Sunday, August 21, 2022

Lucky Stars and Oriana for Ramona: Behind the Scenes with Backing, Design Choice, and Thread Selection

Good morning, my lovelies!  I have missed you!  These past few weeks have been busy for me with travel, family celebrations, and moving Son-the-Elder into his off-campus apartment at Appalachian State, and as a result I have quite a backlog of quilts to share with you.  Today we're looking at two gloriously colorful quilts, both made by my client Ramona who blogs at Doodlebugs and Rosebuds Quilts.  

Ramona's Lucky Stars Quilt

Detail of Lucky Stars with Grecian E2E

First up is Lucky Stars, a pattern by Atkinson design that you can find here on Etsy (this post contains affiliate links).  Lucky Stars is a fat-quarter-friendly pattern that is perfect for showing off Ramona's collection of Kaffe Fassett prints and batiks.  I love how the sawtooth star blocks are designed so the stars float just within the background fabric -- no risk of losing your star points if your piecing is less than perfect, which makes this a great pattern for beginners, too.  I am adding this to my own ever-lengthening list of wanna-make-its!  Wouldn't this be great as a baby quilt? 

Ramona's 76 x 91 Lucky Stars Quilt with Grecian E2E

This quilt was unusual for me in that, after some initial back-and-forth with design options, Ramona ultimately left the choice of the quilting design completely up to me and she had no idea how I was quilting her Lucky Stars until it was finished.  Ordinarily I consult with clients and make design recommendations, but get their approval on the final selection.  

I did that with Ramona on both of her quilts, but her original design selection for Lucky Stars didn't work out because the quilting design she chose was directional (meaning that the design had a definite right side up), her backing print fabric was also a directional print, and due to a measuring error (it happens to the best of us!), her backing fabric wasn't big enough for me to load her quilt right side up on my frame.  

Why I Need 10-12" of Extra Backing Fabric for Long Arm Quilting: It's Those Pesky Side Clamps!

This is where a couple of pictures are worth a thousand words' worth of explanations:

5 Inches Clearance from My Needle to the Inside of My Side Clamps

Those side clamps have an important function, holding the quilt backing fabric taut from side to side on the frame so that no wrinkles or pleats get quilted in on the underside of your quilt.  I ask clients for backing fabric that is straight and square and at minimum 10-12" wider and longer than the quilt top (bigger is better!) to ensure that I can quilt all the way to the edge of the quilt without the machine hitting those side clamps.  You can see that even better in the photo below:

Extra Backing Width Ensures the Machine Head Doesn't Hit the Side Clamps

As you can see in the photo above, I can sometimes make do with a backing that is not as generous in length as I would like by positioning the quilt top really close to the top edge of the backing fabric that is pinned to the horizontal edge of my canvas leader, but I really can't quilt all the way to the sides of a quilt if a backing isn't wide enough to keep the clamps out of the way.  When clients are generous with their backing and give me more to work with than the bare minimum, I can straighten and square crooked edges without running short and I have more freedom in determining which direction to load the quilt for best results.  

So, once we realized that Ramona's backing fabric wasn't wide enough to load upright on my frame, her options were to either send me a different, larger backing fabric or to choose a different, nondirectional design so I could load her quilt sideways for quilting.  Well, she wanted to keep her beautiful multicolor peacock print backing fabric but she did not want to go back and look at designs again, so she just asked me to "surprise her" instead.

How I Choose Designs for Other People's Quilts 

What I don't do in this situation is select a quilting design based on what I would pick if it was my own personal quilt.  My goal is always to find the design that the client would choose, if the client was able to magically see what that design looked like on her quilt ahead of time.  So in choosing a design for Ramona's Lucky Stars quilt, I wanted to find a nondirectional quilting design with shared elements and a similar feel to the design she originally wanted, Karlee Porter's Clamshell Succulent E2E:

Karlee Porter's Clamshell Succulent E2E

You can see how that would look weird if it was sideways on a quilt instead of right side up!  Here's another design that Ramona was considering for Lucky Stars, also unfortunately directional:
Patricia Ritter's Tail Feathers E2E

The designs Ramona liked had a playful feel, a staggered layout (what we'd call a half-drop repeat if this was wallpaper or drapery fabric), and simple feather-like motifs.  The Tail Feathers design also had a fun spiral element.  

Nancy Haacke's Grecian E2E

The line drawing above is what Nancy Haacke's Grecian E2E design looks like turned sideways, the way I quilted it on Ramona's Lucky Stars quilt.  See how it has those feathery elements, a fun spiral, and the staggered half-drop repeat layout like her original clam shell design choices, yet this design doesn't look at all "wrong" when I quilt it sideways.  

Grecian (Sideways) on Lucky Star

Other reasons I chose Grecian for Ramona's Lucky Star quilt include the way the quilted spirals tie in with several of the Kaffe Fassett fabric prints (like the blue/purple print in the lower right corner of the photo above) and the feathery shapes echo the shape of the flowers in that green and yellow/orange print fabric (in the upper right corner of the photo above).  Despite all of the thought that went into picking this design for Ramona, I was extremely relieved when she got her quilt back and told me she loved it! 

I used Quilters Dream 80/20 Select loft batting for Lucky Stars and YLI 40 Tex Machine Quilting Cotton variegated thread in color V76 Kyoto Garden for this quilt.  We'll talk more about the thread in a minute...

Here's what Ramona's Lucky Stars top looked like before I quilted it:

Ramona's Lucky Stars Before Quilting

Ramona's Oriana Quilt

The second quilt Ramona sent me was Oriana, a pattern by Lisa Hoffmann-Maurer that you can find on Etsy here.  I love the graphic impact of these stratified spheres!

Ramona's Oriana Quilt with West Wind E2E

Ramona chose the West Winds quilting design by Christy Dillon, a versatile edge-to-edge design that imparts a lot of movement and dramatic atmosphere to her Oriana quilt.

Detail of West Wind Quilting on Oriana

For Oriana, we used the same Quilters Dream 80/20 Cotton/Poly batting, but this time I used So Fine color 519 Barely Mint 50 weight polyester thread.

Here's what Ramona's Oriana quilt top looked like before she sent it to me for quilting:

Ramona's Oriana Top Prior to Quilting

Considerations When Choosing Quilting Thread

So...  Did you notice any difference in the way the actual quilting stitches look on these two quilts?  I stock a LOT of quilting thread.  Thick threads, skinny threads, cotton threads, polyester threads, shiny threads, matte threads, in every color of the rainbow, because different kinds of thread LOOK different when they are stitched into a quilt.  I am not a big believer in "one size fits all," "one thread fits all," or "one batting fits all!"  So how do I decide which thread to recommend for each quilt?  

With Ramona's Oriana quilt being made up primarily of solids and tone-on-tone print fabrics, I knew the quilting design was going to stand out nicely no matter what thread we used.  No danger of the quilting design getting "lost" in busy prints.  I didn't want the quilting design to compete with or detract from the strong piecing lines in this quilt, so I suggested a lighter weight thread that just kind of melts into the quilt without drawing a lot of attention to itself.  We could have used an off-white thread in a color that matched the background fabric, but instead I used So Fine 512 Barely Mint that has just the slightest blue-green tint to it.  Looking at the finished quilt, you'd think it was white thread, but that little bit of color in Barely Mint helps it to blend into the saturated colors of the circle fabrics better than a stark white thread would have done. 

So Fine 50 wt Polyester in 512 Barely Mint for Oriana

Here's what that thin, fine thread looked like stitched into the quilt:

With Lightweight, Blending Thread You Mostly See Texture

Ramona's Lucky Stars quilt is comprised of a glorious assortment of bold multicolor prints and batik fabrics.  Whereas with Oriana the quilting design was going to show up no matter what, with Lucky Stars there was a greater possibility of the quilting design getting completely lost in all of those busy prints.  So for this one, I recommended a showy 40 Tex Machine Quilting Cotton thread from YLI in variegated Kyoto Garden colorway:

YLI 40 Tex Machine Quilting Cotton in Kyoto Garden for Lucky Stars

See the difference?  Although you might expect threads labeled "40 Tex" and "50 weight" to be similar, these two threads use totally different measurement systems.  The 50 weight So Fine thread I used on Oriana is the equivalent of 25 Tex (and in the Tex system, smaller numbers indicate thinner threads -- completely the opposite of the "weight" system), and a strand of So Fine is only about half the thickness of a strand of YLI Machine Quilting Cotton.  That's why the quilt stitches -- and the quilting design -- are able to hold their own against the variety of patterns and colors of Lucky Stars:

Heavier Weight Variegated Thread Draws More Attention to Quilting Stitches

Since Ramona isn't local to me, I sent her photos of the threads I wanted to use for her approval once I had her quilt top in hand and was able to audition different threads against her fabrics. 

One Last Look at Lucky stars

Thank you, Ramona, for entrusting these gorgeous quilts to me for quilting!  😁

PSST!!  I'd Love to Quilt for YOU!

By the way, if you or any of your quilty friends has a quilt top or two that needs quilting, I'd be delighted to quilt for you!  I am currently scheduling quilts for completion in late October, so please let me know ASAP if you are working on quilts with holiday deadlines.  Click here to learn how easy it is to book a quilt with me!

I'll be linking up this post with my favorite linky parties, listed on the left sidebar of my blog.  Have a wonderful week, and happy quilting!


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

great job on Ramona's quilt I like most of the quilts she makes

Quiltpiecer said...

Wow, beautiful quilts! And so much great information. I've learned so much from this post. Thank you for sharing.

Sandy said...

As always, your quilting is gorgeous! Thanks for the explanation of how/why you choose threads; it's something that I struggle with on my own quilts.

Unknown said...

I also have a Q24 but not computer. what I do sew not to have a jam with my machine and the side clamps is.......I made strong extenders. I used twill tape I believe 2" wide and sewed hem on top of each other for strength.....I pinned one end on the quilt and the other end I put in the clamps.....I think I did a 12" length. Now my clamps are no where near the machine head because of the twill extender that I made and use. Really like it because it is sew sew nice not to have anymore issues with the machine.

Clara said...

The lucky star motif is perfect! It is interesting how thread plays in quilting. You've chosen so well! I sure like pieced spheres and the wind quilting is a great choice to compliment the quilt.

Barb N said...

I love Ramona's Lucky Stars - so fun to look around at all the fun fabrics she included! And your quilting choice and thread are perfect. Well done, you two!

Rebecca Grace said...

Clara, making those extenders and having to stop to reposition them and repin them into place on both sides with every advance of the quilt takes a lot of additional time. I tried that solution once, when my guild gave me a charity quilt with a backing that was way too small, and I found it really frustrating for me. It felt awkward and imprecise, having to reach around the frame at an uncomfortable angle and trying to keep those edges perfectly parallel with pins instead of stitches. Another solution I've tried more successfully is to sew strips of muslin to the sides of a too-small backing before loading it, and overall that worked better and was faster. I did offer to sew muslin strips to the backing fabric for Ramona so that she could go with her original upright design choice, but there is an additional charge for that service since I clearly state my minimum backing size requirements up front. In this case, my client chose to avoid the extra labor charge by asking me to select an alternate design that would work with a sideways loading. All's well that ends well! :-)

Teresa in Music City said...

Beautiful work as always Rebecca! Thanks for the insight on threads - I’m always happy to learn more about how they work and play with different fabrics and designs. Oriana is on my list to make and I love the windswept look of the quilting you’ve done on it. I don’t have computerized software, so I’ll have to find something similar. Best wishes for your son’s college year; our granddaughter Reaghan is a freshman at Appalachian this year too! Her parents are both ASU alumni and they loved it there.

LA Paylor said...

so much goes into quilt making. Each step requires so many decisions. I love the oriana quilt and her background white fabric! Quilting is so pretty

Needled Mom said...

Ramona’s quilts are beautiful as is your quilting. It’s fun to read all the thought that goes into the process.

Sue Daurio said...

I just adore that Grecian edge to edge it is so perfect for that quilt and the thread choice too. Love it!

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

I have the same pattern, BUT I could not do it in the fabrics the quilter used because it is too scrappy for me, but she did an absolutely beautiful job on the quilt ! Stunning fabrics and Excellent quilting! Hugs

Michelle said...

Both of Ramona’s quilts are amazing! And you’ve quilted them beautifully.


Pat at Bell Creek Quilts said...

Both are beautiful quilts and beautiful quilting!

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

I so enjoy reading your thoughts on quilting choices and then seeing the results. You are one very talented lady! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

THose are beautiful quilts! thanks for sharing your thought process with us

grammajudyb said...

Two absolutely fabulous quilts. Love the background fabric in both of them. I see the Tula Pink fabric in Oriana used a lot. I love it. I wonder if the dot background in Floating Stars is Tula Pink too! I don't have LQS nearby. So I don't get to just wander and peruse very often.

grammajudyb said...

Two absolutely fabulous quilts. Love the background fabric in both of them. I see the Tula Pink fabric in Oriana used a lot. I love it. I wonder if the dot background in Floating Stars is Tula Pink too! I don't have LQS nearby. So I don't get to just wander and peruse very often.

Susan said...

Two fantastically vibrant quilts!

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

Yes, two super quilts, bright & each striking in its own way. And, great collaboration between quilter & patchworker! I enjoyed reading all about your choices, lots for me to think aobut next time I send a quilt to Leeanne, my LAQ.

Gwyned Trefethen said...

Good to have you back. I hadn't realized there were some threads that don't use the weight system. I confess at this point, I pretty much eyeball my threads to determine whether they will allow my quilting to standout or recede depending on what is required. Stunning work, as always.

Kathleen said...

You did a fabulous job on both of these. I love seeing how the different threads is so interesting. I love the bold thread choice on Lucky Stars and how the panto you picked mimicked the quilter's early choice. Thanks for linking up to Tips and tutorials on the 22nd!

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Beautiful quilting!!!