Auditioning Stitches

I started this quilt two years ago.

sea glass quilt half

I used mostly pre-cut batik strips.

I saw it in McCall’s Quick Quilts magazine, June/July 2010.  It was titled “Sea Glass.”

I am at the point where all the blocks are together, and basted to the batting and backing.  Time to choose the quilting pattern.  Normally,  I have been a minimalist – a stitch-in-the-ditch, straight line kind of a girl.  I love beautiful quilting, but I am always lured away to piece the next design that’s been floating around in my head.

When I first saw this pattern, it seemed very serene to me, but now, it feels dangerously boring.  Straight lines will kill it.  I think it needs some intricate quilting that crosses from the white squares to the colored strips and back, to unify it and give it a little life.  I have practiced free motion quilting and there are two stitch possibilities I’m considering, a spiral and a river pebble design.

stitch spiral

spiral pattern in pastel multi-color thread

stitch based on pebbles

free motion stitching based on pebbles

But I don’t know which will look best, and I can’t visualize my color choices – should I use white thread to quilt, thereby toning down all the colors?  Or a colored thread, to enliven the white sections?  If I do use a color, what color would look best?  Pastel multi-color?  Blue?  Purple?

To figure it out, I turned to my photo editing program.  I drew some spirals and pebbles on old plastic sheet protectors, scanned them in, and deleted sections until I had just the lines on transparent backgrounds.   I have since learned that it is easier to create a new file in Photoshop with a transparent background, and draw the lines with the pencil tool, and then save the whole thing as a TIFF file.  That file will save with a clear background instead of defaulting to a white background, and then you can use that file as a layer over any photo to see how the stitches will look.

pebble line drawing

my line drawing of pebbles

pebble group

I built up groups of pebbles with copy and paste.

I used the adjustment layer tool to vary the colors and brightness of the lines.  Then I took a plain photo of the quilt –

quilt blocks

the quilt blocks before virtual stitching

and layered some of the options over top of it, to see what the stitches would look like.

quilt blocks with pebble overlay

quilt blocks with pebble overlay in blue

quilt blocks with purple

quilt blocks with pebble overlay in purple

quilt blocks with white overlay

the spiral pattern in white

quilt blocks with multi

spiral stitch overlay in multi-color

With just a few clicks, I can try out lots of different colors, patterns, and scales of stitches.  I’m going to print them all out and consider them for a while before I start working on the actual quilt.

And of course the low tech way to do it is to just draw on the transparencies and then lay them over the quilt, but I think I get a better feel for the look of the stitching by reducing the pattern and repeating it all over the quilt.