Has trend toward heavy quilting gone too far?
Quilt artist Ann Fahl of Racine, Wis., admires free-motion machine quilting so much that she has written two books about it.
Yet, she’s come to the conclusion that too many of today’s quilters — herself included — are taking this overabundance of thread too far.
Perhaps we all need to take a step back, she says, consider our designs and determine exactly how much stitching is appropriate on them.
This idea of finding the right balance came to Fahl this past summer after she attended a national juried and judged quilt show. Disappointed with many of the entries, she noticed the judges awarded ribbons to the quilts with the heaviest stitching on them — despite the quality or appropriateness of those stitches to the overall piece.
What is going on, she wondered.
“I felt my visual aesthetic was no longer in sync with the quilt world,” Fahl says.
She went home and wrote about her observations and misgivings on her blog, annfahl.blogspot.com. Fahl definitely touched a thread nerve, because the online comments poured in at a rate she’d never seen before. Her readers agreed with her.
Our high-tech sewing machine may allow us to put massive amounts of stitching on our quilts, but that doesn’t mean we should, Fahl advises.
“Let’s slow down a bit, take a look, and perhaps rethink what we’ve done in the past,” she says. “And lighten up a bit on what we are quilting now.”
Fahl’s words gave me pause, as I was in the midst of machine quilting an appliqued table runner. I decided the background stitching I’d already done was sufficient, so I left the interior of two large bears and tall trees free of decorative thread. So now it’s finished, and I am happy with the overall effect.
Most of us quilters admire machine quilting that’s beautifully executed, and we’re always looking to improve our own skills.
For Fahl, who began sewing at age 12 and has been teaching quilting since 1981, watching the texture and patterns develop on the surface of her work is the most rewarding part of free-motion quilting.
Her books are “Coloring With Thread” and “Dancing With Thread,” the latter published this year with C&T Publishing.
She says a beginning quilt class in 1978 changed her life. Now she travels around the United States teaching other quilters. Her quilts have won awards and are exhibited in various public and private collections.
Fahl will bring some of her quilts to Grand Junction this week for two Wednesday presentations at local quilt guilds.
At a 9 a.m. meeting of Sunset Slope Quilters at the American Lutheran Church, she’ll lecture on “Quilts and Inspiration.”
Fahl will speak on another topic, “It’s in the Details,” at a 7 p.m. meeting of the Colorado West Quilters’ Guild at First Christian Church.
She’ll also teach a class Thursday on “Beaded Landscapes” for both guilds.
Check out her online gallery of art quilts at http://www.annfahl.com. You’ll notice her designs are fused and free-motion embroidered over patchwork backgrounds. Flowers are a predominant theme.
Remember her words of wisdom, as I will along my own quilting journey:
“We must balance the quilt top design with the stitching of the layers.”