Monday, 4 February 2013

On quilting wadding


I think everyone eventually finds their favourite wadding that they automatically turn to buy when they're working on something special. Mine is Quilter's Dream Puff. I'd never realised until this weekend though, quite how much wadding choice can make or break a quilt, or how differently it can make the quilting stitches appear.

When it came to quilting my Rouenneries quilt my first thought was simply that I would use my favourite batting. Quilter's Dream Puff is light and warm but with an exceptionally high loft - giving a quilt the lightweight feel of an eiderdown but without quite so much bulk. It arrived speedily from here and I went to work creating a quilt sandwich.

Something about the quilt top is a little off and it isn't one of those well behaved tops that just lies flat. It seemed to take hours of smoothing and chasing a small wrinkle of surplus fabric around trying to smooth it out to the edges. When it was finally perfectly smooth I began hand quilting it. The medallions stood proud like large bulbous little mushroom tops, so satisfying to touch. I stayed up until 1am hand-quilting and eventually went to bed feeling that something wasn't quite right, even though I couldn't stop stroking those tactile mushrooms of fabric.


My overwhelming feeling was that although I normally aspire to puffiness, for this quilt it wasn't quite right. The very centre of this quilt is based on a pattern in Brigitte Giblin's beautiful book, Feathering the Nest and I kept returning to thought that she'd written that in her quilts she often used no batting at all. I hadn't actually liked this idea, as I tend to make quilts for comfort, but it started playing on my mind that perhaps her reasoning for this was because it suited the quilts better. The quilts in Brigitte's book are mostly based on very old quilts and  I wonder now if the reason it didn't look right is because when one attempts to emulate an antique quilt with an obviously traditional style, one also needs to stay sympathetic to the batting that would have been available at the time to create a reproduction that feels entirely right to the eye. So I unpicked all my stitches and removed the batting. Painful.

I wanted to use flannel sheeting inside the quilt to give a lovely, soft drape, however, that wasn't available locally in the width I needed, so instead I went for Quilter's Dream Cotton batting in the 'request weight' which is their thinnest, lowest loft batting. It works well, although I still would have preferred it a little thinner. I think the stitching and lack of puff (in the photos below and the one above) are more the look I was hoping for.




I repeated the trauma of achieving a perfectly smooth quilt sandwich, but omitted to spray baste the top layer and stuck to pins to make it easier to reposition while I was smoothing out the wrinkles. This was a mistake...I've now done several hours of hand quilting fitted in here and there and am coming to the conclusion that I want to take all the stitches out as pin basting alone (I usually do both) just doesn't give quite the flat, smooth work surface I'm used to. I'm unsure if I'm fustulating over small things, but I wonder if you have a sense of the fabric not having been pulled quite smooth and taut enough in the photo above? Once washed this lack of smoothness would normally be absorbed by fabric shrinkage...but with that comes the antiqued wrinkly look...again, something I'm not sure suits this quilt. I'm wondering how those very old quilts didn't seem to have shrinkage wrinkles in them after washing. Perhaps they were never washed?

Previously I've always quilted things in the way that pleases me and which suits my own idea of what a quilt should be...with reproduction quilting it feels like the ground shifts a little and I have a feeling of wanting it to look 'right' that means I can't necessarily follow my usual paths.I'm feeling slightly irritated by my own fussiness over this - I think in part it's because I've really loved this quilt up until this point (pictured unquilted below) and now feel I could quite easily ruin all that work.


Anyway, lovelies, if you've made it through all that you may be feeling as tired by this quilt as I do. Or just tired by me...I actually still love the quilt, I think its myself that's infuriating me here.

Florence x

Ps. From Danielle's comment I don't think I'd been clear in my post, but if you have any to offer, then I would welcome advice or suggestions. x

23 comments:

  1. I feel your frustration! I really wouldn't want you to have to start again, but I guess you want to do the best thing for your quilt after all that work. I'm not sure if you're looking for advice - I'm happy to help if you need it! xx

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    1. Thank you, Danielle - yes, I am totally looking for advice! x

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  2. I totally relate to the concept of being driven crazy by something that doesn't feel right about a quilt one has made. I have been through that annoying process of undoing, unpicking and restarting and it definitely takes the joy out of it all. I think we are often our own worst enemies, striving for perfection and pushing ourselves towards an unachievable goal. I made a blanket (without wadding/flannel) for my daughter once and I loathed the quilt by the end because of all the faults I saw in it. A year later I can't even remember what the faults are (they certainly aren't discernable to the naked eye!) and we both love it! I think your quilt will be amazing when it's finished and its' flaws (if it has any) will be part of its' unique charm.

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  3. Hi Florence ♥

    I follow your blog, but I usually don't comment...

    Have you concidered using fleece as batting? I know it is not a natural fiber, but it might give you the feel you are after...

    Hope it all sorts it self out!

    Best of luck ♥

    Yvonne

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  4. I forgot to add the most important bit to my comment and that is that I have recently made a quilt using rouenneries fabric and it was the most infuriating basting process ever. Completely impossible to get it smooth and taught!

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  5. Have you thought about not quilting it at all?
    You could just line it and bind or turn it and use it as a lightweight throw. Having said that, I quite liked the look of the puffy quilting in the first pics!! but you have to go with what feels best for you. No help at all really!! x

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  6. I tend to use cotton wadding (I hardly dare say the name but I have bought it in Hobby Craft!) - it doesn't have much 'loft' at all which is what I prefer as I like the 'thick blanket feel' you get with it. I think I read somewhere that the early American pioneers (i.e. those that made the wonderful quilts on show at the American Museum in Bath, http://www.americanmuseum.org/default.cfm/loadindex.6 )used old blankets. I have to say I have never hand quilted anything large so I also prefer thinner wadding as I find it works better with machine quilting.

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  7. What about a kingsize (or whatever this quilt is) flannel sheet? Rather than actual batting? Or failing that, cotton seems to be a lot less lofty than wool/poly. I definitely prefer it in the less 'lofty' pics.

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  8. Hi Florence,
    I find making the quilt sandwich smooth and quilting much harder than piecing the top itself and it's not a part I look forward to. I've used both the battings you mention and I think you are right, one needs to achieve a balance between what one wants in terms of function and also in terms of look. I think Dream Puff shifts a lot and can only imagine it must be v hard to hand quilt because of the loft. I don't think it suits vintage looking quilts at all. That said, it's great in modern quilts and quilts for children. I love Dream Cotton and find it's usually easier to get a smooth sandwich as the cotton top tends to stick a bit to the batting. What do you want to do with the quilt, use it or have it more as a display piece? If you want to use it, I'd stick with the Dream Cotton because I don't think there'd be much comfort and cosiness in something with a bit of flannel in the middle. Incidentally, I don't think from your pictures that your top doesn't look smooth enough and agree that once washed, the slight crinkliness means it wouldn't show anyway. Keep going as you are, I'd say!
    Hen x

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  9. Your initial batting certainly did create very puffy flowers. Perhaps they would have blended in with all the other quilting as it would have been equally puffy. I think fleece is a little loftier than low loft batting but I've wanted to try using that too. Old blankets were made of wool in the old days but they say that bearding is a problem over time. I have a king sized wool blanket that I'd love to use for batting but this bearding problem stops me. I'm not a fan of no batting at all. A flannel sheet is no loft and results in a pretty darn thin quilt. I like the second batting you used. Ultimately, you'll have to please yourself. Good luck.

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  10. I say PUT IT AWAY for a few days and don't think about it.
    Go onto something else. A bit like the bee who pollinates by chance whilst it's focused on other things: you'll arrive at the solution when you least expect it.
    Other than that, I don't really have a batting solution for you, but if you're not already using a quilting hoop then that would be my suggestion. Especially a large round one that you can have in your lap whilst sitting comfortably under your quilt. Using quilters pins along with basting stitches and the quilting hoop I am sure you will achieve the look you desire.

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  11. I have to admit, I liked the look of the puffier quilt. Opinions aside, my great-grandmother used old flannel sheets as batting in her quilts, and her quilts are still in use today (and surprisingly warm)! The quilts are flat and kind of "slinky" and flexible. Best of luck in your decision- I usually set my work down and walk away with a chocolate chip cookie when things get rough. :)

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  12. That fabric is gorgeous!Love the quilting idea :) It adds such a nice touch.

    xo
    summer

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  13. Your quilt looks beautiful, so soft and warm. I have just been struggling to quilt my Liberty quilt and having now 'stitched in the ditch' I realise I used wadding that is too thick. I am not about to redo it, but next time I will choose a lighter wadding. My quilt was to have vertical stitching lines in 1.5cm increments. Forget that. It was so difficult to do the stitching in the seam lines, that I don't think I can do any more. I am disappointed, but will live with it. The quilt will be nice and warm and useful to cosy under while watching tv.

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  14. I have no advice, but you have made me remember what the two previous generations of quilters in my family used as the "insides" of patchwork quilts: old, worn flannel sheets and thin, worn-out blankets. definitely flat, and quite often very thin indeed!

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  16. Oh this quilt is gorgeous. What a lovely combination of FG and quilt design. As for the batting/quilting... If you will be taking it all out again, only if :) , you might think about pre-shrinking the cotton batting. From what I understand, the cotton batting shrinks at a greater percentage than quality quilt cotton. I've seen tutorials and discussions around the internet about doing it in either a top loading washer or bathtub. No expert here, but that might help keep the wrinkles down and keep the quilt more flat and vintage looking. Love it so far, ever so much.

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  17. My one and only quilt (still WIP) has old woollen blankets as the batting, so it's very heavy and very flat, and I've got no experience of 'proper' batting. But, two thoughts: firstly, the makers of the antique quilts you're trying to emulate definitely did not have spray basting glue! And reproducing their means must be the best way to reproduce their ends, right? Secondly, I LOVE a good old wrinkly quilt - I know that doesn't help much if you don't. x

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  18. Very nice piece of work. Colors and designs are beautiful.

    pilgrim jewellery

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  19. Beautiful quilt Florence and I know that awful feeling of having to unpick and start again. I find the most stressful (and time consuming) part of making a quilt is the sandwiching together of the three layers which can take hours. I now use a local long arm quilter's basting service which is wonderful, the quilt comes back perfectly sandwiched and all ready to go.
    Also have you thought about buying a king size flanelette sheet (available from a certain Oxford Street store with "partners" for staff!) Hope you get it all sorted.
    Viv

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  20. It's so beautiful Florence, gorgeous colours! Antique quilts weren't often washed, loads of the old quilts at the V&A were revealed to still have their papers in when studied!

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  22. It is gorgeous! I would put it away for a while and let your brain have some space. The solution will come to you.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x