Saturday, March 27, 2010

Handquilting vs Long Arm Quilting vs Machine Quilting on Domestic Machine

My Double Delight quilt top is finished (started January 2009 at but had a few stalls along the way).  About 3/4 of the way through piecing it, I realized that I wanted to hand quilt it.  The process of arriving at that decision was a long one.

Long had I wondered, pondered, decided, then undecided, and pondered some more about whether or not to buy a long arm.  I find that machine quilting is difficult on a domestic machine.  I must not be alone here as how many quilters do I know that get stalled at the quilt top stage?  In my mind I justify the expense of a long arm setup by adding up what it would cost to have my quilts long arm quilted by someone else.  10 or so quilts and it's paid for right?  I don't think I would ever have the nerve to quilt someone else's work and it causes me anxiety to even think about that option.  So, I just need to justify the cost by my own savings. And I feel adequately confident that I can justify the expenditure as a long term investment if I simply crunch enough numbers.  After all, if I have quilting retreats at our B&B then I could offer the long arm as an added bonus.  Think of the possibilities!!

But then I go to a guild meeting and see the amazing work of other quilters all done by domestic machines and feel challenged to 'make do' with my domestic machine.  I can think of many quilters that have produced absolute works of art (and award winning quilts) on their domestic machines:  Ricky Tims, Barbara Shapel (, Ana Buzzalino (of Calgary, AB), Martha Cole  (, and I'm sure there are many, many more.

With the economy still unsure, I know many of my quilting friends, as well as myself, have gone 'no buy' for fabric. I'm on year 2 of 'no buy' but I did fall off the wagon on a few occasions.  I went on a year long magazine 'fast' too.  I've worked hard at sewing from my stash and delving into scrap quilts (Double Delight was my first).  Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville is very inspiring in this department and it is a totally different challenge than buying specific fabric for a specific pattern.  You'll know if you have control issues when  you attempt your first scrap quilt and squirm at the colour combinations that randomly fall together.  It's such freedom when break past that barrier!!

Friends, our hobby has grown into big business but it hasn't always been that way.  I personally think it's time to look backwards a decade or two or ten to gain some inspiration from our ancestors.

Here is part of my story:  In March, 2009 our family had a medical diagnosis which meant that I may be spending consistent time every month hooked up to an IV and so would my son. This would mean monthly trips to a different city to the hospital.   Through this difficult time of coming to terms with our family's genetic disease, this was also the turning point for me in the long-arm debate. My decision was now made, for the time being anyway.  I decided that I needed to focus on portable hand work. But I needed to learn some skills.  So last year I learned needle-turn applique.  I was at Quilting in the Trees Annual Retreat at Pearson College in June 2009 and began a wall hanging with one of Nancy Chong's patterns.  It's still classifed as a UFO but I am making great progress and have one portable project to take with me wherever I wish. These are not instant gratification projects.  These are the ones that you add a few stitches here, a few stitches there and one day you have a finished project.

Then I took a quick lesson from a friend on hand-quilting. After that I bought Alex Anderson's book and decided there was nothing left to stop me.  The needles cost a mere $2.12 and I was given a quilting hoop.  Equipment - check! So, I am happy to announce that I have  joined the ranks of the hand quilters.  I am enjoying the process although could still do with a good thimble as the fingers are a wee bit tender.  I love the look of the hand quilting and this quilt really lends itself to hand quilting, which is why I chose this quilt as my first hand quilted project.  And here it Double Delight!

I guess all of this is to say that I wanted to share with you my journey through this debate.  I'm very happy and content with my domestic machine (Janome 6500) and will do my best to produce quilts that I will be proud of and that will be cherished by  my family and friends who receive them.  I will take what I've learned from Ricky Tims (about level working space for machine quilting) to do machine quilting, will keep working at my hand quilting skill and will enjoy the learning process and forgive myself for my first stitches.    Here's a closeup of the quilting:

If one day an opportunity should arise for me to have a long arm then I will revisit that option.  But for now, I'm glad to be slowing down and enjoying the therapeutic approach to my hobby.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Disappearing Nine Patch

This is a very simple construction technique and very quick to assemble.  This is one I made my niece Becky for Christmas 2009: