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Practicing New Skills on a Small Scale

What’s the best way to try out new quilting techniques you  would like to master, but don’t feel comfortable with yet? Go small. It’s much easier to experiment on a project the size of a placemat or a small wall quilt than it is on a large bed quilt. If you make a mistake or even ruin the whole project, oh well! And you are bound to learn something useful by trying something new.

I followed my own advice yesterday by making a little landscape quilt to put on a sweatshirt I gave my husband for Christmas.

Landscape quilt on sweatshirt

I have always liked landscape quilts, and I’ve made a couple of them, but I would like to get better at giving them visual depth. The design area of a men’s Large sweatshirt was the perfect size for trying shadows and a landscape with trees at different distances from the viewer.    

I cut out a piece of 14″ x 16″ white fabric to use as the foundation, then got out my scrap box full of motley pieces of fabric that already have fusible glued to the back. These pieces are leftovers from fusible applique quilts I’ve made over the last few years. All the fabrics you see in the landscape came from that scrap bin. I knew I wanted to make something fast and easy bold and graphic, so I picked a winter scene, whose monochromatic tones lend themselves well to abstract shapes. 

I used a pebbly pale grey fabric for the sky and some assorted white prints for the snowy ground. A snake-patterned print made the birch trees, and textured dark prints made the other trees.

If you are interested in trying this, learn from my mistake: it’s best to fuse the background pieces to the foundation fabric first and stitch down the whole background BEFORE you add trees or other foreground elements. I made the mistake of fusing everything first, trees as well as snow and sky, and then doing all the stitching. This made the sewing much harder because I had to sew lots of little stop-and-start segments of snow between all the trees, instead of sewing easy long lines across the whole quilt.

After quilting everything, I drew the shadows on with fabric marker pens.

At this stage, I liked the design, but the whole thing looked a little — how to say it? — bleak. I needed something to connect the monochromatic design to the colorful sweatshirt. The answer was in my regular scrap box, which produced this red spiral fabric. I added a strip to the bottom and felt satisfied.

Landscape quilt on sweatshirt detail large

After that, the project was smooth sailing. A little temporary spray glue to keep the quilted piece on the sweatshirt front while I sewed the quilted layer to the sweatshirt, a few lines of quilting to secure the middle of the image to the sweatshirt, a zig-zag stitch around the edges, and the whole thing was done.

Time elapsed: about three hours.

Lessons learned:

  • Fuse and quilt the background elements first before adding foreground elements.
  • Make the next sweatshirt landscape a bit smaller. The 14″ x 16″ landscape looked overwhelming when I laid it out on the sweatshirt. I trimmed a half inch from each side and cut off the top corners to make the quilted image look a little less bulky. Next time, I’d start with a smaller foundation, maybe 12″ x 15″.

What quilting techniques would you like to experiment with? What new ideas could you try out on a fabric postcard, a t-shirt, or a miniature quilt?

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Susan the farm quilter January 27, 2014, 6:36 am

    Great job!! I appreciate your advice – you are absolutely right on quilting between adding elements to this kind of quilt. I made one that was totally fused applique for a round 42″ wall hanging…I hated needing to put 4 stitches in some little place and tying off on both sides! Ugh!! Now I want a sweatshirt like your husband’s!!!

    • cdmwriter January 27, 2014, 6:52 am

      Thanks, Susan. I’m lucky that my sewing machine has an automatic tie-off feature when it starts and stops. Even so, it was quite a nuisance! I hope I’ll remember my own advice next time I do a quilt like this.

  • Gloria Matye February 27, 2015, 6:20 am

    Clear instructions and interesting ideas to learn. Excited to try them.

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