Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Custom Quilting 3D Windmills

I just finished up two beautiful made 3D Windmill quilts pieced by the lovely Judy Josephson of New Jersey. Judy is the lucky grandmother of newborn twin baby boys and she made these adorable quilts for the most recent additions to her growing team of grandsons.

The fun part of finishing the quilts was being able to quilt whatever I wanted in the blocks and borders. The difficult part was the quilting of the blocks because of the three dimensional element of the wind mill blades. I needed to stop, pin each 'flap' out of the way four times for each block. I wanted to share my experience with you because I learned so much along the way with these blocks.

Judy came to me with her quilts neatly pressed as well as more than large enough backing and batting. She also had her wish list of instructions for me to consider while quilting her quilt. I had never had a customer hand me a to do list of do's and don'ts. But I have to admit that that list helped with our planning discussion. It allowed us to review her expectations and desires and it gave me a much better idea of what this customer wanted. The quilt backs were pieced and also had large panels with a really fun rabbit print in the middle. Judy wanted me to consider this when I quilted them, ensuring the quilt was centered both horizontally and vertically. This is a fairly uncommon request, but it made sense looking at the backings she had lovingly created. She had even marked with painters tape where the bottom of the quilt should end up on one of them.

I started with Adam's quilt simply because A comes before B. The fabrics spoke to me, especially the grey herringbone one in the outermost border and block backgrounds. I quilted the border with a random zig zag to make it look. Like a child's drawing and the inner border was done with a swirl vine to fill it up and add consistency to the density of the quilting. The name and animal applique pieces were outline quilted first. I even gave the hippos kneecaps, eyebrows and nostrils in stitches. Judy is going to add eyes to the faces when she gets them home.

Next I decided to quilt the centers of each block Before the borders. I determined my best bet was to pin the flap of the windmill triangle away with a long glass headed quilting pin. It was necessary to have the machine throat plate under the section I was about to quilt in order to place the pin, catching just the tip of the 'wing' and to ensure the pin caught the background and the point of the pin came back up to to top so the machine wouldn't catch on the pin itself as I was moving the long arm around.

I found my trusty 6" ruler to be most useful for stitching in the ditch around the outside of each quadrant square. One I had done the stitch in the ditch, I quilted the individual square with various stitches of my own choice. These were sewn the same on each of the 4 windmill background squares, but I changed them up,for every windmill so they added variety. I used loops, fans, lines, squiggles, cross hatching varieties, coffee beans (because new parents need coffee, right?), zig zags, etc. I made sure that each of the rows shifted the patterns to the right by one windmill block, adding a nice diagonal changeover as well.

I have to admit it was slow going because there was so much stopping, pinning, starting, stopping, unpinning and more pinning going on. I took my time and I am glad that I did. The results were well worth the effort and the textural interest added to the quilt really looked nice when completed. I also realized I had completely underestimated the amount of work needed to custom quilt these two baby quilts.


I took a breather after finishing the Adam Quilt before I tackled Benjamin's. Benjamin's quilt had different background and outer border fabrics than Adam's. I started with the applique name and animals in the top border adding in the same details as the other quilt. However, I took a queue from the border fabric that looked like a little straw with beads on it and freehand quilted my own modern design in the outer border. This part went very fast as did the inner border which was random loops and squiggles. However, I screwed up and forgot to check my stitch length in the top border (used a 9 instead of an 11) and I needed to rip out the squiggles and restitch. Frustrating, however, the size 9 stitches came out quickly and easily. Another lesson learned, always check your stitch length before starting to stitch after basting the layers together when loading the quilt!

I set out to make different quilting designs in the various blocks, using some of the same design elements as the first quilt, but tried many new and modern designs that I made up as I went along. Admittedly, I added two blocks with feathers in them because I love feathers and I thought they gave those blocks movement. However, when I re read Judy's instructions as I packed up her finished quilts for pickup, I realized she had said "no feathers!". When she arrived to pick up quilts, I pointed the feathers out to her and I would have removed and re stitched another pattern if she really wanted me to, but she said they were fine and no worries. Lesson learned here is that if you are quilting multiple quilts for someone and they have given you specific instructions, re-read them in between quilts to make sure you refresh your memory with the customer requirements. A few of the windmill blades need pressing after quilting, but I left that up to her to do since I wasn't sure if she had washed her fabrics before piecing.
I also decided to leave the little tiny 1/2 inch sashings unquilted on both quilts. The cool effect this had on the back was that the rabbits looked like they had their own little quilts on them. Judy, noticed it right away and thought it was pretty cool. Since the quilts will become wall hanging for the nursery, no one will probably ever see the backs, but it was an additional little unplanned feature that is now part of those finished quilts. I thought by leaving them unquilted it added a nice dimension to the quilt front.
Judy was very pleased with her quilts, and gave me a wonderfully generous tip that made up for my original estimation for quilting services. She even took one of the quilts to the Pennington Quilt Works and wrote me a nice note this week on how much they loved my stitching.

#3Dpinwheelshowtoquilt #customquilting #quiltingflaps #quiltinglessonslearned
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