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Divide and Conquer Quilting – Part 1

Posted: 10 November 2015 at 6 a.m.

Swan Sheridan

Guest blog:  Swan Amity Sheridan shares how to simplify quilting with the “Divide and Conquer” technique.  This is part one of two. (Part two here).

Hooray!  Your latest masterpiece quilt top is finished and you are ready to baste and quilt!  This is the stage at which so many of us (even the most active quilters) say “Now what?”  Often the hardest part of determining how to quilt a project is creating a plan that allows us to move easily through the quilt with the least resistance.  With these simple organizational techniques, this process can be made not only easier, but infinitely more rewarding.  

Swan Sheridan

Let’s start with an applique project, though Divide and Conquer Quilting techniques can easily apply to any quilt.  The quilt top has been pin basted and the thread choice is underway.

Step 1

With an applique project, it’s best to begin by ditching the edge of the applique pieces to help them pop out.  Thread selections for this portion are best made to closely color match the color behind the applique pieces.  This might require several thread changes.  In this case, I have chosen multiple colors from Super Threads’ MasterPiece collection.  The threads are #50 to help get nice and close to the applique edge without interfering with the appeal of the applique pieces.

Swan Sheridan

Working from the center outward, start by ditching the pieces that are most behind other pieces (usually the first pieces that were appliqued into position), working towards the topmost pieces.  Using a self-threading needle, bury threads as you go, passing the buried tails through previously quilted lines to ensure that they hold.

Swan Sheridan

Finish ditching the applique by outlining the whole image.  For this portion, I choose a thread color that will match my background fabric. 

Step 2 

Create a plan to divide the area of the background into manageable areas.  In most cases, this will be the only marking necessary for this quilting method.  My vision for this quilt was to add movement of light to the background, so I have divided the background into “rays of light” all coming from one direction.  My thread goals have also changed and now I am looking for a stronger visual impact. For the remaining quilting, I will be using King Tut cotton thread from Superior Threads.  The heavier #40 thread and the variegated dye-pattern produce powerful results.

Swan Sheridan

Return tomorrow to see the next steps in Swan's tutorial!

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  • 3. Margaret Terry (11 November 2015 at 6:06 a.m.)

    Thanks for the tips. I never thought of hand-appliqueing in the ditch around the pieces - great thought.
  • 2. Tina (10 November 2015 at 8:07 p.m.)

    Thank you. Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed when I first start a quilt.
  • 1. Cozette (10 November 2015 at 11:30 a.m.)

    Very interesting and helpful. Thank you.

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