I need another hand project to work on now that I've finished piecing my "Hex on the Beach" quilt top!
I've been wanting to get started on hand quilting this Carolina Lily, but knew I should wait until I finished the hexagon quilt; otherwise, neither would get finished!
This quilt top has been patiently waiting to be hand quilted; I finished hand piecing it way back in 2003!
(Can't you tell by the dated tone-on-tone floral fabrics - all the rage at that time!)
It's such a special, special quilt to me - the only quilt I've totally hand pieced (other than English paper piecing, of course). Originally I only intended to stitch six blocks for a wall hanging, but I saw a Carolina Lily quilt with this layout at the Red Rose Quilt Guild's Show & Tell show (I'm so sad - they don't do that amazing quilt show any more...) over ten years ago while I was in the middle of the project. I loved the setting...
... as well as the interest the eight-pointed stars add. So, I headed back to the fabric store to purchase enough additional fabric to make a total of 16 blocks - thank goodness it was still available!
I finished piecing this quilt during the final days of my mother's battle with cancer, thus the name "Ila's Carolina Lily". Because of all the time that went into it and its special meaning to me, I wanted to make sure the hand quilting did it justice. But, I got stuck - I just couldn't decide on how it should be quilted, so it's been waiting on me ever since!
BUT, the beauty of getting stuck is that it often leads to something better than had it not sat and "percolated". Thankfully, this special quilt top continued to wait on me until all the final design details came together.
First, I needed to find some quilting stencils that were a good match for the design of the quilt.
I found these stencils at the Lancaster Quilt Show last spring; one of the vendors had a HUGE selection of hand quilting stencils - exactly what I had been needing to see. I wanted something angular yet flowery to match the lilies - these were perfect.
Next dilemma would be to find a backing fabric. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find the right shades of pinks and greens to match my 90's fabric, but I found this fabric on a table of discount flat folds at one of the local shops (it must have been left over from the 90's!). I couldn't find a plain fabric that felt right, and I did want a bit of a design to the backing.)
Not only do the colors work well together, but even the design of the fabric works well with the stencils.
I was even able to match up the pattern on the fabric when I pieced the backing. :)
I'm probably most grateful for the delay of completing this quilt because it resulted in my decision to use perle cotton instead of hand quilting thread. Had I quilted it ten years ago, I would have simply used cream hand quilting thread with the traditional tiny stitches - what else was there to use and how else would I have done it? But, most recently, I've fallen in love with quilts that are hand quilted with various shades of perle cotton using larger "utility" stitches, such as this beauty.
So, now the decision was what shade of perle cotton to use! (I ordered my 12 gram balls of Finca perle cotton through Presencia America after ordering a color card of their perle cottons; it's almost impossible to figure out what shade to order without seeing a color card, and none of the local shops carry perle cotton in this weight.) It's hard to tell in this picture, but I trialed three shades of pink as well as a spool of hand quilting thread in pink as well. I definitely liked the beefiness of the #12 perle cotton (thinner than #8, but heavier than traditional hand quilting thread), and decided to go with a medium shade that showed up nicely on the ivory, pink and green fabrics without being too distracting. (Don't be dismayed at my sloppy stitching - I simply wanted to get a feel for the look of the thread; I'll do a much better job on the actual quilt!!)
It looks good on the back as well.
This was the winner! :)
I'll be using a #9 embroidery needle instead of a between needle that I always use for hand quilting.
The next decision was what batting to use. (Are you exhausted yet?!) I usually use Mountain Mist's Quilt-Light, a 100% polyester batting that is flat, economical, and needles very easily. But, I've been eager to get away from polyester batting; I've been wanting to find a 100% cotton batting ideal for hand quilting, but hadn't found anything that needled easily enough. I'd love to try wool, but it's pricey and requires a bit more care when it comes to laundering. Fortunately, I had some scraps of Quilters Dream 100% cotton batting in the request loft (their thinnest loft) left over from a basket quilt that I had machine quilted a few years ago. This particular batting seems to needle well even with the thicker perle cotton; I like the low loft, and it's available at one of the local shops at a decent price, so I think I'll give it a try. (I also experimented with some of the Hobbs Heirloom 80% cotton/20% polyester batting, that huge roll of batting I purchased earlier this year for machine quilting, but it didn't needle as easily and had too much of a loft for this particular quilt.)
Only one more decision(s) is left - how should I press the seam allowances? Open? Or, should I press them to the side? If to the side, which side??? (I never pressed the seams - couldn't make up my mind!!) I'll decide that later - enough decisions for today! :)