quilted!

All those thousands of stitches… Tis done 🙂

For hand quilting, it hasn’t taken too long, nor has it totally destroyed my fingers. But I am very glad to get my dining table back! The really nice thing about hand quilting (well, apart from the texture, that is) is that there’s no going back to bury the ends and tidy everything up, you tidy and bury as you go.

Still to do is trimming it out; making the label (the transfer sheet is printed, I just have to iron it onto fabric); cutting and stitching together the binding strip; and finally, stitching on the binding and hand hemming it all down.

Sorry the picture’s a bit dark and dull. It’s rather gloomy and pouring with rain outside, so I’m making do with dull daylight and artificial lights. No complaints here, though, it’ a good bit cooler too, at only 26°C/79°F

Fingers crossed we have some sunny weather when I have the finish to show you!

Invisible work

I’m sorry about the radio silence just recently.

Suffice to say that there have been family conferences, try to co-ordinate the ongoing care of my 95 year old father across four countries and two hemispheres. I have had my own issues; I’m currently sporting a fetching black neoprene knee brace with side stiffening on my left leg while they decide if my torn cartilage needs physiotherapy or an arthroscopy to repair or remove it. At times like these I wish my house didn’t have stairs… It’s been going on for a while, as I did it on the outward leg of our recent holiday without realising what I’d done. The only good part has been that I get to look at the MRI images, which I really enjoy – I’d have been a doctor in another life, maybe.

I have been hand-quilting Bonnard, which I won’t show again till I reach the end in 7 rows’ time. And I’ve been doing what I consider one of the most boring aspects of QAYG: cutting batting. Cutting 14 inch square after 14 inch square of batting is necessary, but really exceptionally dull. I enjoy cutting fabrics: the mental planning and placing of the colours, the patterns and designs, the little stacks building up.

I like that. But batting is all the same; it’s annoyingly fluffy and fibres get caught in your cutting mat so you have to stop and get rid of them. It’s all the same colour. Worst of all, it forms no part of the personality of the quilt, it’s invisible.

Anyway, I now have 5 tidy stacks of batting squares, ready for sandwiching the remaining rows of ST&D. All the front blocks are ready, all the backing squares are cut and laid out. It’s just a question of more production line work: starching, pressing, spraying, smoothing. In order to prevent screaming boredom, I’ll do a row at a time.

Batting… it’s not exactly photogenic, either, is it?

Bonnard quilting: 8 lines to go

I reckon a week, or maybe less, will see the quilting done.

In case you thought I hadn’t been at work on Bonnard, plugging away in the background… It has been a bit of a marathon, and got interrupted by other projects, embroidery, crochet, holidays, etc, so I’m really quite pleased at the progress I’ve made.

I offered my sister a choice between the rusty red and a dark green I’d used on the front for the binding.

Right now, where she lives is covered in snow and frost, and it’s bitterly cold. She made the decision to go with the red, because it felt warmer and more cosy. That’s the colour I’d have chosen myself – although it’s boiling hot here – as it will disappear on the back, but create a lovely narrow ‘ping’ of colour around the pale edges of the front.

The next row is marked up. Back to Bonnard, and my needle.

Bonnard quilting: halfway

We’re getting there.

This clamshell quilting design creates a lovely texture under the hand and looks really good when it catches the light. I’m glad I finally listened to the quilt.

I was worried red quilting thread would stand out too much on the front, but as you can see, it works really well, and disappears on the back.

The spray basting has held up very well, I haven’t had to manage any saggy bits or excess fullness, and despite not using a frame, working with the quilt simply laid across the table, everything is still good and stuck! I also haven’t had any issues with spray baste gumming up my needle, possibly because I was fairly frugal with the spraying. The 505 spray I use is quite a ‘dry’ product, you don’t get wet splatter. If anything, it goes a bit like Crazy String, which is a sign you need to clear the nozzle. I’m also happy to report that some of the excessive fluffiness of the backing fabric seems to disappear as I work, which is probably due to my right arm rubbing across it as I sew.

At this point, I’m allowing myself to think ahead to the binding, and what colour I might use. No fixed ideas yet, but it has to work with both back and front. I have a fair bit of the red backing fabric left, and I might use that if it doesn’t look too strong against the front when I audition it. Otherwise, maybe a dark green. I’ll see…

Halfway there. 16 lines quilted, 16 more to go.

Right, onwards and upwards. I’m not going to post about every additional small increment; the next time you see this quilt it’ll be fully quilted and I’ll be ready to bind it.

Bonnard: quilting progress

I’ve been stitching away in the background.

Progress photos of quilting are a bit dull unless you’ve reached some kind of landmark. It’s not terribly exciting to look at, but I’ve reached the one-third point.

The last row of quilting is just above the fold of the fabric where you see the red backing. The safety pin with the tuft of red yarn at top right marks the halfway point of the quilt, and as you can see, I have only 5 lines to go before I reach halfway, at 16 lines. I’ve done 11 lines and I’m just over 30% through. Hurray!

You’ll have to forgive the fluffiness of the backing fabric – there’s batting fluff everywhere on the table. I’ll give the quilt a good grooming with the lint roller once it’s done, and before it goes in the washing machine, otherwise the fluff’ll be all over the front too.

I like the new needle I’m working with. It’s medium-long (compared with a short quilting ‘Between’ needle) and fine, but has a large eye. On the upside, it goes through multiple layers of fabric easily. On the downside, it slips just as easily into my finger… ouch! On balance, though, I greatly prefer it to the one I was using before. It’s a Birch size 7 Embroidery needle, in case you’d like to try one.

Right, back to it.

Clamming up: quilting for Bonnard

I must have made, tried and discarded a dozen different templates.

My original plan was to quilt Bonnard with a random scatter of leaves, but no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t find an assortment of leaf shapes I liked, which were the right size and which were simple enough to quilt with my not exactly tiny hand-quilting stitches. My subconscious was at work, I think, or perhaps it was the quilt, trying to gain my attention and tell me what it wanted.

And then I realised that the quilting wasn’t the point of this quilt, it was a supplementary feature, an attractive way of holding the layers together which incidentally added visual richness and texture. And there it was. I’d do a simple all-over repeat. What about a Baptist Fan, one of my favourites? Still not quite right.

I’ve come full circle, I think. I’m quilting clamshells, like my bestest and favouritest quilt of all, the one that lives on my bed. The ones on Bonnard will be larger, at 4 inches across rather than 2½ inches, but I wanted them to fit within the proportions of the squares and blocks I’ve used to make Bonnard. As an incidental bonus, the larger size will mean I get it done more quickly, and the interlocking clamshell shapes mean the stitching all travels in one direction so I won’t be twirling the quilt around. It’ll sit on the table, its own weight providing the tension I need to hold things flat, and I won’t be draped in acres of cosy quilt at this hottest time of year. As an extra benefit, my plain white teacup is exactly the right size to form the template I mark around, plus it won’t bend and deteriorate like a card template.

Win-win all round, I’d say.

Noodlin’ about

Not quite as aimless and lazy as it sounds, actually.

I used the pool noodle method to layer and spray baste the Bonnard quilt. I got it done in the space of about 2 hours, a record! Plus I don’t have a stinkin’ backache, pricked and sore fingers or pin holes in the fabric. I didn’t do it exactly the way shown on the YouTube video which gave me the idea, which I think would need two people to be successful with a quilt this size, just to keep things taut and smooth. I broke it down into two stages. Here’s how.

First job was to assemble my noodles. I’m using regular foam pool noodles. I cut and fitted together one whole noodle and part of another so they were the exact width of the backing. They’ll cut with an ordinary sharp kitchen knife, no special equipment needed. Then, to stop them bending in the middle, I pushed a broomstick up the centre channel, which also held the extended section on; it’s a tight fit.

Then I taped the backing good side down to the edge of the table, and pulled the rest of it across the table and smoothed it down, taping the first 24 inches of the sides as well, to hold things flat. On top of this I laid the edge of the batting and pulled the rest of that across the table too, so both layers lay flat and reasonably smooth. At this point, I took the decision that I wouldn’t attempt to do the quilt top as well, as I didn’t feel confident I could get all three layers smooth. So on this pass, I layered and basted only the backing and batting.

I pinned the edge of the batting to the noodle, and rolled the batting up carefully, ensuring it was straight by checking the edges. I then sprayed the leading, taped, edge of the backing, aligned the batting to the taped edge and carefully unrolled to the edge of the sprayed area, smoothing the batting onto the backing, spreading in an outwards motion from the centre. I was careful to cover any exposed parts of both the batting and backing, as well as the table top. I untaped the edge of the backing and pulled it down so a new section was on the table top.

I continued spraying a section, unrolling and smoothing the batting, until I reached the opposite side, exposing the edge of the batting pinned to the noodle. I unpinned, smoothed out this final section, and trimmed away excess batting flush with the edge of the backing.

I then pinned this flush edge to the noodle and rolled backing and batting together onto the noodle except for the final table-width. I then took the quilt top, and right side up, aligned the top edge with the top edge of the batting/backing but leaving about 1.25 inches of backing clear. I then rolled the remainder of the quilt top onto a second noodle.

After that, it was a repeat of the backing. Spray a section, smooth out, pull forward, spray the next section, etc. Finally, I flipped the sandwich over and smoothed out the backing again, as it became a little wrinkled while the top was going on.

If you want to try this yourself, you’ll need:

Pressed and smoothed quilt top and backing, and batting cut to size
Masking tape
2 – 4 pool noodles, depending on how big your quilt is
2 broom sticks or pieces of dowel the same size
Glass head pins (not as big as flower head, but easier to extract from the foam than dressmaker’s pins)
8 – 10 sheets of butcher’s paper or a plastic drop sheet
Spray baste ( I use 505)
A large table in a clean, dry area with no wind to blow the spray about.
Fabric scissors

If you haven’t tried this before, I urge you to give it a go, especially if you’re over the floor grovelling needed for pin basting. Actually, if you’re sensitive to the spray, this process would work quite well for thread basting too, but you’ll need a curved upholstery needle for the quickest results.

Job done. Smooth layers, trimmed out, and ready to start hand quilting.  I must go and find my hoop…

Bonnard back

‘Tis done.

It went nice and quickly. I did a bunch of strip piecing and then sewed a lot of random leftover squares together to make other strips. Jumble them up, make sure there’s one of the random strips in each set, sew it all up, stitch the red fabric to the sides and there you have it.

Next is cutting the batting to size from my big roll, and then sandwiching. Normally with a quilt this size I’d be pin basting, but I want to have a go at spray basting, as I think the pins will drive me mad while I’m hand quilting. The one slight problem is that I don’t have anywhere outside that’s big enough and clean enough to lay the quilt out flat. Our weather’s very hot, very dry and everywhere’s very dusty. I think it’ll have to be a couple of picnic tables on the back patio, working fast so I don’t die of heatstroke, and I’ll have to work section by section.

I’ve seen a video tutorial where you wind each of the three layers onto pool noodles with a dowel rod up the centre to stiffen them, layer them up as usual and then unroll just a short section of the backing, spray, roll the batting across it, smooth and spray, and then roll the top across it, and smooth and spray that. It seemed sort of straightforward (famous last words…), so I got myself some noodles in the post-Christmas sales for the princely sum of $4 each. Bonnard is wider than the length of the noodle, so I shall have to cut a section from a spare to add to the end to extend it. I’ll let you know how I get on, and provide a link if it’s successful.

Time to go and cut batting and fluff it up in the tumble dryer to get rid of the creases.

Bonnard, top complete

At last, all 1,024 squares sewn together.

Mostly, this went together painlessly. I did take out two squares which stood out too much, and replaced them with less bright or solid colours. Fiddly, but to my mind, extremely worth it. My eye no longer catches on them. Here and there are squares which don’t  line up exactly, but I’m OK with that too, as none of the mismatches are extreme and you really don’t see them unless you look hard. And who does that unless they’re trying to find fault?

I have now got backing fabric in a lovely warm red. It’s a sort of foxy red, no pink in it at all, heading towards orange, but still clearly red. No pattern to it, but it’s hard to find exactly what you want when your options are so limited. I also have quite a lot of the warm reddish fabrics I used for the highlight squares, so I’m considering a strip of those down the middle. I have to join the fabric pieces anyway, so why not make a virtue of a necessity? I’m still working on ideas for how to hand quilt this, but I’m not going to rush into anything unless I’m happy it’ll complement the concept behind this quilt.

I’m taking a short break from Bonnard for a bit. There are a couple of other things I need to work on. Next month I’ll be starting the quilting on ST&D once the final blocks are in, and I have some hand stitching, hand quilting and embroidery to concentrate on. And in February, we go on leave!  Something I’m looking forward to enormously, and a break we both badly need.

 Don’t worry, though, Bonnard will be back soon.

Bonnard, and a brief break

I’ve been working away in the background on Bonnard.

This is where I left you, the centre and first two rounds done.

And here’s where I’m up to now, the centre and nearly three rounds done. Of course, each round is larger than the last, so everything goes a lot slower the closer you get to the outside! I thought I’d need another round, but actually, I’ll be happy to leave it at the size I originally planned. The graduation works, and I don’t want it to get too pale around the outside. The outer blocks on the left have been stitched, but on the right the squares are all still pinned. I still have two rows of squares to place at top and bottom. It’s a lengthy, leisurely process…

Yup, it’s definitely looking wonky, but is actually pretty straight when I’ve got it pinned right. That row on the right looks really crazy!

I really like how this quilt top is coming along. I think the wash of colour from dark centre to light outside is working well, as is the change of colour balance from rich, intense tones to delicate, watery pastels. Mixed throughout are the pings of warm colour, like sequins of sunlight on leaves in the centre and vibrant water-washed rocks and autumn leaves on the outside. The batik prints recall moss, lichen, flowing and dripping water, leaves warm and cool, sunlight, flowers, stone, soil, and here and there, a flicker of flame. I hope it evokes the life of the forest…

There’s still a fair bit of placing and piecing to go as you can see, but the final character of the quilt is making itself plain. I’m beginning to think about what I want to do about the quilt back, and more importantly, the quilting. The back will either be all one fabric with a ‘filler’ pattern (I’m thinking dark green with a small leaf pattern if I can find something suitable), or alternatively, a deep red, but I’m tending towards green at the moment. The other option is a filler pattern, but with a pieced strip up the centre, using leftover squares.

For the quilting, I’m going to hand quilt a small, simple leaf design in each square. I’ve got 4 different leaf templates so they won’t all be the same, and I’m also thinking about how to arrange the direction of each leaf. I’ve drawn up a few plans showing the leaf designs arranged in formal geometric patterns, but I’m not terribly enthused about them. I’ll think on it some more…

If I can keep up the pace I’ve managed so far, I should have the top done by the New Year. But now, it’s time for a short break for Christmas 🙂