The Value of Detail Work

In the previous post I included a garden door in one of my quilts in progress.  One of the basics in my book is to illustrate with examples, the difference between what I call just the basics, and then what can happen with the addition of just a touch of basic hand embroidery.

In this photo you will notice that the door is appliqued (with the exception of the mortar between the stones).  This is the completion point for most quilters.  However, like a painting, it is necessary to look at this stage as only the background work.  Imagine the stones without the “mortar” embroidery.  Yuck! (that is a techncial term by the way).  Now some of you may think, “well I would applique the stones so they are touching each other”.  That would work ok, but you would also run into the problem of very little demarcation between the stones and the visual dimension would be lost.



What brings most art to life is  the details that enhance the basic ground work.  The smaller “brush strokes” that takes it to the next level of visual interest.  I won’t get into (for your benefit) a silly discussion on (this is where you tip your nose in the air) “A-R-T” and quilting.  Only that applying some basic art principles to our quilts can make such a huge difference in the final outcome.  No art degree required only your intuitive eye and a willingness to experiment with handwork.  A sidenote: Did you ever think that handwork in quilting would ever be considered working outside the box???, I never saw that coming.

Now here is the exact same door only finished off with some embroidery work.  The only stitches used are the plain old stem stitch, an (imprecise) satin stitch and a backstitch.  The threads?  DMC and 50 weight sewing thread for those finer details to keep the weight of the thread in scale with object.



I can already anticipate your next question….. “It looks like you painted around the outside edges of the stones?”  Actually no.  A VERY light hand with the side of a colored pencil, gently rubbed with a Q-Tip and then set with a color fixer (which really makes it permanent unlike simple heat fixing).  I am not a big fan of using too much paint etc.  After all we want our applique to be the star technique.  Quite honestly if I want to paint, I will grab a canvas.  All other techniques should be the supporting players.  A general rule of thumb is… If you are drawn to all the “stuff” going on on the surface and design of the quilt technique-wise (even if all are done well) then it is a bit like mixing all of the meal components on your plate and trying to determine what the main dish is and what to eat first (once you decipher what you are looking at).  The eye is on a huge sugar high trying to decide what to take in first.  It loves all of the goodies but is too wound up to see any coherent design.  A visual meltdown.

I hope this was a good example to inspire you to look at your applique with a different eye and to experiment with some “fine brush” techniques with embroidery and thread.


© 2009 Sandra Leichner