Saturday, January 05, 2008

Quilting techniques

Yesterday I spent the whole day looking through patchwork books and the Internet for a quilting design to use on the When-oh-When quilt. I really agonized my choices and finally decided I was being way too perfectionist and that things didn't have to match and tie together. I finally just decided and spent a couple of hours getting the pattern onto the quilt.

How do you put a quilting pattern on a top? Am I still in the dark ages? I trace the chosen pattern onto paper and go over it again with a black felt pen. I pin the traced pattern to the underside of the top and then retrace it to the quilt itself. Yesterday I was relieved that the fabric was light enough so that I didn't have to hold the quilt up to a window and do all my tracing, but sometimes I do that too. (No lightbox.) I use a soft pencil to do my tracing too, not one of the fade/wash away quilting pens that mark in blue or purple. I have a feeling this is an old-fashioned way but it's the way my quilting friends and I have always done it.
Actually I was thinking a lot about quilting in general as I searched for a pattern yesterday.
"Pattern, pattern. Don't bother to look in any of my American books and magazines, not that many patterns for hand quilting."

If I want a good selection of quilting patterns then Japanese books have a lovely assortment. One reason for this is because machine quilting isn't very popular in Japan yet. My friend Noriko-san is a pioneer of machine quilting here in Japan but I think she's been misunderstood all these years. Japanese quilters tend to look at machine quilting and think "Hmm. That's not real quilting, that's just a speed process." they don't give the technique fair consideration.

For awhile I tended to side with that train of thought too until I saw Noriko-san's lovely work and decided that before I bash it I need to try it. Last year I ordered machine quilting books and got some first-hand instruction from Noriko-san and tried my hand (or in this case, my machine). Wow! The skill that machine quilting takes, and the beautiful work one can do if you are skilled (which I am still not)! My whole attitude toward machine quilting changed! (gold quilt done by Noriko-san)

Another rarely heard of process in Japan is long-arm quilting. Do you know I have never seen a long-arm machine or ever met anyone in Japan who has ever done it or even knows of someone who does long-arm quilting. (Of course I live in the back woods of Japan.) This may be because the machines are so big that there is no place to put them in a quilting shop let alone a home (no basements in Japan) but it may also be because Japanese quilters still think hand-quilting is the only genuine method of quilting.

Anyway, after long deliberation I decided I will hand quilt my When-oh-When quilt just because I've not developed the skills yet to do a good job machine quilting it on my domestic machine. I know, I know. In order to develop those skills I need to do it more but not right now. Someday what I'd really like to do is send one of my quilts out to be long-arm quilted just so I can have one in my possession and some day I want to just give a long-arm a try just to understand how it really works!

Next step. Basting!


Quilt Pixie said...

so, if hand quilting is the "real" quilting in Japan, are there people who hand quilt other's tops for them? That's becoming really hard to find here in central Canada though a few women on Hutterite colonies will still...

CONNIE W said...

Tanya, There are many people here who still look down their noses at machine quilted quilts. I know one person in particular who is very snobbish about it. I told her I am a longarm quilter and she just looked at me. My thought on the matter is to each his/her own. I machine quilt on the longarm because I want to accomplish making many quilts and the time it would take to hand quilt them would make that impossible. As for whether or not it's accepted in other areas, the answer would be yes...the major quilt shows have categories for both hand quilted and machine quilted entries...and...some of the grand prize winning quilts are machine quilted. And they are beautiful. Yes, a hand quilted quilt is a treasure and a thing of beauty, but a machine quilted one can be as well. I have a longarm and I'm not afraid to use it! hee hee And if you come for a visit I'll teach you to use it. One more thing, I've seen Noriko-san on a quilting show on TV and also have seen her quilts in magazines, they are beautiful. I believe they were mostly scenes of trees in the woods. I like her technique and hope to attempt to make one someday.

andsewitis Holly said...

Hi Tanya!

If you are in the dark ages then so am I :) I've only used stencils in the past. I thought it was pretty clever how you "hacked" into your own blog when the computer was down. About handquilting vs longarm... I hesitate to use my handquilted quilts because of all the work I put into them whereas I don't hesitate at all to use the machine quilted ones. And yet I don't favor one method over the other - just whatever I'm in the mood for.

Marilyn R said...

I like to do hand quilting, and I also machine quilt on my domestic machine. I don't have room for a longarm, so I will stick to my domestic machine. Machine quilting is an art in itself that can best be understood if you have tried it for yourself.

Lindah said...

Your work is so beautiful, Tanya! The picture of the gold and white quilt--it looks like it could be machine quilted. Did you do that? Very nice, whoever did it. I had not thought of it until you mentioned the space issue for the Japanese quilter. Longarm machines with their frames do take a lot of space. My DH voluntarily gave up his little TV/easy chair nook so I could get a longarm set-up. It is squeezed into that room, but it works. With a small house, there was no other space; no basement. Hand quilting was always my favorite part of quilting--until arthritis set in. When that happened, I began to think that there just might be some value to machine quilting. So, I tried it with my sewing machine. And loved it! And I love being able to do more quilts in a shorter time. There still are purists here (USA) who consider machine quilting to be second class. As I now see it, one is an apple and one is an orange. I like them both!

Karen said...

Tanya, I love reading about your adventures each day! I wish my hand quilting was nice enough to show others but I really need to work on it. My grandmother was such an artist and I have yet to master it.

I so enjoy your blog and nominated it today for the "Make My Day Award" Thanks for letting us into your life each day.

meggie said...

I like both types of quilting. I could not do hand quilting, my hands ache too much, but I surely do admire the long arm quilting patterns, & would love one of mine done on one one day! I think those patterns can make a very plain quilt, into a thing of beauty, & add wonderful dimension.

BTW our friends' daughter is in Okayama. I think I told you the wrong place name before!

kimiyo said...

All quilt works are beautiful. I don't do any of them so it really doesn't matter for me if its hand quilted or machine quilted. My mother was kimono-maker and she made many beautiful kimono by hand. I loved her kimono. I learned reglular sawing after I graduated from school and I had so much fun doing it. And you know, whichever it is, it really takes time and both takes a lot of skill and patience. Plus your friends and family members are lucy because they can get your beautiful quilt once in a while. :)

Shelina said...

My family didn't think machine quilting made it a real quilt either, but I think they are impressed with quilting of any kind. The way I see it, if I machine quilt something, I can blame any mistakes on the machine! I'm not good at machine quilting, but my skills at hand quilting are even worse, and it would take me forever to finish anything!
I really admire you for hand quilting, and for marking your quilts. I'm lazy about that too.

Liz's Stitches said...

Hi Tanya,
I very much enjoy your writings, so interesting. You have so many talents. Your quilts are beautiful. Will you be at the Tokyo Quilt Show coming up soon? I am blessed to be able to attend this year and I am so looking forward to being there.
Liz's Stitches

keslyn said...

Hi Tanya, I believe that it is up to the individual, I personally have all my quilts machine quilted, at least that way they get finished. There are just too many quilts out there to make for me to hand quilt them. Machine quilting on your own domestic machine isn't that bad, it does take practice but free motion quilting can be heaps of fun, just try practicing on some plain fabric. I am not an expert but if you need andy tips just sing out.
PS over the few week or so, I have made Tempura, Japanese curry and Nicole made sushi today - Yum Yum