Finishing a quilt top is a great feeling and definitely a milestone in the quiltmaking process but “getting to the quilting part” from there is not as direct as one would think. How do you know what quilting designs will look fabulous and “make the quilt?” How do you know what to quilt where? Sure, there are lots (like hundreds? thousands?) of quilt stencils out there, and I seem to have my own private collection of them, but for some quilts stencils just don’t cut it. Yes they make the quilt easier to mark, but how many times are you going to find the perfect stencil, in the perfect size and style, for a particular part of the quilt? Not many, in my experience. For some quilts, you need other tools: pencils, freezer paper, rulers, compass, flexible curve, circle and feather templates, and ink pens. Oh, and erasers, lots of erasers. Let the intimidation begin.
Freezer paper is one of the essential ingredients to this torture. You know, that stuff that people who hunt their own food use to wrap meat? I’m no hunter, but I go through a wicked amount of freezer paper when I quilt. I use it for everything. The rough side makes great drawing paper and though it’s strong it’s also fairly thin, which becomes important later. You can just tear off a chunk in whatever length you need (great for long border designs) and when you run through the whole box, the grocery store has more.
What could possibly be intimidating about freezer paper? It’s something akin to writer’s block, I think. This step in the long road finds me staring at a white piece of freezer paper, seeing a hazy picture of the quilted quilt in my mind and trying to get that picture to flow through my pencil onto the paper. I’ve said before that I’m not so good at designing my own quilting patterns and I’m not much of a doodler, at least with paper and pencil. So I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper and trying to come up with the perfect design that will fit in the space just right, go with the overall look and design of the quilt, give the effect I want, and be drop-dead gorgeous at the same time. Yup, it’s a bit scary. When I said I couldn’t wait to start drawing quilting designs, I think I meant it in a sort of relative way. You can’t get to the machine quilting part unless you draw designs first. *sigh*
Sometimes once I start drawing it gets easier, but other times I’m just as likely to erase right through the paper before I come up with a suitable design. Oh, by the way, that “fabric eraser” you see in the picture is the one that you find in many quilt shops. It’s complete crap for erasing marks from fabric, but it’s the best eraser for paper there ever was. Those silly pink things on the end of most pencils and the Pink Pet erasers from childhood don’t deserve the name. Using a pink eraser, you have about two chances to get a design right before you’ll see the table underneath, whereas with the fabric eraser, you have about ten.
Eventually, the creative juices start to flow, and something wonderful begins to happen. The design starts to take shape on the paper, and the hazy picture in my mind gets a bit clearer. I can see thread colors and background stitching patterns. I begin to feel pretty good when I’ve drawn something like this:
And then whole intimidation process begins anew for another part of the quilt, with a fresh sheet of freezer paper.