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.
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