How Hand and Machine Embroidery Affect Your Quilt Design

We're just a week away from the deadline of our current reader challenge, "From Sketch to Art Quilt," and I can't wait to see the results from our talented readers. (You still have time to submit!)

squirrel quilt with machine embroidery
"Squirrely Treasures" by Cami A. Weaver

I entered my first reader challenge in the Spring of 2005 and was absolutely thrilled to see the postcard featuring my son's smiling face, interpreted in fabric and embroidery, peeking back at me when I opened the magazine. Having the Challenge galleries in every issue is a commitment we make to our readers. We want to encourage you to participate and feel that excitement as you see your work in print.
The reader challenge results galleries have always been one of my favorite parts of Quilting Arts Magazine. It's always so interesting to see how each artist approches the same challenge parameters from an entirely different perspective.

For example, while reading the rules for the recent "Time Flies" challenge, I my thoughts immediately turned to how fast my children have grown. A lot of the other challenge participants expressed those feelings too, but others interpreted the challenge quite differently.

One depicted airborne calendar pages, several immortalized the face of a clock, and others transferred photos of themselves as youthful athletes and blushing brides. (The results of this challenge will be in our April/May 2012 issue.)

I also like to see all the different techniques the quilt artists use to bring their design to life. I'm particularly drawn to to their incorporation of embroidery techniques. I'm always interested in learning how our readers use hand embroidery or machine embroidery as part of their design.

For example, take these two quilts from the "Let Out Your Inner Animal" reader challenge in 2010.

Cami Weaver's "Squirrely Treasures" reveals that she is nutty for her fabric stash and squirrels away her fabrics for the perfect projects. Cami used free-motion machine embroidery to outline the acorn caps, add dimension to the tree branches, and "quilt" the squirrel's quilt. She made the squirrel look furry with carefully chosen thread colors and machine thread painting.

horse quilt with hand embroidery
Leilani Pierson's "Inner Animal" reader challenge quilt has machine and hand embroidery.

The quilt that faces Cami's in the magazine is by Leilani Pierson. But even though the focal point of both quilts is an animal and both artists use machine embroidery, Leilani's untitled quilt couldn't be more different.

Leilani used free-motion machine embroidery in white thread all over the piece. Then she emphasized the circles and added depth to the dark background around the horse with blue thread. Leilani also incorporated hand embroidery stitches to outline the horse. Hand stitching also punctuated the border, the circles, and added color and texture under the horse's feet.

Both of these quilts (and the others in the gallery) taught me something about how to use thread and embroidery stitches to bring out the best in my quilt designs.

In fact, whenever I need a solution to a quilting or design problem, I look through my back issues of Quilting Arts and zero in on the reader challenge art. The work of other quilters always inspires me!

P.S. Have you ever entered one of our reader challenges? Why or why not?

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Machine Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog, Reader Challenges

8 thoughts on “How Hand and Machine Embroidery Affect Your Quilt Design

  1. I’ve never entered a reader challenge. I want to…everytime I see one, but I have a hard time getting ideas that fit the challenge, I know I’m creative, I guess maybe I try too hard.

  2. I have not yet entered a reader challange. I want to. Just waiting for the right ONE?
    How cool would it be to see your work online or in the magazine? AWESOME!!!

  3. I have entered two, and I am ready to enter the “From Sketch to Artquilt.” My “Affirmative” quilt “Enjoy” was chosen for that challenge, and I am anxious to see it in print.. It is very exciting. By the way, I love the small size. I make quilts for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, and they are small, so it is right up my alley!

  4. I made a pet challenge but don’t know if my photos got there or were the correct pixels. I’m 73 and not very god with the computer. It would be nice if there were some way to know if what we submit was ever recieved.

  5. I have not entered any challenges for over five years. The ones I did enter did not turn out well. The remarks I received from the judges were discouraging at best, and mean at worse.

    I have to say that while I admire the works that I see in various challenges – I do not use a high end machine, or one with digital embroidery options, which I see many people use. I work in a more traditional style and it seems that most of the quilts that are submitted and chosen are more modern and abstract. So I don’t feel that my work would have a chance.

    In some ways I feel that being more a traditional quilter I am being “left behind” by fiber artists and those who work in mixed media. Not just on this forum, but on many others as well.