New Technique for the Novice Art Quilter

Guest Blog by Jaci Lawson

If you are an aspiring art quilter who wants to make awesome quilts now and not five years from now, this pattern is for you. With basic sewing skills and some time spent free motion quilting basic patterns such as meandering, you can begin making art quilts today. I have been creating winning art quilts for several years, and I did not learn to quilt at my grandmother’s knee nor spend the last 20 years perfecting the art. I started quilting in 2009 when our youngest daughter went to college. My husband still had his sports: hunting, fishing, bowling, ice fishing, snow-mobiling. You get the picture. I was at home by myself and decided, “Lady, you got to get a life, a new life!”

I decided to take a class and found several local quilt shops had evening classes or clubs making “blocks of the month,” whatever that was, and signed myself up. It was fun and there were people to talk to so I kept going. I even bought extra feet for my sewing machine. It had never had a “quarter inch foot” or “quilting foot” or “walking foot.” It had never made a quilt before, and neither had I. The turning point for me was when the owner of the quilt shop mentioned a guild meeting. I did not know what it was, but if there were people there, I would give it a try. Then one night members displayed small wall hangings they had created. There was a quilt of a dog that looked like a real dog. It was gorgeous. There were no squares, triangles, or prints. It was batiks all the way, and I loved it. I could not wait to see who had made it. I rushed that lady like a sorority pledge as soon as they announced her name. I practically begged her to teach me how to do it, and what was it anyway? My love of art quilts was born.

My design technique Zen-linking grew out of my love for Zentangles (created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas) and Ink-lique’ stitching and inking (developed by Sherry Rogers- Harrison). Zentangles are small, stylized graphic doodling patterns and Ink-lique’ is quilted thread outlines filled with color to make geometric or other stylized designs. I created Zen- linking when our guild challenge included zen quilting, Zen-Linking is free motion quilting on a smaller scale using easy (yes, easy) step-by-step designs that build up to an interesting pattern when multiple designs are used in a sampler style piece. By using thread color matched to the inked channel, the quilter can “link” the rows of quilting design by scooting in and out of the channels and once it is inked, those quilting links are invisible.

I won the challenge with my Suntangle quilt. I was very pleased with my design and zen quilting. Some of the other entrants complained about how hard they had worked on their zen quilting and how disappointed they were with their results. These ladies had made some lovely quilting pieces, but from across the room or even from a few feet away, the composition was unremarkable. Until I got up close enough to see the stitching, the beauty was a blur.

A great art quilt has two basic requirements. First, it has to look good hanging on a wall across the room. It is art. People are going to look at it and it has to be beautiful from wherever they are in the room. Even an abstract shape has to have form and contrast. A big blob of quilting, no matter how well done, is not going to make beautiful art from across the room. With my Zen-linking technique, the inked outline gives the piece shape, color, and clarity.

The second requirement for a great art quilt is for it to be interesting up close. If you see it across the room and walk towards it, you want to see something else, something more. The zen quilting technique in this workshop creates the intriguing details that will emerge in the quilt as one gets closer and closer to the fabric. They provide interest, texture, shading, and color because of the small-tovery-small-scale quilting.

While it truly isn’t any harder to quilt small scale than large scale, it looks much better. These details make you and your project look good. They are not difficult to learn because each quilting motif is just a series of simple steps even a novice art quilter can master quickly. Yes, quickly. After all, I did say this quilt technique is for novice art quilters who want to make beautiful art quilts now – not five years from now!

When I asked experienced quilters who were quilting gorgeous free motion motifs and patterns their secret to creating beautiful quilting, I heard the same things. “Practice makes perfect.” “There is no substitute for practice.” “Just keep at it, you’ll get better.” At a recent trunk show, a vendor was selling a length of fabric with free motion designs on it – for practice. If that were not depressing enough–who wants to spend hours working on a piece that will never BE anything?–she was also selling water soluble thread! You wash it out after you sew on the lines and practice some more!

Using Walking Foot to Outline Design

If I were any good at practicing, they would not have kicked me out of band practice! When I sew and sew and sew, I want to have something to show when I am done. If you want to be an art quilter, you want to make art quilts now! (Maybe you should have skipped this blog – you could be quilting already!)


Follow this link to purchase Jaci Lawson’s Christmas Tree Zen-linking Pattern and learn this fun new technique today.

Happy Quilting!

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