7 Quilting design elements to add personality

Before we reveal the two quilts for the What’s Good for the Gal, is Good for the Guy quilt challenge in the QUILTsocial eZine spring issue, let me give you a ‘tour’ of the design process and elements and the inspiration behind it. Here are 7 quilting design elements to add personality to this quilt:

  • incorporating the interests of the recipient into the quilt top (duplicating bricks and mortar and the house)
  • quilting the vine
  • adding a jean pocket to remember a beloved family member and clever label
  • using embroidery to ‘say what you need to say’ on the quilt top and backing
  • add special tags
  • making the story of the quilt special by incorporating a little history
  • using a forgiving quilt backing

If you’ve been following QUILTsocial, you know that Jen was working on a quilt for the guy and I was working on the quilt for the gal.

You can check back here for more details on the challenge.

Although I never met the recipient of the quilt, I was provided with a few details of her likes which includes things that are vintage, rustic and countryside scenery. She’s studying architecture and is highly creative. She would love to live in a real functioning tree house, or a house in the forest.

Hmmm – I was getting a recurring theme here – houses! I also thought about some of the other requests – no traditional borders, try to highlight the theme fabric. That was a lot of information to decipher and come up with something creative.

The Design

I wanted to keep the elements in the quilt simple. I also wanted the elements in the quilt to be subtle. And somewhere in the quilt, I wanted a house.

We had received a package of 10-inch squares of fabric to work with. Not a lot of room for error and I really wanted to showcase the fabric by not cutting it up much.

Hmmmm – I could make the quilt look like a brick wall and incorporate the subtle elements onto the wall. Yes – that would work, and I proceeded to cut the 10-inch squares into “bricks” that were 10″ x 5″. Absolutely no waste from the fabric pieces.

Although I do have a few bits left over which I’m making into another project (a gift for Carla) which you’ll see in an upcoming post.

Next up was to add some mortar to the mix. It was very difficult choosing a color – I wanted to keep it neutral to help highlight the focus prints, I wanted it to be somewhat realistic and I eventually went with a gray.

So now that I had the mortar color picked out, I had a couple of other issues that I had to take care of that involved piecing and pressing.

Although real bricks wouldn’t have exactly matched up from row to row, I wanted my bricks to match. So I used a chalk pencil to mark where the seams for each row should go in order to have the bricks in alternating rows line up properly.

Using a ruler and chalk pencil to match up seam lines

Here you can see the chalk line which allowed me to match up the next row

Next up was the pressing. If you look at the mortar on a brick house, you’ll notice that it recedes from the surface of the bricks. In order to replicate that look, I had to press the seams away from the mortar to make it recede from the bricks (focus fabric). That meant I had to press the seams back against all those cross seams. This is the opposite to how I would have pressed it, but I was going for a certain effect and so those seams were pressed that way.

I like to use steam when I press so it wasn’t a big deal, and I was very happy with the end result. A very very subtle effect, but it’s something that I would notice (hey – I like small details!) Do you see how flat my seam allowances are?  A little steam will do wonders!

Seams are pressed away from the mortar (sashing) to make them recede from the bricks (focus fabric)

The House

I had been pondering how to incorporate a house into the bricks. Initially, I was going to put a small house into one (or several) of the bricks, but after chatting with a very creative thinker (Tish), she suggested that I build the house bigger with the bricks.

I looked through the fabric pieces and YES – there was a way to make the house fit that approach and so the house was built into the bricks.

That created a new dilemma – how to maintain the mortar pattern through the house. I wanted the house to be subtle – but if I had used the gray fabric, the house wouldn’t have been noticeable at all as all the prints are very busy. So I changed the color of the mortar so that the house would be more noticeable. But then what to do with the sides of the house?

The house built into the bricks

No design effort goes off without collaboration. My daughter (who is the same age as the recipient) and I were discussing the mortar (sashing) and we both agreed that the gray had to be incorporated to make the house noticeable. I won’t tell you how many times I had to measure and remeasure to get those pieces replaced. Don’t forget to add a quarter inch seam allowance – DUH!

The windows and doors were cut from one of the fabrics in the line Tim Holtz (Eclectic Elements) and fused in place. Then outlined with a satin stitch.

At last – the house was built

I’ve had discussions related to the stories that people dream up about their quilts. Do they think of everything before the quilt is made or do they make the story up after the quilt is done? I do a bit of both. I really have a hard time sitting down and planning all the details out – I just let it happen which has driven everyone I work with absolutely crazy.

As I sat back and looked at this house, I realized that it reminded me a great deal of an abandoned house from the area that I grew up. So I phoned mom and dad in Saskatchewan and asked them to photograph the said house. I think they enjoyed the assignment even though they had to make three trips before they got the pictures – no batteries, dead batteries – you see, my technology issues are genetic!

Abandoned house near Spinney Hill, Saskatchewan

I learned the history of the house which has been abandoned for a long, long time (50 years) and I’m going to include a picture of the house and the story with this quilt.

The Poem

If you have been following my story on the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale, you know that I love words on quilts. I wondered how I could incorporate words onto this quilt. I happened to be reading a book called Art Quilt Maps by Valerie S. Goodwin. Hey – she has used words on some of her art quilts, not embroidered words, but words nonetheless. She often incorporates Haikus, which is a style of poetry. I’ve been known to write poetry in my time so I sat down and wrote out a Haiku.

Once I was happy with the text, I placed the quilt top in the embroidery hoop and hit START. It’s moments like these that you hope everything goes well. There was no turning back. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that part was completed.

Haiku embroidered on the quilt front (top left hand corner)
Author: Elaine Theriault

Again, I wanted this poem to be subtle. Almost like I didn’t want it to be seen unless the observer ‘felt’ the words. It was hard to choose a color of thread that would completely blend in, but I’m happy with the results. And for someone who doesn’t do a lot of embroidery, I hooped it pretty straight!

The quilt back

We were also given instructions to make the back more than just a plain back. I was using a flannel from the Man about Townorthcott.comn flannel collection from Northcott Fabrics. It’s a gorgeous fabric, mottled enough to be a great backing concealing a multitude of sins. 

I embroidered a message on the back. I had to be careful where the message went so that when the quilt was layered, the message was in the right spot. Again – I went for subtle and chose a thread color that stood out, but not too bright.

Embroidering the quilt back

Machine embroidered message on the back of the quilt

The Quilting

As you know from yesterday’s post that I struggled with the quilting. Not because of the Ruby Royale, but my area of expertise or lack thereof.

I had a vision and I wasn’t able to execute it on the domestic sewing machine. The picture below was my inspiration with the addition of leaves.

After removing all the quilting, I did the quilting on the long arm and I was pleased with the results.

Inspiration for the quilt design

Quilting design on the quilt

The label and the pocket

We were also asked to incorporate a denim pocket onto the back of the quilt. The pocket was from a pair of jeans that had belonged to a family member who had since passed.

I thought of the pocket and the label many times over the course of making the top. I had this vision, then I had another and when the time came to attach the pocket, the design just happened all by itself.

At first, I was going to make a tag and incorporate it with the pocket. So I took a piece of fabric and ran it through the ink-jet printer to get the tag.

It’s very easy to do this – I first designed and printed the label on paper. Then carefully taped (very well) a piece of fabric over the writing on the paper. Then reprint the label using that piece of paper with the fabric taped to it. And voila! – you’ll have printing on your fabric.

TIP I only use black ink (ink-jet only) for this purpose as colored inks are not permanent unless treated.

The label printed onto fabric which is taped to a piece of paper

Now I had to embroider a message onto the pocket. ACK – that pocket is too small to hoop but I used a sticky stabilizer and stuck the pocket to the stabilizer.

Choosing the lettering was easy as pie using the built-in fonts on the Ruby Royale. No need to bring up a computer program – ALL of the printing on this quilt was designed directly on the Ruby Royale Embroidery Edit screen. It just doesn’t get any easier than that. The flexibility in this area is phenomenal. And when I think of what I used to have to do to get lettering – well I shudder at that complicated process.

Pocket hooped on sticky stabilizer

Before I hooped the pocket, I marked the center lines of the pocket so I could center it in the hoop. Notice the chalk lines are lining up with the center notches on the hoop.

Then it was easy to use the on-screen tools to center the words and position them just right.

Stitching out the message for the pocket

The message on the pocket

Embroidered designs can be a bit rough on the underside. Since I wanted to keep the pocket usable, and therefore soft to the touch, I applied a lightweight fusible to the underside of the pocket to cover up the back side of the embroidered message.

Lightweight fusible interfacing on the underside of the embroidered pocket

As I was working on the lettering for the pocket, I changed my mind about the tag. I would incorporate the wording as if it were a tag right into the stitching of the pocket, and let’s not forget the trademark label that I put into things that I make!

I was going to have to hand stitch the pocket/label elements to the back of the quilt and I certainly did not want to have to handstitch that denim pocket down.

So I stitched everything to a leftover piece of the backing fabric. Everything was topstitched with the Ruby Royale and then the background of the pocket/label was trimmed down and hand-stitched to the back of the quilt. If you didn’t know that detail, you may not realize it unless you look closely. The busy backing is great camouflage for that kind of thing.

The completed pocket/label

Pocket/label is now stitched onto the back of the quilt

The pocket – a great place to put a note (or in this cases, pictures)

One more note about quilting designs

I frequently have discussions with customers about the style of quilting designs. Should it be overall or should it be custom. In this case, I did not want any of the elements to be highlighted and my inspiration of the vines would add to the feel that this was a brick wall.

The following series of pictures shows detail of the quilting over the various elements and you can see that not once does the quilting detract or interfere with the design elements.

Quilting on the bricks and mortar

Quilting on the embroidered poem

Quilting on the house

Quilting on the message on the back

Choosing the appropriate, and in this case, very neutral threads makes the quilting design part of the quilt. It adds to the total look and feel of the quilt, but doesn’t steal the show!

And there you have it. What an interesting project. I love a challenge and this one certainly was challenging. But I am very happy with the end result.

It was exciting to use the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale to make this quilt. The embroidery was easy regardless of the surface I worked on, the lettering was easy to select and everything was built into the Ruby Royale.

Tomorrow I am going to wrap up my adventure with the Ruby Royale with another embroidery project. Something I have wanted to try for a long time. Stay tuned for that.

Be inspired to add character to your quilts. I hope you enjoyed a tour of my 7 quilting design elements to add personality to your quilts. Ciao!

PS – Thanks Jen for letting me have the Gal quilt. I am sure I would have come up with something for the Guy, but I had fun working for the Gal.

Related posts

Machine embroidery in the hoop!

Machine quilting

Binding a Quilt


teri champion April 16, 2015 - 1:09 am
I love how you used the 7 elements so beautyfuly! I am a quilting newbie so I love your blog
Elaine Theriault April 16, 2015 - 5:39 am
Teri So glad you are enjoying the blog. There is loads of stuff on the blog and lots more coming. Stay tuned and thanks for following us. Elaine
Elaine Morton April 15, 2015 - 4:58 am
What a fantastic design course in reading your process.
Elaine Theriault April 16, 2015 - 5:40 am
Thanks Elaine. There is always lots to learn and while you recover, you can dream up lots of designs. Elaine T
Cindy Hanrahan April 14, 2015 - 2:49 pm
I really liked your use of a pocket from a pair of old jeans. I think it's a great idea to add a pocket to a quilt; even if made out of matching material, it can be used to keep small patches of the quilt fabric in case of the need for future repairs. Thank you!
Carla A. Canonico April 15, 2015 - 2:25 pm
I'm so glad to hear you liked the idea of the pocket. I thought the jean material worked really well with the overall look of both quilts quilted for the challenge. The jean material is sturdier and will take all the wear and tear of storing things like a pocket book, glasses, cell phone, iPod, earbuds and so on. And a chocolate bar too?!?!
Linda Pierce April 9, 2015 - 5:27 pm
I love the postcards. So many projects come to mind
Mary Van Dijk April 9, 2015 - 4:41 pm
I love your tags.....I must make some for myself. Do you have a tutorial for them?
Elaine Theriault April 16, 2015 - 5:43 am
Mary - thanks. The little tags are so much fun and so easy to customize. Check out this link for a tutorial on how to make them. https://quiltsocial.com/embroidery-stitches-lets-get-fancy/ Elaine
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