Sunday, June 21, 2009

I'm on the Way to Baltimore!!!

Actually, I'm not really going to Baltimore, although I would certainly love to go back. The last time I was there, I was privileged to view several old Baltimore Album quilts. I particularly love those that are almost obsessively filled with flowers, cornucopias, eagles, baskets, epergnes, and so on. I am designing my own "Beyond Baltimore" quilt, filled with flowers and a border reminiscent of that found in my Ladies of the Sea quilt. For now... here's a sneak peek at two of the blocks in the quilt. I will be teaching a workshop with these blocks at Elly Sienkiewicz's Applique Academy in Williamsburg next February (

This block showcases an ornate floral basket block like those found in many of the Baltimore Album quilts made in the 1840s and 1850s; the choice of flowers in that era was symbolic -- to the extent that the Baltimore ladies read dictionaries of flowers to ensure that their bouquets communicated the appropriate message. My, how times have changed!

And every Baltimore Album quilt needs to have a Baltimore Clipper ship on it, right?! Baltimore was a thriving seaport during the era of album quilts - which allowed for the newest textiles to be delivered to the women who needed them for their quilts. More blocks and more history are to come... along with more quilts.

Until then, happy sewing!

Sue Garman
(c)2009 Susan H. Garman

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Been a While...

Most of the projects that I have been working on lately have been made under the condition that they not be shown anywhere until after they are published. So... Look for a challenge quilt in late summer. Look for an autumn wall hanging in Quiltmaker in the Fall. Look for two new quilts on The Quilt Show in the Fall. I will post pictures of each of them when the restrictions are removed! In the meantime, I have been working steadily on a new quilt. It will be an old-style Baltimore Album quilt, full of elegant floral arrangements. I cannot begin to express how excited I am about this quilt! The design work is more difficult than I imagined: there are a lot of challenges involved in balancing flowers amidst harps, clipper ships, baskets, vases, epergnes, fruit, while keeping the colors, symbolism, fabrics, and sizes in harmony. I will post photos of the first two blocks soon -- and then stay tuned for another border like that on Ladies of the Sea: it will be an eye-catcher in terms of fullness, color, and density of applique!

In the meantime, someone asked me about quilting - and how to decide what type of quilt design to use on a quilt top. I don't have all the answers, but here are some photos and some thoughts about quilt designs.

Echo quilting -- following the border of each appliqued unit -- is an easy way to "fill" a block. I like it when I want the applique to stand out but don't want to have a lot of "starts and stops" in the quilting line.

The quilt design with the most stops and starts in it is cross-hatching. Cross hatching can be very attractive in a quilt where you want a "formal" look. The photo to the right has cross-hatching behind all of the flowers. Half of the blocks incorporate horizontal/vertical cross-hatching, while the other half of the blocks use diagonal cross-hatching in the blocks. This adds dimension to the quilt without making it look busy.

What about those instances where you want some quilting "filler" in your quilt but are tired of the tried and true (or, as some might say, the "tired and true") stippling? I
like using geometric shapes -- chevrons in triangles -- or feathered wreaths or vines across geometric blocks or borders. In this photo, both of these techniques are used: there are geometric chevrons across the setting triangles; these emphasize the geometric shape over the floral fabric on this quilt, while the feathered wreath across the star block softens the geometric shape of the block.

Another great quilting design is the classic "baptist fan" or "dinner plate" pattern. It is a wonderful overall edge-to-edge pattern, and I believe it looks best on multi-pieced traditional block or sampler block quilts. The dinner plate motifs can be cropped such that they can sit inside of borders, if one wants to use a different quilting design within a border.
My favorite quilting design involves the use of feathers. They can be in a shape such as a feathered wreath or a feathered vine -- or they can randomly flow across a quilt top or an open portion of a quilt top. The first photo shows feathers used as fill around a "French Braid Quilt" strip. Feathers are flexible -- they can be adjusted to fill almost any size or shape.

This picture shows a feathered vine with a double spine that sits within a 4" sashing strip -- I love making wide sashing strips if only so that I can insert quilting in the sashing.

This picture shows feathered wreaths sitting in the alternate "empty" or "open" blocks of a basket quilt. What I like about the quilting in this quilt is that the feathers are repeated in "half-wreaths" within the baskets. The baskets are each quilted with a few geometric lines, and the half-wreath sits under the basket handle. Repeating a motif (the feathered wreath in the open blocks) is always a good option to consider when quilting a top; motifs can be repeated in borders, blocks, or parts of blocks.

Because I love feathers, taking a "plain" quilt top and covering it with random feathers, for me, is absolutely a heavenly way to spend an afternoon or two. Lately, I have been filling such quilt tops, which are given to me to quilt for my guild's community service quilt projects, with feathers, strings of pearls, and puddles of pearls. These motifs, when combined with spirals, can turn a simple quilt top into an elegant quilt. Take a look - and think about how your quilting choices can change the look of your quilts.

Until we meet again (Baltimore blocks in hand, on my part!), happy sewing --
Sue Garman
(c)2009 Susan H. Garman