Sunday, April 7, 2013

Should there be "rules" for quilting? Lets bust myths!

   This past week I have spent a lot of hours working on the quilt that I am stippling. Machine quilting a king-size quilt is WORK! A couple times I had to take a break so I layered a baby quilt for my grand niece Hailey and have finished all the straight line quilting and I put borders on 2 charity quilts (and anyone who reads this knows how I  HATE to sew on borders).  Anyway, I had a lot of time to think about quilting and all the people I have learned from through the years and all the "rules" that I have heard. So I thought I would play Mythbuster (one of my favorite shows, by the way) and address some of the "rules" people are teaching out there and tell you the rules I always teach when I do a class.
    My first and foremost rule is Safety First. The rotary cutter is dangerous--not only is it sharp but can cause repetitive stress injury which I addressed in an earlier blog.
    One of my first "teachers" was the great Eleanor Burns. I never met her but watched her show religiously and bought several of her books and made several of her patterns. After making several of her quilts I realized that she should have had as a rule: Measure your borders and make sure tops and bottoms are equal and the 2 sides are equal. If you look at her older books she just has you cut borders and sew them on without any measuring. I don't know about other people but I ended up with waffling borders and one side an inch longer than another. From an earlier blog I told how I "measure" with the actual borders, not a measuring tape, and now I end up with flat, even borders.
    My only other hard and fast rule is to cut all loose threads as you go. I used to be less obsessive about this and I ended up having to go over the finished quilt to cut all threads that snuck out to the top and the worst was when I had pieced dark fabrics with dark thread (you have to or it shows) but they were attached to a white background. Those loose dark threads showed through the light fabric and I had to fish them out and cut them off. So please, cut as you go!
    So lets address some of those "rules" that are floating around out there that I do not consider "rules" but I do put into the "myth" category. I actually knew a teacher who said it was a rule to never use yellow in a quilt! Really! Now it is true that yellow does pop out in a scrap quilt so it is important to balance it. Too much yellow in one area can be a "galloping horse" so it is important to step back and balance the bright colors but NO YELLOW=MYTH.
    This same teacher also believed that all reds matched. Sorry, but I just can not put tomato red and burgundy red in the same red,white,and blue quilt. I can mix them all in together in a scrap quilt but in a red and white quilt they just clash to me so in my opinion  ALL REDS MATCH=MYTH. (This one goes back 25 years and still bugs me!)
This is my very first quilt wallhanging-all hand pieced
and quilted. If you look closely you can see how one
side is badly faded from sunlight. 
   A controversial idea is that quilts should be all cotton. I have a little issue with this one and can see both sides. It is important for a quilt that is being used daily to have fabrics that are going to wear and wash the same. You probably don't want one fabric to wear out before the rest, or stay shiny if everything else is dull. You just want a quilt that will outlast you! Polyester and Poly cottons are made to not shrink or fade and are usually shinier than all cottons. I never used them before because this was a "rule" so I had to bypass so many cute novelty fabrics. But then I looked at my much loved and much used quilt that my great grandma made me 50 years ago. It has flannels, corduroy, taffeta and cottons all mixed in together. It has been washed and used a lot and still looks good. As a kid I loved the flannels and corduroys because they were scraps from my clothes and I loved to rub them. On the other hand, I have made quilts of all cottons that have not fared so well. There is good fabric and cheap fabric and you get what you pay for, I guess. One quilt I made had one black print cotton fabric in it that faded and wore through just by having it on the bed.  I used this fabric in my quilted jacket and there are holes and faded stripes now! Another quilt was made from all fabrics from the same line and the same store and one of them bled and wore badly. Another one had one fabric that bled all over and when I tried to use the color remover the take care of the bleed that one fabric "bleached" out and nothing else did.  So what about quilted wall hangings? Why would you need all the fabrics to be cotton? You probably will never wash it so you don't need to worry about fabrics shrinking differently. In fact, an all cotton wallhanging is almost definitely going to fade from sunlight. So in my opinion the rule of   ALL COTTON=MYTH.
     All right, now I have to address the biggest myth of all out there and I really don't want to have to spend a  lot of time on this one because I am tired of arguing this point. That is the issue of prewashing fabrics. How many of you have spent hours washing and pressing fabrics before using them? Did you even question this "rule"?  I never really had until I took a class from the master quilter Harriet Hargrave. She discussed the reasons to wash and not to wash and I am enclosing this link from her book.
From my own experience I never achieved anything from prewashing unless the fabric was obviously dirty and needed washing. The quilts mentioned in the previous section were made with prewashed fabrics and prewashing sure didn't help there. It has been liberating to not have to wash everything and now that I have to use a laundromat to wash clothes it is very welcome! So in my opinion PREWASHING FABRIC=MYTH.
     I am sure that before I finish quilting these large quilts I will come up with a few more myths to bust but for now "I reject your reality and substitute my own" (thanks Adam Savage for those words of wisdom).

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