Quilting with Decorative Stitches

close up of quilting with decorative stitches - a series of circles

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Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

The Fish Quilt pattern is finished! I did the final quilting with decorative stitches that come standard on my sewing machine. More on that in a minute.

All week I’ve been sharing peeks behind the scenes at some of the design decisions I made for my sample quilt.

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks in a fun wavy pattern.

In this post I talked about choosing fabric – especially the color.

In this post I talked about how to work with the print/pattern of your fabric – using the example of the striped fabric I used for some of my fish.

Today I’m talking about the final quilting.

This is different from the waves I quilted into the background blocks. This is the final round of quilting – just over the seams joining the blocks – that holds the backing to the quilt.

Usually I do either straight line quilting 1/4″ on each side of all the seams, or a fairly open and narrow zigzag over the seams.

But sometimes I find a decorative stitch on my machine that will be perfect for a quilt – and that’s what I did for this one.

Doesn’t this look like bubbles?

close up of quilting with decorative stitches that look like a stream of bubbles

I used it for all the vertical seams, because streams of bubbles like this travel straight up. πŸ™‚

For the horizontal seams I used a small wavy stitch to echo the wavy quilting within each block.

Fish Quilt - wave quilting from Shiny Happy World

I used a variegated blue thread for both of them.

(For the Beep Beep quilt I did the final round of quilting with a decorative stitch that looked just like tire tracks. Perfect!)

Decorative stitches like the bubbly one CAN BE TRICKY – so I recommend doing some test stitching on a swatch to make sure it’s going to work for you.

The biggest problem is with stitches where the feed dogs move the quilt back and forth to achieve the stitch, instead of always steadily forward. It can be very hard to manage that back and forth motion with a large, heavy quilt in there!

Here’s where I went wrong on my quilt.

close-up of quilting with decorative stitches gone wrong

I didn’t have the quilt “fluffed” loose enough and it was hooked on the corner of my working surface. That was keeping it from feeding through properly, and you can see in the top of the photo where the stitches are all scrunched together and those bubbly circles are distorted and almost overlapping each other.

Instead of properly fixing the problem, I gave the quilt a tug – and ended up feeding the next section through too quickly, so that I made distorted wavy spirals instead of circles. πŸ™

Sigh. I really know better. I slowed down and “stuffed and fluffed” properly for the rest of the quilt and everything else looks great. πŸ™‚

Fish Quilt - bubble quilting from Shiny Happy World

(If you don’t know what I mean by “stuff and fluff” this post about quilting a full-sized quilt in a standard machine will explain.)

So – the moral of the story is. . .

It’s a lot of fun to use decorative stitching for the quilting, but only do it if you have the patience for it. If not (or if this is your first time machine quilting) use either a straight stitch, or a wide stitch that moves steadily forward, like a zigzag.

I hope some of you will share close-ups of your quilting in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group! It’s always so much fun to see what design decisions everyone else is making!

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can order the Sea Creatures quilt pattern (designed to combine with the Fish pattern) here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I chose my fish colors here.

You can read about how I worked with the striped prints here.

Happy quilting!

Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Best,
Wendi

Make Your Fabric Print Work FOR You in Applique

ing Fabric Print Wisely - applique fish showing using a striped fabric for the fins and tail

Some of the most common questions I get are about choosing fabric for a quilt. People often want to know how to choose colors that go together, but I also get questions about how to choose the right print.

Usually I make things really easy on myself by choosing a tone-on-tone print or blender. These work GREAT for applique, because the fabrics read as a solid (making it easy to “see” each shape distinctly), but they have texture from the print (making your finished block more interesting).

A lot of times a high-contrast print fights against your applique, because you tend to see all the shapes within the fabric more than you see the shape that you’ve cut the fabric into.

But sometimes we can use that tendency to our advantage and make a high-contrast print work for us.

I’m using examples from the Fish quilt pattern – but this applies to choosing and using your fabric print for any quilt. Here’s just one example of a block from the Wild Flowers quilt pattern that uses stripes really well. Having smaller vertical stripes in that top section suggests the stamens of a flower.

red and white applique tulip - showing how to make the fabric print (stripes) do extra duty for you

So – back to the fish. In addition to the crosshatch and tiny polkadots prints I used from the Rainbow Brights fabric bundle, I also used the Little Stripes fabric bundle. It’s those stripes I want to focus on today.

When you’re working with stripes, you really want to pay attention to the way you position the applique pieces. I actually do that with all kinds of fabrics. See how the crosshatching on Gerald’s body runs at an angle, and on the spot and his tail it runs straight up and down?

Yellow fish on a blue background - Fish Quilt - Gerald - from Shiny Happy World

I actually did that on purpose, but most people don’t even notice it.

That’s not the case with bolder patterns like stripes. You really have to think about how those stripes will run.

On Hank here I made the stripes run horizontally.

Striped yellow fish on a blue background - one block from the Fish applique quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

On Charlie I chose vertically.

Striped green fish on a blue background - one block from the Fish applique quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

You could use striped fabric on some fish and skip the smaller applique stripes, Like Louis here.

Striped turquoise fish on a blue background - one block from the Fish applique quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

If you wanted to simplify that fish, just skip the purple applique stripes and use a striped fabric set vertically for his body. Easy peasy!

On Angelina I used the stripes to mimic the way a lot of fins have ribs in them, and how the angle of the ribs change – kind of sweeping back as the fish moves through the water.

pretty pink fish on a blue background - one block from the Fish applique quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World - showing how to use fabric print effectively

In both of her fins, the stripes are parallel with the front edge of the fin.

I fully admit that that last example may be overthinking things a bit. πŸ™‚

But I do stand by the notion that when your fabric print is bold, you need to put some thought into how you use it in your applique.

This post is part of a series specifically about working with the Fish pattern. Here are the rest. . .

And here are some more posts about color and choosing fabrics. . .

Happy stitching!

Fish Quilt Step 2 – Choosing Fabric

Fish Quilt - Dan - from Shiny Happy World

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

The Fish Quilt pattern is finished!

In this post I showed how I quilted my background blocks.

Today I’m talking about fabrics. What color will your fish be?

I opted for the brilliant colors you see in a coral reef. Think bright, bright, BRIGHT!

Fish Quilt - Gerald - from Shiny Happy World

I used two different fat quarter bundles for my fish. Most of the colors come from the Rainbow Brights fat quarter bundles.

That bundle has a darker and lighter shade of each color in the rainbow. That allows me to combine the light and dark for contrast in one fish, like this. . .

Isabella is made with the two shades of green in that bundle.

For a little extra contrast, I also added the Little Stripes fat quarter bundle. I love stripes so much!

Even though the fabrics in the two bundles come from different companies, I picked them so that the colors would still work really well together. πŸ™‚

If I was making this for myself – and not as the sample quilt for a pattern – I probably would have also included fabrics from the Dots fat quarter bundle.

Dots Fat Quarter Bundle from Shiny Happy World

Those irregular dots and the crosshatch background would have added another nice texture to the fish – and the colors coordinate well with the other two bundles.

But I try to keep the numbers of fabrics I use in my samples to a minimum because I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to buy a TON of different fabrics to make the quilt work. Fabric is expensive! But if you have some Dots left over from making a Dinosaurs quilt – add them into the mix!

But what if you don’t want to make brightly colored tropical fish? What if you want to make fish that look like what you can pull out of any freshwater lake or stream?

For you I recommend the Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle.

Warm Neutrals fat quarter bundle - from Shiny Happy World

That will give you fish that look trout-tish and bass-ish and perch-ish.

(All of my fish are Ish Fish. The only fish in the quilt that really looks like a very specific type is the angler fish – and even on him I eliminated the exceedingly-scary-looking-very-sharp teeth.)

Which brings me to my final topic while we’re talking about color.

Camouflage.

I designed most of the blocks so there would be a very high contrast between the fish and the background water. I really wanted those fish to pop!

But I made a few be lower contrast. Angler fish (mine is named Kevin) have a very dull, practically invisible body so that all you really see is that glowing lure. I tried to sort of duplicate that (without making him too invisible) by making his body and the background the same darkness of fabric. You can see that really clearly when I switch his photo to black and white.

I added the lighter purple fin to help you spot him a bit, but you could go all dark for a more hidden fish lurking down there.

I chose purple on the blue because they’re in the same color family – both cool – so there’s even less contrast.

(If you want to read more about my normal “rules” for choosing applique fabrics (which I break here for Kevin) check out this post.

So Kevin is the lowest contrast, and most of the blocks are very high contrast, but I added in just a couple of low-ish contrast blocks to help make the overall quilt mimic a bit the look of a school of tropical fish – where some really stand out and some are less noticeable. Like this block where the lighter purple fish blend a bit with the lighter dapples in the background.

These guys appear in another block where they have higher contrast, so it’s only this pair who tend to recede into the background just a bit.

So there you go! That’s how I chose the colors for my fish. I can’t wait to see what you all do! I hope you’ll post photos as you go in the Shiny Happy People Facebook group. It’s awesome to see samples with different fabric choices!

You can order the Fish Quilt pattern here.

You can read about how I quilted my background blocks here.

You can read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

You can read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

Fish Quilt Step 1 – Quilting the Background Blocks

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks

Want to learn how to make a quilt with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Let’s Make a Quilt here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to make a quilt from start to finish using Quilt As You Go and applique with fusible adhesive.

It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

The Fish quilt pattern is finished (you can get it here) and I’m sharing some of the behind-the-scenes design decisions I made for my sample quilt.

Today – quilting the background blocks!

I used fabrics from my Blue Batiks bundle and cut all my blocks and batting pieces 11 inches square. They’ll be trimmed down to 10 1/2″ square so that gives me a bit of wiggle room. You can cut yours a little bigger if you like more room for error. πŸ™‚

I usually do different quilting in each block, but for this quilt I decided to use a double wavy line for every block. It gives a nice watery/wavy look that’s perfect for the fish.

Fish Quilt Step 1 - Quilting Your Background Blocks - sample block

You can see how I quilt those wavy lines (no marking!) in this video.

One other change for this quilt is in my choice of quilting thread. I usually match the thread pretty closely to the background fabric, but this time I wanted those waves to stand out a bit more. I chose thread with a little bit of contrast – either darker or lighter blue, and sometimes veering into a blue-green.

Here’s one with slightly lighter thread.

And here’s one with slightly darker thread.And here’s one with some blueish green thread.

It’s subtle – but I like how it adds to the dapply, watery effect.

Read all about choosing colors for your fish here.

Read about how I worked with the print of the fabric here.

Read about how I did my final quilting (bubbles!) here.

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World