Friday, April 19, 2013

Tess Waits No More

Tess, fair lass of the tea towel, is done waiting...for me to quilt her, that is.

I had this Tea Towel Challenge quilt basted together and sitting in the middle of the living room floor for several days, with no firm idea how to quilt it.  It needed movement, I knew, as there were too many interesting curves of her skirt and tartan and tendrils of hair to ignore.

Before my trepidation could turn to full-on procrastination, it was time to begin quilting.  Not without a bolster of confidence in the form of coffee and chocolate, though. 

I figured once I got started, the rest would hopefully follow instinctively, so I began with the lower half of the center part, quilting along the lines of her plaid wrap and skirt fluttering in the breeze.  How about continuing those lines out to the edge of the central portion?  Yes.  Honestly, though, I sort of suck at following lines when free-motion quilting, and my stitch length tends to be all over the map.  So I put on a walking foot and got out the painter's tape (my white quilt marking pencil was useless).  I knew I'd have to curve the ends of the stitched lines away from the straight edge of the painter's tape, but at least I'd have a visual reference.  Wonder of wonders, it worked!

(Click any picture to enlarge)
I used a fine variegated thread meant for machine embroidery on top and an off-white Aurifil in the bobbin.  The two different threads were compatible, and when it came time to switch out the walking foot for the quilting foot, I didn't even have to adjust the tension.  Anytime I don't have to mess with the tension is a very good day.

Pretty much as anticipated, one thing led to another and I just went with what seemed the natural next step on the quilting.  I quilted along the tendrils of her hair (the variegated thread added a nice dimension there) and then her necklaces and various other parts of her figure, leaving the face unquilted.

Then the tree trunk (the idea was to quilt an impression of bark) and the green hillsides in the background.  Finally, I did a small meander in the tan area at the top, which I guess is supposed to be either tree tops or clouds, or maybe both.

Then I did a line of curlicues along the left side in the green plaid strip.  They're not perfect but I refused to rip stitches and risk losing my mojo.  Finally, I did a larger meander stipple in the string-pieced drunkard's path parts.  Thought briefly about following the lines of the strings or the curves of the blocks, but then figured that would be too distracting from the central part.  Besides, meandering I can totally do.  Play to your strengths!

Last night the binding went on, and I tell you what, I had juuust enough of that fabric.  I cut all I had left of it into binding strips and, no kidding, I took a scant quarter-inch seam to join the two ends at the finish and squeaked by.  Whew!

Part of the Tea Towel Challenge was to use a new technique you hadn't tried before.  Making string pieced fabric on phone book paper was not new to me, but cutting it into curved pieces and making drunkard's path blocks was.  Following the curves and lines of the tea towel print in the quilting was new to me too.  Working with warm and cool colors to make them play (reasonably) nicely together was certainly one of my major design challenges.

I really enjoyed this project.  As for the finished quilt, I love it!

Tea Towel Tess is hanging in the living room with a watchful eye toward the front door.  That seems right!

Linking to:
A Stitch in Time 2013 Finishes
Link-A-Finish Friday
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?
March Finishes


Elizabeth said...

P.! I am delighted! Your quilting is amazing. See what happens when you get adventurous with the quilting!?! The tree bark, I think, is my favorite part. You hit the nail on the head with that. All of your quilting really accentuated Tess, which is just what this quilt needed. Congrats on a really great finish! You do amazing things with fabric.

xo -E

Karen said...

Love it! Turned out so awesome :)

Venus de Hilo said...

Total success! And completely agree with the fortifying power of good coffee and dark chocolate.

Sara said...

Everythign came together for Tess! AND the designer,being you Paulette!!

So happy for you!! The quilting is quite exquisite and it sounds like you enjoyed the Aurifil thread.

sophie said...

The quilting on Tess, the Tea Towel is just perfect! I'm really glad you went for it--the end result is spectacular. Whoop!

Christina Fairley Erickson said...

Very nice quilting on Tess... she has such a nice stylized look and your freemotion quilting really accents it. Would love to have you stop by Design Wall Weekend blog party and share your link at

Sarah Craig said...

Whoop whoop whoop!!! Tess looks great!!! You did an amazing job with the quilting. Awesome!!!

Larri said...

Wow, P! Tess is stunning! Fabulous job. You know you are my quilt inspiration, right? If it weren't for you and Shay, I don't think I'd ever had ventured into it. Thanks for sharing your beautiful project! Happy Saturday! :)

MomWaldsPlace said...

You have taken a slightly whimsical daily object and turned it into a work of art. "applause"

You may question the length of your stitches, but this one is definitely quilt show worthy. I can just see it hanging in an exhibit at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

Quilting Babcia said...

Wow! The quilting accents Tess and her personality so perfectly! This is gorgeous!

Vicki @ DottyJane said...

She's beautiful! I like your snacks, too:)

Shay said...

Tess looks amazing and your quilting is fabulous. Looks like going with the flow there was the totally right thing to do.

Fantastic job P!

Kevin the Quilter said...

Oh WOW! What a beautiful view from the front AND the back! Great job! Congrats!

Michelle said...

Tess turned out to be quite the beauty! I remember thinking as I watched you sort through the project that getting all of those colors to play nicely together would be next to impossible - but you did it, and she is lovely.


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