Monday, March 02, 2020

Plenty to Go Around: concentric quilting

Plenty to Go Around
80" x 80"
Marking Concentric Circles for Quilting

I decided early in the planning stages that I wanted to quilt this with concentric circles.  And, though I love the loose and organic and uneven concentric circles, that is not what I wanted for this quilt.  As part of WHO this quilt is, the lines need to be exact, or look exact.  It's part of the story.   

I wanted to avoid drawing on the quilt all together, I thought that 1/4" masking tape would be perfect.  It is easy to apply, and easy to pull up if you don't like how it is applied.  It stays stuck pretty well, but does not leave a residue on the fabric.  It is so narrow, that it bends easily around gentle curves.  It does not do that for tight curves, like the first couple of small circles in the center of the quilt.  So, I started with this:

I drew circles with a compass and pencil on the freezer paper, and then cut out the circles with scissors. Next, I ironed the freezer paper circles and hand stitched around the edge.  These are super easy to peel up too! However, once the circle size gets too big, it becomes too stiff and cumbersome, especially if using a hoop.  And, you will know that size when you get to it!! Ha!

For the bigger (and getting increasingly bigger) circles, I decided to measure from the center, using the concept of the circle's mighty radius! Cha ching! I measured, and marked with pins, marking several lines at a time.  It looks like this:

Then I started applying the masking tape, gently curving it as I went around the circle.  I started with the innermost circle, using the pins as suggestions of where the tape should land once it gets there.  It is really good as a suggestion, but more important is the shape of the line as it curves around. Even if not perfect, it needs to resemble the shape of a circle.  Sometimes it will get off the line just a bit, but that inaccuracy can be averaged out with the next rounds of circles. 

After applying the tape, I remove the pins. And then I apply the next round of tape.

Here's an overall view of the pins.  I use a lot of pins, spaced closely.  I suspect that with more experience, I could rely on less pins that are placed further apart.

This pinning and marking takes time, but for me, it makes a significant difference.  If you just follow the previous quilting line with a similar spacing, you can easily get through the entire quilt.  However, if there is a small error in spacing, that error will be compounded and multiplied as you work outwards.  A skilled and experienced quilter will see those errors and gently correct them with each line.  There is also the option of removing lines of quilting to get back to the section where the error starts.  That is frustrating and can be a significant delay to progress.  I am hoping that by marking the circles, I can avoid that.

One further note: when quilting by machine, instead of by hand, it is entirely possible to avoid marking the circles at all because you can use the machine's foot as a guide while you sew.  Disclaimer: I struggle getting those circles even too!

Here's an overall view of my progress so far.  The circles are getting bigger and starting to "outgrow" my rotary cutting rulers.  I have moved up to yardsticks now! And I am pleased that as the circles get larger, they still look like circles! I foresee a point in my near future where my table will be too small and this work will move to the floor.  Perhaps I can get some quilt yoga in as I stretch, bend, and squat to mark these lovely circles!

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