I can hardly believe it's been almost two years since we visited the wagon wheels quilt here on the blog. At that time, I thought I was in the home stretch but it seems the finish line was further off than I anticipated. In the meantime, it's been quilted, bound and neatly folded, nagging at me to make some decision about the intended embroidery I wanted to add before hanging it on the still-blank wall over my buffet in the dining room. Yesterday I took the plunge.
If you remember, I had always intended to embellish the quilt with stitchery, but had been confused about the sequencing since most crazy quilts were not actually quilted. I asked for your thoughts in my The Chicken or the Egg? post way back when and got lots of opinions, mostly "Don't add embroidery". That was never an option as I had been inspired to make this by three antique quilts in the 'Going West' exhibit at the Renwick ~ all embellished with surface stitchery. A while ago, I dug out this early test block (above) which was perfect for fooling around on before jumping into the real piece and it yielded some good information. First, that I didn't want to use #8 perle cotton, my original intention. It was too fine. And second, it gave me a visual reference for the scale of stitch that I needed.
On to the actual quilt! First, I found some red #5 perle cotton, thicker than the more popular #8. It comes in a hank vs. the little round cones of the finer thread. Using a sharp embroidery needle, I tentatively started stitching, carefully guiding the needle in-between the quilted layers.
Here is a very important point ~ I pondered how this would work for many months. Ok, years. Even worried! I didn't want the embroidery stitches to show on the back. And why would that have mattered, really? But within 2 minutes of actual stitching, it was apparent the problem was always only in my head (like so many). Lesson, with a nod to Nike: Just do it!!
Having worked out the stitching details, I knew that I wanted the embellishment to be a bit bolder. Poring over crazy quilt photos in several reference books, I decided on a wavy outline on some of the wheels so I freehand-sketched until I worked out a rough circular template the size of my wagon wheels.
Tracing this, I'll be able to use it as a general guideline for numerous stitch patterns. I intentionally chose not to line up the curves with the spokes of the wheel. In fact, the number of curves is fewer than the spokes so that the embroidery, while neatly distributed around the outer edge, will retain a folky look. (You'll see what I mean later...)
I usually use a Prismacolor colored pencil sharpened to a fine point for such marking. Last summer, however, I had read about these Sewline Fabric Pencils on someone's blog and I had picked one up. (And stuck it in a drawer. I'm surprised I remembered it!) My choice of white lead turned out to be perfect for this project ~ highly recommend!! I traced the template onto one of the wheels, chose a stitch - buttonhole - and dove in.
Omigosh, what was I waiting for?!! This is so much fun and exactly what I had in mind for this quilt.
This particular version of meandering buttonhole has to be worked in two parts, because of the way the design flips up and down.
As I finished each little section, I just scooted the thread between the quilted layers to start the next section. Even with relatively tightly quilted areas, it was no problem to keep the thread from showing on the back.
I was up at 6:30 this morning, stitching away in my pajamas to finish this block. Love, love, love!
Now, on to the next block. And it won't be another few years!