Are you having fun quilting your String of Pearls quilt yet? I know I am! For today’s lesson, I am going to demo “swirls and pearls” quilting – the motif I quilted in the negative space (the grey areas) of my quilt.
I chose this design because I like how the swirls echo the idea of the square spirals in the square blocks. And of course, I had to throw in some pearls (or pebbles), too! In fact, this motif would also work as an allover design across the surface of your quilt. Remember, take these ideas, play around with them and make them your own.
I quilted with So Fine 50wt polyester in the grey areas, and Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in the colored squares and the black areas.
Hint: Be sure to read my intro to free-motion quilting tutorial here.
It took me a total of 20 hours to finish quilting this week. (I loved every second of it!)
Step 1 – Sketching and Practicing (About an Hour)
The biggest mistake I usually make in my quilting is not “auditioning” how the quilting designs will look first. Sometimes there’s a huge difference between what I see in my head and what I can actually stitch out. So first, I start doodling on paper to get a feel for how the design will flow.
Once I’m happy with my design, I will quilt a practice piece (“sandwich!”) using the same fabrics, batting and thread as my quilt. I can work out any thread or tension issues here, before diving into my quilt.
I tried to recreate the same negative space as in my quilt so I would know how much area I need to quilt and the approximate scale.
Step 2 – Quilting Swirls and Pearls in the Background Blocks (10.5 Hours)
First, I quilted all of the full “blocks” of negative space in between the pearl squares. It took me about 25 minutes per section so I spread it out over several days. After about 1-2 hours of quilting, I need to get up and do something else. Remember – you can’t rush art!
Hint: use a blending thread color so you see the quilting texture, not the thread!
I started and ended each section of quilting by stitching a few tiny stitches in place. It wasn’t a big deal to cut thread between each block section. After quilting about 2 blocks worth, I found my rhythm.
I randomly filled in the spaces with both large and small swirls, with clumps of pearls sprinkled in whenever I needed to fill in smaller gaps. It’s fine to back-track (quilt over previous lines of stitching) to reach the next section of unquilted space.
Step 3 – Quilting the Partial Blocks (4 Hours)
I waited to quilt the partial blocks around the edges for the end. I thought I might quilt something different here, then decided against it. I liked the uniform look of swirls and pearls throughout the entire background.
Once I got to the outside edges, it gave me momentum to keep going, since I was nearly finished! I quilted right to the edges. Some of the design will be covered by the binding and that’s ok.
At this point, I decided I
needed wanted to add more straight quilting to the black areas connecting my pearls, aka the “strings.”
Step 4 – Adding more Straight Quilting (4.5 Hours)
Using my my even feed (walking foot), I quilted about 1/4″ to 3/8″ away from the seams using the edge of my foot as a guide. I did not try to line things up perfectly as I prefer a more natural, organic, not-made-by-computer look. Follow the same path as shown in my straight line quilting tutorial, but quilt away from the edges.
After getting this far, I figured I may as well add one more line of quilting around each pearl square. It only took an extra 3 minutes per block, including starting, stopping and clipping the threads each time. Yes, I rotated each side and smooshed the quilt out of the way when needed – the extra throat space on my machine came in really handy for this.
Here’s sending you a big high-5 when you finish quilting! Remember to share pictures of your FMQ progress at Christa’s Quilt Along on flickr.
Quilt Along Schedule – links will be active at the completion of each step:
- String of Pearls Introduction
- Step 1 – Rotary cutting all the pieces
- Step 2 – Sewing all the “pearl” blocks
- Step 3 – Completing the quilt top
- Step 4 – Backing and basting
- Step 5 – Machine quilting #1 straight lines
- Bonus – Extra spiral quilting
- Step 6 – Machine quilting #2 swirls ‘n pearls
- Step 7 – Binding to finish
Grab my Quilt Along button!
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