So now that we know about overall/edge-to-edge quilting, (you can read my first post on that here) what exactly is custom quilting? Custom is any type of design that does NOT completely cover the quilt top with one pattern. There are actually different levels of custom quilting. I sometimes break them down into simple custom, basic custom, full custom, and heirloom. (Other quilters may have different terminology.)
The distinctions between levels is not clear cut. The simplest form (simple) is an overall design in the body of the quilt, with a separate design in the border. But just as there is a wide variety of quilt tops, there are also many variations of custom quilting. Each time an additional treatment is added to a quilt, it adds time, complexity and cost. (A ‘treatment’ is each differing design, border, sashing, stippling around applique, etc.)
So if a quilt is made of 60 blocks, but they are all the same, I might only need to decide on one block design, one sashing design, and one border design. Another quilt may have only 30 blocks but they are all different. Now much more time needs to be spent on how to quilt each of the blocks. Therefore the first quilt might be simple custom (only 3 treatments), while the second quilt would be full custom.
A word about stitch-in-the-ditch (SID). Many customers come to me and say “Do something simple like SID”. When you are quilting on your regular sit down sewing machine, SID is fairly easy, as you have feed dogs to guide the quilt sandwich and pull it evenly through the machine. However, on a longarm machine it is quite different. Not only do we not have feed dogs, but we are ‘driving’ the machine around on the fabric, rather than pushing the fabric through the machine. It is very difficult to move the machine perfectly along the (hopefully ;-)) straight line of the ‘ditch’. Most longarmers actually use an acrylic ruler to help guide the machine in that straight line (or along the twisty windy path around an applique design), and slow down considerably. So SID and other types of straight-line quilting are technically more difficult and slower than other types of LA quilting. For this reason, some longarmers do not offer it, or if they do they must charge a premium price for it. I actually like doing ruler work, and if you’ve seen the custom quilting I do, I often combine straight lines with other treatments. I love the way it looks, but it is time consuming, so it does cost more than other types of treatments.
Heirloom quilting is the top-of-the-line show quilt stuff. I could quilt two identical tops with feathers, but one could be full custom and the other could be heirloom. What’s the difference? On a full custom quilt my feathers would be more freeform random feathers that are not necessarily symmetrical or identical. Background fills would be medium to small sized. There would be some SID to separate perhaps the body of the quilt from the borders, but no extensive SID or ruler work.
Quilt B (heirloom), would have more formal feathers, usually using marked designs to keep them looking alike. Background fills would be smaller, there would be more SID, and many of the designs would require measuring and math to be sure they are spaced evenly.
I also try to come up with unique designs to fit the top – for instance once I had a quilt with a fleur-de-lis design in the fabric, and I repeated that design in open areas of the quilt. Which means I often custom design a motif just for that quilt.
Now that you know about some different types of quilting, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself in order to determine which type is right for your quilt. I’ll cover those questions in my next blog post. To be sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to my blog for future updates (on the upper right of this webpage, or below if you’re on a mobile device). You can also “Like” my page on Facebook. And feel free to share my site with your friends!
Part 3 of this article has been posted here