Welsh quilting

Monday, 20 September 2010 12:17 pm
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Not long ago, I fell in love with Welsh quilting. While America is undoubtedly the home of an incredible variety of patchwork blocks, the quilting, as in the stage when you go through all three layers with thread (let's call the overall process Quilting to distinguish them), has always left me cold. Modern free-motion quilters such as Leah Day are doing fantastic things, but the traditional quilting patterns are rather limited, sometimes twee, and designs such as the omnipresent feathers just don't do it for me.

I discovered Welsh quilting through a stunning red wholecloth quilt in one of Barbara Chainey's books, and was moved to buy Making Welsh Quilts. It's a fantastic book, containing a thorough discussion of Welsh quilting, photo gallery, projects, and a particularly useful bit at the back which assigns a page to each common motif, such as paisleys, hearts, spirals, leaves, gives a host of examples of how to vary them, and good clear instructions on pattern drafting. I've also found an excellent blog about Welsh quilting, Welsh Quilts, and you can see many beautifully photographed examples intelligently discussed there. The patterns in Welsh quilting really speak to me, being at once classic yet fresh and modern as well. The designs are graceful and elegant, with great scope for creativity yet easy to put together once you know the basic principles.

My second cousin is due to have a baby in about a month, and naturally it took me mere seconds to offer her a baby quilt when I heard the news. I'm planning to give her the turquoise and green crazy log cabin I put together a while back, mostly from a wonkily-cut jelly roll by Fabric Freedom. (Apparently their batik jelly rolls are now laser cut and much improved. I am in love with this red/orange jelly roll but will have to wait until I am less broke.)

Turquoise/green crazy log cabin, top only

The top measures 49" square, and the strips are most commonly 2" wide, so it's not too densely pieced. Now, while Welsh quilting is absolutely glorious, their patchwork is fairly simple, which works well to show off the quilting. It is most often medallion style, with rows of borders around a central square or rectangle. I've seen the odd photo of a Welsh block quilt, but none with sashing between the blocks, let alone sashing that contrasts strongly with the blocks. The first thing I realised is that a thread which will show up well against the sashing is likely to blend into the background with the blocks. Nevertheless, Welsh quilting tends to ignore the piecing boundaries, so my first sketch did that as well.

Turquoise crazy baby quilt - Welsh design 1

The problem is that while this is a nice enough quilting design, the way it meanders over the sashing and then back into the blocks would look plain weird. Keeping the idea of the square on point with circles inside it, I developed another plan which leaves the sashing and borders quilted separately. This one has far more potential. I need to finish quilting [livejournal.com profile] catnip_junkie's quilt first anyway, so that gives me a while to tweak it.

Welsh design 1

There are three block designs in there, so I grabbed my A3 pad and drew them out individually, as it's quite hard to tell from a tiny sketch of the whole thing on A4. Now, one challenge with Welsh quilting is that traditionally it is remarkably dense. The quilts were made with wool batting that needed to be quilted no further than 1" apart. I don't have the time or inclination to quilt that densely, and with the battings available today I don't need to. As a result, I'm scaling it up. I'm still very much getting the hang of scaling up designs in general, though I'm sure I'll get used to it sooner or later.

Welsh quilting is filled with double lines, particularly when outlining sections or individual motifs. I'm not entirely sure how far apart they are in original Welsh quilts, but in my scaled-up version I am currently spacing them 1/2" apart. I think this will work, though I'm still redrawing lines for motifs and fretting over the paisleys in particular. Luckily, I bought a few sets of templates in various shapes which are perfect for Welsh quilting, in this case the paisleys (sold as feathers) and leaves. I might pick up the hearts as well, I don't particularly like hearts but there turned out to be a space where they were the best shape for the job, and I'm crap at drawing freehand. I could also try something like replacing the hearts with sets of three leaves.

It's struck me that there are some traditional American patchwork designs which fit very well with Welsh quilting. Round robin quilts would be ideal, as they are all medallion quilts in the typical Welsh piecing style. Fan blocks and their many variants such as New York Beauty are also very close in style.

Date: 20 Sep 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
First attempt at redrafting the corner block, to see if I can replace that heart and also with the spiral on the other side changed.

Corner block with Welsh scissors

Date: 20 Sep 2010 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] voxwoman.livejournal.com
Your stuff is so gorgeous.

I love the zig-zag border you did on the outside, but have you considered a Celtic key-lock design (if it wouldn't make you insane to draw it and then quilt it)?

Date: 20 Sep 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I once worked out how to do a Greek key border when I was learning tapestry/needlepoint on a cushion, so I don't recall it as being too hard. (The tapestry, on the other hand, bored me silly.) I took photocopies of the design at various stages, including just before I filled in the sashing and borders, so it should be easy enough to try variations, and I plan to make a few stencils for the borders and such, assuming I don't get driven to distraction by cutting through plastic with a double-bladed knife. Do you mean a Greek key, or something different? I like having the angularity in the outside border, it contrasts with the cable in the inner border and sashing. The borders and sashing are where the quilting will show up at first glance, it's going to be hard to get thread contrast within the blocks, so while I too like the zig-zags, something a little more interesting might be better. For reference, the outside border is 3" wide. Not enough for a huge design, but enough that it doesn't have to be entirely basic.

None of this is particularly original, you know! That book really does walk you through how to create your own quilting designs, they pretty much just fall into your lap, and as for the top, I more or less pinched that off a quilt someone put up in [livejournal.com profile] quilting. Theirs had smaller blocks, more of them, and white instead of pale green for the sashing, but otherwise it's pretty damned similar. I can't remember if it was a crazy log cabin or a regular one in that case, but the other inspiration was this crazy log cabin of [livejournal.com profile] urban_quilter's. Turquoise and lime green have been very popular lately, which is handy as I think they're stunning together.

Date: 20 Sep 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] voxwoman.livejournal.com
the Celtic key knot is not the same as a Greek key pattern. it's angular, like your zig-zags.

see this link:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/22464865/How-to-Draw-Celtic-Key-Patterns

Date: 20 Sep 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
The Greek key I linked to was angular, were you thinking of the scroll variations? It looks like it's the basis for the Celtic key, only the Celtic key is on a diagonal and has exciting variations. I think there'd be space for a Greek key, but I don't think there's enough space for a Celtic key if I need to put it on a diagonal. Which is a pity, because they're lovely and you're absolutely right, they'd fit in perfectly. Next time I do a quilt with Welsh quilting in mind, I'll have to leave wider borders.

Date: 20 Sep 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] virginiadear.livejournal.com
Could I beg the favor of an explanation of the expression "twee?"

Thanks! 8^)
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