Important Principles for Choosing a Long Arm Top Stitch
HOW DID THIS OBSESSION BEGIN?
Nearly a decade ago (it blows my mind to realize that!) I began my adventure with computer-aided stitching machines with digital embroidery progressing to long arm machining. My leap into long arm quilting and designing stitches for quilts heavily relied on all the knowledge I had acquired through professional digital embroidery work for clients. A core principle in the design stage is always your level of stitch density in relation to the material you are embroidering on. For example, a very dense area of stitching on a regular weight cotton is not a good pairing of desired stitch density and material because the stitching would create this hardened area that would deform the fabric. If it was to be a hanging piece of embroidery art it would need to be designed for the drape of the material to fall nicely and the layering of stitch density adjusted accordingly. I go into all this because there is a drape to a quilt and an importance to the density of the top stitch pattern over the surface of the quilt.
THE DRAPE OF A QUILT
How do you want your quilt to feel? A quilt is an experience for the user and it is something that most of us think about as we assemble on the pieces for the quilt top. When you wrap yourself in the quilt, should it feel cushy and soft almost like a comforter experience or more structured like the way wrapping yourself in a blanket feels like? This question helps you decide on batting too, because if you like a high loft that has very raised areas of texture, it is good to choose a top stitch that has a certain amount of width in between your areas of stitching. For example on a quilt I did recently, the client really wanted a very soft, lofty feel to the quilt for her daughter, so I used a very high loft batting and spread out the stitching of the Tangle design so there was about 3 inches of width in between the areas of stitching.
All the designs in our library are prepared so that the quilt wraps or drapes nicely. Often beginners at long arm stitching go too tight and dense in their designs because they get tunnel vision on the area they are designing for and are not taking into account the composition as a whole. One of the good things about Edge to Edge designs in particular is that they tend to very evenly address the surface of the quilt. It is not very often that I get a special request from a client for a specific feel to the quilt but every quilt we handle and long arm is stitched for maximum comfort.
White on white quilts are one of the easiest ways to see how texture is an important design consideration. The top stitching can create a sculptural texture to the top of the quilt. The top stitch and level of loft to your batting can be a big design element to consider. We are always happy to talk with our clients about what the best top stitch design might be for their quilt top. We get emails with images of the quilt tops and through email exchange or phone calls go through what the best designs out of our library might be and sometimes it leads to a new design in the library! If someone has made a quilt that is very busy with alot of pattern and piecing, it is sometimes best to do a very simple top stitch because there is already so much visually going on with the look of the quilt. There is a big reason for a modern quilt with alot of solid colored fabrics pieced together to be paired with a more texture creating top stitch to add even more visual interest to the quilt top. The image below of a design by Nicole Daksiewicz and available for purchase on modernhandcraft.com is a great example of top stitch and design working in unison.
I hope this discussion is helpful and maybe poses some new questions for you to consider with your next quilt top. Whether you are ready to leap into one of our membership level subscription plans for your top stitching or want to work with us one quilt at a time, we are happy to work with you and are always inspired by all the beauty quilters bring into the world! We always promise one flat rate with batting, thread and return shipping included. Members also enjoy custom embroidered labels for all their quilts!
Keep quilting and sending us your quilt tops!!