Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fall Table Topper: By Hand and Machine

This summer, I slipped into unprecedented territory: handwork. I LOVE machine quilting and will never tire of its wonders, but there's just... something about handwork (hand quilting, stitching, embroidery, cross stitch, knitting, etc.). I've developed a penchant for small, portable projects, and this, my second sashiko project, was made just for the sake of making. It was meditative. It was needed.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I have slight problems using brown fabric (yes, and now you're laughing - I even bound it in brown! What?!). Well, when I saw this maple leaf pattern at Easy Piecing's booth at Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, I saw its potential with orange sashiko thread. In the midst of easily stitching along the pre-printed blue lines, I decided to add random pops of yellow thread in at the end. I used what I had on hand - some DMC floss. This was the perfect seasonal project to stitch in the early part of fall while I settled into the season.

Once the hand stitching was done, the piece just didn't feel large enough to hold its own (I can't help but "go big or go home" for sewing projects). So, I pulled out my autumnal solid fabrics and Oakshott shot cottons to create a color cascade in the border.

 I decided to quilt the whole thing up with simple spirals that slightly contrasted each solid color. The marriage of shiny shot cottons and Aurifil threads is so pretty to see in person! I used 50 weight threads 2850 (sage green), 2870 (green), 2140 (gold), 1135 (yellow), 2250 (red), 2460 (burgundy), 2240 (orange), and 1133 (light orange).

The middle, though, just didn't seem complete without more stitching, so I quilted some purposefully imperfect brown spirals (in Aurifil 4012) around the maple leaves, using my free motion foot. It feels like the perfect texture for the piece and for fall - in fact, this is my favorite part of the piece. It provides such definition to the sashiko stitching in the middle.

Oh, hi there! Here's a sewing selfie. Guess I was feeling cheeky that day.

 I backed this in a favorite, autumnal Anna Maria Horner print from Dowry ("Postage Due").

I always think: "well, maybe that will be too much quilting. Maybe I should just let it be." I should never think that, because I'm NEVER disappointed with *more* quilting! Everyone has a different style and I'm a quilting maximalist. With this project, I realized that a marriage between "big stitch" hand quilting or embroidery with thick thread, combined with thin machine quilting, is something I want to explore even more. So, stay tuned (hint - see below). And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans!



  1. Yeah, sometimes you just need to take a break from the machine and indulge in some hand stitching. It's calming for me and I feel more in control of the project. I love your combination of colors and techniques!

  2. Yeah, sometimes you just need to take a break from the machine and indulge in some hand stitching. It's calming for me and I feel more in control of the project. I love your combination of colors and techniques!

  3. I tend to shy away from browns, but this table topper is just lovely---especially with your extra stitching, Jess! It does take it just one step above the expected! So glad you added a splash of purple in there!

  4. The leaves are such a perfect hand quilting motif on the brown, and I love how the mini turned out. It's lovely, Jess.

  5. This is very very pretty Jess.
    Have a happy Thanksgiving with your peeps

  6. What a lovely surprise to see you smiling among your table topper pics! Your "Oh, hi there!" made me smile and giggle right back. Thank you! This table topper is beautiful--almost too pretty to actually use. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  7. Beautiful topper with beautiful hand stitching. Such autumn rich colors. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving :)

  8. This is really a very beautiful motif - and beautifully executed as well! I haven't commented on so many of your wonderful wholecloth posts (shame on me for that) but I'd still like to let you know that I really love them and you've actually got me thinking about making one myself (some time in the faaar future ;-) )

  9. I sure like your table topper. Doesn't it feel like the hand stitching time of year?

    1. Thank you Kathi! Oh yes, it does. Curl up with a quilt and a needle, and we're all set!

  10. Very pretty! I bought a sahiko panel to try and I am hoping that I might get to it over the winter holidays this year. Yours looks great, and the browns are a great fall touch!

  11. I absolutely adore this! The stitching is really beautiful and I love how you've used all the colours. The Sashiko design is really pretty!

  12. My favorite thing is that you combined just about any kind of stitch. Hand and machine, big and small stitches, outlined and organic. You've got it all in a very pretty little project that will always mean calm and quiet. Here's hoping you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  13. Hand stitching is just so relaxing, and it's great to have a portable project. I really like the way the quilting frames the sashiko leaves.


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