At the recent National Quilt Symposium in Wellington there was a bit of controversy over their policy to restrict show entries largely to "original quilts" - always going to be tricky with so many quilts being based on traditional blocks and quilting patterns.
However in an attempt to give others a few tips on how to make an 'original quilt' two of us from Cotton-On Quilters have been giving a mini tutorial at club meetings for the last three months. In the process I have been making this quilt to demonstrate the steps I use.
Here are my notes from the first two lessons:
Designing original quilts from a photograph - the photograph you choose must be one you have taken yourself or one you have permission to use. I will be using this one which my husband Terry took of tulips in our garden.
My original quilts are mostly done using the same method. I like to make the background pieced with curves and the foreground pieces with raw edge appliqué. I am listing what I do so that you have a basis to work from. If you want to use a different method of appliqué or to sew the fine detail before layering and quilting the quilt then that is fine too.
I find a photograph with a strong foreground item (in this case a group of tulips but it may be a person or animal, a tree or building, etc) and a background with some strong lines between different coloured areas. The photograph may have other items that I am not interested in and they can be taken out during the planning stage. I study the photograph, and decide what parts I want to use. I may at this stage trace the photograph and work from the drawing or I may work directly from the photograph. The next step is to enlarge the drawing or photograph to the size of the finished quilt. You can do this by taking it to a photocopy shop or by projecting a transparency of the work onto a wall and tracing it or by scanning it onto a computer and printing it out from an art programme. My art programme will print out a large photograph or drawing onto a number of A4 pages which I then tape together to give me my pattern to work from.
If you don’t have an art programme that will do that on your computer there is a site on the internet blockposters.com where you can upload your photo and choose the size you want it printed. Then print on your own printer – again onto a number of A4 pages which you tape together. Or you can download a free programme to do the job from here.
Once the pattern is sized up to the size of the finished quilt the next task is to make the pattern pieces for the background. I have done these a couple of ways – but my most recent method is the easiest to explain.
Cover the paper pattern with press’n’seal and trace the background sections onto the press’n’ seal with a ball point pen or felt tip. If the quilt is very large it may be easier to work in sections for this part. Draw the background in easy curves or straight lines, not too many sections – fine detail can be added later. Carefully peal off the plastic wrap and cut into sections – I use the rotary cutter for this. Lay the press’n’seal on the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric for each background piece and cut around each piece with a ¼” margin (just eyeball it, don’t get paranoid about it). Sew the pieces together, clipping curves and pressing after each seam.
Now look at it and decide what items from the photo you need to add to make a more detailed quilt.
The foreground pieces (tulips and leaves) can be traced the same way using press’n’seal. If you are going to use raw edge appliqué as I usually do cut them out of fabric that has a sticky backing (vliesofix or steam-a-seam etc) without the ¼” margin. If you want to needle turn appliqué the foreground pieces cut with a margin as you did the background.
Apply the foreground items to the background using your chosen method. The detail can be sewn on at this stage as surface embroidery or sewn on at the quilting stage.
Here are three progress photos as the quilt evolved:
You can see I have rearranged the tulips into a more pleasing composition and I have started to add detail, shading etc using free motion stitching on the tulip heads and on the leaves on the right hand side. I usually use coloured pencils to draw on the fabric and then use the pencil colouring as a guide for my stitching. The pencil will wear off over time but the stitching will not.