Quilting Bright Sisters

a close up of a quilt top that has been partly pin basted
Pin basting

Nearly two years after finishing the quilt top, I’m finally hip-deep in quilting Bright Sisters. This is my version of the Color Block Quilt designed by Carl Hentsch of 3 Dog Designs, which I first saw on an episode of The Midnight Quilt Show. It was love at first sight. I couldn’t wait to make the quilt and I had a blast piecing it. Plus I learned a lot along the way.

When I completed the top, I didn’t feel ready to quilt it. I hadn’t quite gotten comfortable with free-motion work, I was planning a move from California to Seattle, and I was terrified of “ruining” the quilt with unskilled stitching. So I folded the quilt carefully and placed it inside a clean pillowcase for safekeeping. I did want the quilting to be something special, so in the meantime I planned an involved and challenging design for it.

a photo of a quilt with drawn lines over it to show where the quilter plans to quilt it
My drawing of the original quilting plan. Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

I spent a lot of this year (2019) practicing my free-motion quilting, and I finally felt like I could tackle this baby. Before I could do anything, it needed a good pressing and a thread or two trimmed on the back.

a pile of colorful clipped threads in an open wooden box
Just a couple of threads needed to be clipped on the back.

After layering and pin-basting it I was ready to go. Oh, and by the way, you can measure twice and still cut wrong, in case anyone ever asks. Luckily I had some extra batting lying around.

I wanted the quilting to be very dense and to enhance different parts of the quilt design. I also wanted to match the top thread to the fabrics so it would blend in and hide any not-so-perfect parts. I planned to work from the center out, so I began by looking at my original quilting design for the inside of the center circle (see above). It didn’t really grab me this time around so I consulted some quilt design books and started doodling other patterns.

I came up with a feathered one that I really like. Before starting on the quilt itself, I made up some practice blocks and took a few runs at it. The fourth attempt came out pretty well:

a practice block with blue thread on black fabric showing a feathery "S" shape
My fourth practice attempt for the center circle design.

So I took my courage in both hands and quilted the center circle. It was while working on this design that I finally grokked how to quilt bump-back feathers. Now I can’t get enough of them.

a single quilted circle showing a feathery "S" shape
This was the moment when bump-back feathers finally truly clicked for me. Yay!

I continued to work my way out from the center. Before each new color, I spent some time looking at my original plan and re-drawing it using my iPad until I came up with something I liked and was confident I could quilt.

close up of part of a quilt showing a feathery "S" shape
The areas around the center circle
a close up of a quilt showing swirls and feathers
Look! More feathers!
a close up of the center of the quilt showing different quilting designs
The center part of the quilt
quilted texture on a blue quilt back
The center as seen on the back of the quilt
a close up of quilting showing swirls, feathers, and lines
Moving farther out from the center
a quilt and a sewing machine showing a portion of the quilt
The orange circles have a very touchable texture

I’m working my way out toward the edges now, and nearly finished with the yellow and lime square-in-a-square that you see in the photo above. I’m planning more feathers for the dark green circles and I can’t wait to get to those. I’m doing minimal marking as I go, so it’s moving along quickly. More soon!

The previous post in this series was Bright Sisters: Ready to Sandwich. Next up will be more detail on quilting the lemon-lime squares. (Hint: More feathers!)

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa J. says:

    This is such a beautiful quilt and your quilting is outstanding. Great job

    1. Rachel says:

      Thank you, Lisa!

  2. Carleen Brigley says:


    1. Rachel says:

      Thank you, Carleen!

  3. Sonja says:

    I am so excited! This is beautiful! I can’t believe how many practice runs are needed to perfect your art. You’re so patient. Writing a book is so much easier—copy, paste, delete, undo.

    This was my favorite line from the post: “Oh, and by the way, you can measure twice and still cut wrong, in case anyone ever asks.” 😀

    1. Rachel says:

      I’m really glad you like it. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted the “undo” button on my sewing machine. No such luck.

      The wrong cut was so funny — I folded the batting wrong and ended up cutting it in half when I shouldn’t have. I used it for another project and swapped in a piece I was planning to use for another quilt in progress. After I stamped my feet and used bad language, of course 🙂

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