Sunday, August 12, 2012

August FMQ Challenge: Wendy Sheppard's Jester Hats

I was so excited when I found out that quilter Wendy Sheppard of Ivory Spring was giving the August Free-Motion Quilting Challenge tutorial at SewCalGal.  I have admired Wendy's work for a long time.  She's a tireless, prolific, and truly inspirational person who supports and encourages the work of others.  Her Thread Talk posts contain the best quilting tips and tutorials I've seen, and I refer to them often.  To view the original August Challenge tutorial, learn more about Wendy Sheppard, and see some examples of her breathtaking quilting, click here.  Come back when you're finished.

So, you're back?  Good.  Wipe the drool off your keyboard and let's get down to business!  Wendy's tutorial covered an allover motif she calls Jester Hats.  I spent at least an hour trying to doodle repeating jester hats on my iPad before I began quilting. 
My Jester Hat doodles, drawn in FREE Paper app for iPad in the waiting room at the pediatrician's office

More Jester doodles in Drawing Pad app for iPad
I am still having trouble with these allover designs in general -- anything where I have to concentrate on stitching a shape, while simultaneously thinking about how I'm going to travel with that motif to completely fill a space without getting stuck in a corner, leaving an unquilted "island" that I can't get back to, or crossing over a previous line of quilting.  I am not thrilled with my results for this exercise, but I think it's a fun motif with a lot of potential.  Like anything else, it will get better and better with repetition.

I used a pretty fat quarter of batik fabric with ugly Bob the Builder backing fabric and a scrap of Hobbs Heirloom Tuscany Silk batting, a 75 Schmetz Quilting needle, and 40 weight YLI variegated machine quilting thread for this sample.  You can see the jester hat pattern better from the back...  and it looks much better from a distance.  Trust me!
My Jester Hats, Backing Side Up

I had trouble visualizing the jester hats, so then I tried thinking about them as the number 3, or as chubby little baby tushies, or mushrooms that turn into the horns of a ram.  With the contrasting thread color against the backing fabric, every awkward "oops" jumps out at you.  But if I was stitching this in a thread color that blended into the background fabric, I think you'd just get the effect of the pretty texture without the mistakes being so glaringly obvious.  Here's what the sample piece looks like from the front:
My Jester Hat Sample, Right Side Up
Not as bad, right?  Or so I tell myself.  Here's one of the Up Close and Ugly shots:
The View from 6"
See those weird mushroom/chef's hat thingys?  Or are they Smurf feet?  How did that happen?  When Wendy quilts jester's hats, there are definitely no Smurf feet!  Also my stitch length was all over the place, mostly because I was experimenting with speed and never quite found the right rhythm that would keep the curves smooth without being so fast that I lost control.  Next time I attempt this design, I'm going to switch back to the finer thread weight that I'm more comfortable with and try making the motifs much smaller.  I just thought this particular motif would be fun to stitch big and bold with the variegated thread.  And I'm sure it would be, if it was done well!

Meanwhile, I'm about halway finished with the free-motion paisley fill on Lars's Drunken Dragons quilt.  I'm a little nervous about how densley quilted the circles are compared to the rest of the quilt, and I hope that the whole thing will get softer and snuggly again after I wash it for the first time.  I do like the way the paisleys look, though, and I never would have believed that I could quilt this design at all if you'd asked me a month ago.  If I can learn to quilt paislies, then surely I will learn to quilt jester hats with more practice!
FMQ Paislies on Lars's Drunken Dragons Quilt (In-Progress)
I'm using Mettler 60 weight 2-ply cotton embroidery thread for Lars's quilt, and I still feel like the dense fill pattern is making it stiff.  I wonder if the silk thread that Wendy Sheppard often uses would be softer?  I think she mostly quilts with Aurifil Mako cotton thread or with YLI silk thread, neither of which my local Bernina shop stocks.  I may have to order a couple of spools online just to play with.
Okay, enough blogging -- back to quilting!


sherry said...

looks good to me

Quilter said...

Your hats look great. Thanks for the tip about the iPad app. I got iy and am getting in lots of practice.

Quilting Babcia said...

You have really GREAT curves in your Jesters Hats! I don't see anything wrong with them at all - they are supposed to be a rather free-form design and with the soft curviness yours look perfect in my book! I've only stitched a few of these on my practice block and as you said it's always hard to maintain the next direction so there aren't open areas or dead-ends. I don't worry too much about it, though, I just tie off and start again - the overall design and patterned fabric hide these things well! (at least I tell myself that, LOL)

Mary Ann said...

I just got an iPhone, so I'm going to check out that app! You did a great job - I love the variegated thread and your work!

Rosemary Dickinson said...

I've been drawing this pattern on paper and will soon try sewing on my machine. I love how yours came out. I find it hard to keep the pattern going. I can draw one or two of them and then I'm stuck! Deceptively hard! Hope mine come out as good as yours.

Ray and Jeanne said...

Your Jester hats are fantastic! The variegated thread is wonderful! Obviously, my trouble was visualization - I didn't think of chubby little baby tushies!!! ~Jeanne

Anonymous said...

Your jester quilting looks soooo much better than mine! And, in a twisted sort of way, I feel better. Not all of my jester hats are pointed. I'm not alone! LOL! I like your style!

Ruth said...

Yours turned out much better than mine did!! I have an empty space in the middle because I couldn't get it go to where I wanted it to go. More practice needed for sure. I won't be doing any more FMQ for over a month as we are on a long camping trip, so I will have to continue in October. I have a featherweight for piecing, but not FMQing.

catherine journel said...

Hi Rebecca ! Your work on Chester hats is amazing and I understand better now your post on my blog. Thanks a lot for sharing !

Ivory Spring said...


Your Jester's Hat quilting looks GORGEOUS!!! I love how you have used the variegated thread for an extra special spin on the motif!!! Well done. Take a deep bow - you deserve it. :)

Purl Buttons said...

Beautiful! I will use your idea of the number 3.

SewCalGal said...

You did a fantastic job with your Jesters Hat. I had to do a serious look as they are so perfect I thought it was computerized. Great work.


Marjorie's Busy Corner said...

I have to agree with Darlene..they look perfect to me...wait til I do want a

Unknown said...

Looks great!!

Pat Merkle said...

Your jester hats look wonderful!