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Emily’s Uni Quilt

Here’s a throwback Thursday post.

To go along with our Back to school theme we’re sharing a post about one of Emily’s early quilts. Emily is now an AWESOME quilter. We thought it would be fun to get a glimpse of how she got started.

We made this quilt for Emily to take to University, her very first year at King’s College London. We bought the fabric at the 2011 Festival of Quilts. We were inspired by one of Trudi Wood’s many quilts. This was a simple rail fence in gorgeous saturated colours, easy to piece so we could finish it quick. I did the piecing and Emily did the quilting with a design that she made up. I’ll let Emily tell you in her own words.

“Hi, I’m Emily. I’m just about to go off to University on Saturday. I haven’t quilted a quilt in about 6 years – Even so, I have been practising quilting for a good couple of years – since I started going to shows with my mom. At the shows, you’re demo-ing all day, four days in a row, so by the end you get to be pretty good. I’ve also been doodling for ages!  So although I have never considered myself a quilter, I have done enough doodling practise to make myself good at quilting certain designs.

In April, we had a machine quilter’s retreat, and there’s always a lot of doodling time. I got Trudi to show me how she did a certain design, and when I tried to copy her, I made a mistake, which both of us thought actually looked quite nice, so it became a new quilting doodle! Trudi has gone on to use the design in lots of her quilts, but the fascinating thing is how different her version of the same design is to mine!

So I’ve been practising this design on paper and fabric at shows, everywhere, for months. So it was really about time that I got it down onto a quilt! Mom and I decided to make a quilt as an ‘Emily-Goes-to-Uni’ kind of present, which gave us a deadline to work toward. (this Saturday!) 

We decided to sew this extra black strip on one side of the top of the quilt as a place to practice my design and work out my tension before moving on to the quilt top. It was really useful to have the ‘side stage’ strip – so I could get my jerky beginning out of the way. Once I’d started quilting, it flowed very easily. The repetitive motion was, well, repetitive, but it required a certain amount of concentration – look out for that line, which way am I turning next? Right, that’s as far up as I can go, moving on, pause and swing, oh and breathe– if you forget to breathe you get to the end of a row and are gasping for air! 

I also kept my design maximum one hand’s width tall, because I knew that as I got to the end of the quilt, I would only have about that much space to quilt with, so to keep everything looking even, I took care to watch out for the size of the design. Here I am at the very end. Even with the big roll of fabric under the arm of the machine. I still have plenty of room to execute my design. It helps that the arm of my Juki straight stitch sewing machine  has the extra height I need for machine quilting on a frame.

I cannot even begin to describe the importance of the ‘rise and fall’ method of quilting! This is quilting in a wavy line, rather than straight across. This is so important because it makes everything ‘dovetail’ together really rather seamlessly. To make my design merge properly, I did a lot of scalloping and echoing to fill in the spaces. Some of my designs were bigger than others, they went in different directions, some had scalloping, some didn’t, but they all fit together and it looks lovely and complete.

In my breaks yesterday, I would stop once I’d finished two lines of quilting, three if I was on a roll ? and go and practise the piano. I’m trying to learn a new piece by George Winston, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot of repetition involved in learning the piano too!

It was nice actually, to go from one repetitive motion to another, because they were both very different; the quilting is a whole body kind of motion, but my hands are always kept still holding the sewing machine/Nifty Grips, whereas the piano requires me to sit very straight (good for my back!) and to move my fingers very fast, a lot. So it was good to switch between the two.

I had perfect tension all of yesterday, which was awesome. Then today, the tension was acting up, my tension underneath was pulling the top thread through and it looked nasty. We adjusted the tension on the sewing machine, cleaned it out (there was quite a lot of fluff from the fleece in there!), put a new bobbin in, and oiled it. Then we had a bit of a play on the side sashing and all was well again. I was back on track. I had ‘dancey’ tunes playing, and everything was great. Finished in no time – and even signed my name!”

“Now I’m exhausted, yet ridiculously pleased with myself for actually quilting a quilt!!”

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