Friday, November 13, 2009

The Stab Stitch Experiment

This quilt is my current active project. Wish I'd taken a photo before I put it on the frame. The sense of perspective is striking. (Credit for the idea for this quilt goes to Loretta Pettway for her quilt shown in The Quilts of Gees Bend, p. 77.)

The fabrics are very dark and very light cotton twill (men's and women's "khaki" pants in their previous life), plus clear pink and clear orange cotton twill (girls' pants in their previous life).

I cut all the orange and pink pieces with a rotary cutter. But all the darks and lights were cut with a pair of scissors and no marking, to purposely provide a little variation in width. I didn't want any of this quilt to be precise.

I'm really into hand quilting these days. I'm finding machine quilting to be too much drudgery, too stressful, too hard on my back and shoulders, too hard on the quilts (most of the fabrics I use are seriously damaged by safety pins), and just generally not how I want my quilting to look.

Fortunately, I'm also seriously into ignoring the Quilt Police and into applying Liberated principles (thank you Gwen Marston!!). Otherwise, I'd never, ever attempt hand quilting this quilt...and I probably wouldn't even have bothered making the top at all.

It's pretty darn thick with all that cotton twill, the flannel backing and the "select" weight Quilter's Dream batting (my local quilt shop no longer carries the "request" weight, and I didn't feel like waiting for shipping). Still, I can do a fairly decent rocking stitch until I get close to the seams. Then, well, it's stab stitch or nothing. I knew this going in and decided I was willing to live with the outcome, whatever it might be.

The zig-zaggy bits are purposely large stitches that shift direction, which is hard to do with the rocking stitch. None of the stitching lines are marked. I'm just winging it. In the beige areas (which I visualize as steps of stone), I wanted gently undulating lines, kind of like layers in sandstone but a little more curvy, that begin and end within each fabric strip. In the dark areas, I just make it up as I go along, keeping in mind ideas of ancient or alien symbols and patterns on African textiles.

To my surprise, the stab stitching looks really good (at least on top). In the photos, there's a mixture of stab and rocking, but I can't tell which is which. The stab stitch is easy to do, and it's just as fast and maybe even faster than the rocking stitch (especially because with the rocking stitch, I put two stitches on the needle, let go of the needle, pick up my jeweler's pliers, pull the needle through, drop the pliers, pick up the needle....). A bonus is that stab stitch can be done in any direction just as easily as any other, which is truly wonderful when your quilt is on a frame. All in all, it's.....liberating!


Lazy Gal Tonya said...

gorgeous and wonderful. Select weight? ooooh noooo. I vowed never to hand quilt through that again -it was terrible. and that on top of all those thick fabrics? so proud of you. I think I might have given up already and started tying. looks fab - keep going!

KathieB said...

Wow--this piece is really exciting. I love the narrow bands--almost like piping. And I love the effect of the hand stitching.

jasmine said...

Love that hand stitching Meg! It's really progressing beautifully :)

Marit said...

Looks lovely, please keep us posted on your progress!
Your quilting is so inspiring. Do you always use the frame for larger quilts?