Miniature Versions.

Quilters are always making quilts for others, sometimes for loved family members and dear friends, sometimes for charitable causes, and sometimes as commissions. A couple of years ago I made a quilt for a young family member who was facing some traumatic experiences.

Spring 2013 003

Spring 2013 006

NZ Nov 2013 015 edit

To read the full story go to Made with Love (Nov 2013)

Much love went into the quilt’s construction and after the quilt was with its new owner I decided to make a miniature version for myself. Not only does the mini quilt help to decorate a spot in my quilting studio, but it also serves to remind me of the person who received the full-size version.

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It is never too late to learn patchwork

When Pat moved out of the family home into a smaller townhouse she lost her favourite hobby. She had gone from a yard with a flower garden, vegetable garden & fruit trees to a courtyard with a couple of pot plants.  The time she had spent in the garden was now free (empty) time and she needed to find a new hobby.

This was when she decided to join a class at the local patchwork.

Pat’s first quilt

Nothing surprising about this except …. Pat made her first quilt in her eighties.  I find this inspiring. I always mentally tell myself that it is never too late to learn a new skill but secretly I don’t always believe my “pep talk to myself”. However, here is a woman who has proved the message.

Not only has Pat learnt a new set of skills but she has built a new group of friends in her patchwork class.

The pretty applique centre block in Pat’s quilt

I’ve quilted Pat’s pretty quilt with both Cotton Mako’ Ne 40 & 28. The Cotton Mako’ Ne 40 gives a neat result for the ditch stitching and the stipple quilting in the background of the centre applique block. It is fine enough to blend away, disappearing allowing  the texture to come to the for.

I stitched the motif used in the plain setting squares with Cotton Mako’ 28

I used Cotton Mako’ Ne 28 to stitch the motifs in the alternating setting blocks. They were a beautiful blank canvas crying out for a feature motif that complimented the beautiful piecing.

I like my quilting to be subtle so that it doesn’t overwhelm the patchwork but it should still have sufficient strength to create a beautiful finish.

I think that using the combination of Cotton Mako’ 40 & 28 helped me achieve just the result I wanted when machine quilting  this quilt.

What type of quilt batting is best?

This week I was asked which batting was better, specifically if 60/40 wool mix was better than 100% wool batting, and what a dilemma this question of better/best poses. 

The quilt batting rack in the shop holds a roll each of wool/poly batting, in natural & charcoal, plus a roll of cotton /poly and a roll of very thin pellon style polyester.

The quilt batting rack in the shop holds a roll each of wool/poly batting, in natural & charcoal, plus a roll of cotton /poly and a roll of very thin pellon style polyester.

There are a multitude of battings on the market, and the choice of batting is determined by many factors, so the following comments are based on my quilting experiences, and observations, and will not necessarily agree with your quilting experiences and observations. 

The starting point for my favourite quilt batting
I have always used the 60/40 wool mix as I like the idea of the polyester scrim & needle punching to stabilise the wool fibres. My quilts are all soft, with a nice quilting definition, and they can withstand gentle machine washing on a wool cycle without the fibres migrating through the cotton fabric. Although there is that element of synthetic in the batting, the quilts are still comfortable to use all year round as they “breathe”. 

I used wool/poly batting in the elephant attic window quilt

Batting is always a personal choice so the other thing to consider is how you plan to quilt …. hand quilting, domestic machine quilting or longarm quilting all have different requirements. 
I machine quilt with a longarm machine, holding the handles as I guide the machine head over the quilt, so I can “feel” the effort required for the needle to push through the batting.
I have found that the needle passes through the wool & wool/mix battings much easier than through cotton batting.
You can actually feel the vibration, & hear the needle “punching” into a cotton batting, as it stitches. The only time this is not noticeable is when the cotton batting has been pre-soaked/pre-shrunk so that it has been softened, and then the needle action is smoother, but still not as smooth as for a wool batting.
 
Surprisingly, even though bamboo batting is also made from a plant fibre, it has a softer stitching action with the needle passing through the quilt sandwich almost as easily as the wool & wool mix battings.
 
A word of warning here though, don’t be tempted to pre-wash bamboo batting, it needs to be stabilised inside the quilt before washing.
So, although I am a machine quilter, and do very little hand quilting,  wool or wool mix batting would be my choice for hand quilting. 

Hand quilting

Cotton batting creates a static relationship with cotton fabric so that it “sticks” to the fabric. This can be useful when quilting on a domestic machine, provided the quilt is flat and has been well basted before hand.  
 
However the static relationship is not desired when quilting with a longarm machine where the quilt & batting are moving independently of each other. In this situation the static relationship can form tucks & pleats very easily.

Quilting with a longarm machine means that the 3 quilt parts move independently until they are actually quilted together

The other factor to consider is the finished appearance of the quilt.
Do you like a quilt to have a traditional fluffy appearance or a flatter smoother texture?
You will achieve a traditional fluffy result by using a cotton batting that has not been pre-washed, as this will allow the shrinkage resulting in the first wash to puff up around the quilted stitching. 
Wool, wool mix & bamboo battings do not seem to have this same effect so the quilting texture will stay very much as it was when first quilted. 
 
So you can see,  “best” statements should always be put into context so that you can see how the writer/speaker works, and understand why their choice of batting is best for that person/job.