The Quilt Top Told Me

I couldn’t wait to start hand quilting the  vintage star top that I just re-made ( see post here  ) .

Remembered a piece of fabric I had that would be perfect for the backing and I had a wool batting waiting to be used so I got it basted and ready to go.

I always pin baste on the floor.   I start by pinning the backing fabric to the floor (you can use masking tape but I use push-pins) .  next I add the batting and smooth that out, then the top smooth again, then I add the safety pins.  I do not use a huge amount of pins, they are at least a foot apart.


You can see in the picture that the top is not even and square.   The reason for that is that I did not re make the borders.   I used wool batting because it is easy to quilt but also has a good loft which will help to fill in the bumps puckers in the top.

DSCN3169 (2)

Here, folded over the corner, is the backing which I purchased a few weeks ago….I intended to use it to back a much older top but it was too dark.


I think it works great with this top.   It is not a color match with any of the fabrics in the top but is a good coordinating color.

On to the quilting.  I have described how I select a quilting design in the past but often I don’t plan at all.   That was the case here.   I put the quilt in the hoop and I said “how do you want to be quilted?”.   This sounds crazy and I really didn’t say it out loud but I did ask the quilt how it wanted to be quilted.    The quilt told me “I’m not a fancy quilt so don’t get carried away”.  The quilt was right …it is a basic scrap quilt, the star it made up of lots of scraps all pieced together to make the diamonds, the fabric is very coarse, the border is very wonky, it is NOT a fancy quilt.   Elaborate quilting on this would look silly.   As Mammy said in Gone With the wind:

” we could give ourselves airs and get ourselves all rigged up and we were like race horses and we were just mules in horse harness and we didn’t fool anybody. “

So I’m not going to pretend this mule is a race horse.  A mule is a fine animal and this is a fine quilt.   So simple it is.

I went to the cupboard and took out a plastic bowl (this came from a healthy choice frozen dinner and I call them my fancy eatin dishes) to use as a guide


I used a pencil to draw the line around the bowl and then just did the inside arcs by eye.


I think it is going to look just right.


It adds texture and movement without being overly done.


And Teddy approves.


I have made some progress on the applique quilt as well.

DSCN3173 DSCN3172


This one is a race horse ….so I want to take my time and do it justice.

Both are beautiful but in different ways.

Happy Quilting


44 thoughts on “The Quilt Top Told Me

  1. It’s so nice to see a quilting design fall into place both simple and fancy and you do both so well. Thanks for sharing this process and the great quilt pictures. Say hello to Teddy from Washington DC.

  2. Sara says:

    Brilliant deductions! Teddy approves, then everyone does! 🙂

  3. Hey Tim, Great job truing up that quilt top! And a good call on the quilt pattern too! It just amazes me how much you get done in a week and it all looks great! How do you do that little squirrely meander shown in the Applique blocks?! It’s amazing! cheers, CW

  4. Jan Smith says:

    Great quilting choice. I love that you share your methods, and progress – and Teddy, of course!

  5. Laura says:

    The quilting pattern your quilt told you to use is going to really *make* this quilt, Tim! Keep listening to your quilt…and checking things out with Teddy!

  6. Carol M says:

    I love the way you’re doing the baptist fan on the star quilt. I want to do that on a quilt one of these days.

  7. katechiconi says:

    I love the free look of that Baptist Fan pattern. One ‘straight’ line to start you off, and then a little bit of natural wonkiness – it looks great.

  8. Debbie says:

    I love that quilting pattern, sort of a cross between a Baptist fan and a clamshell.

  9. Susan Williams says:

    Tim, I am new to hand quilting and I am so GLAD I found your site and am now following you. Your instructions are so valuable and a great teaching tool. Thank you so much for taking the time.

  10. Sue says:


  11. Janet says:

    What great texture your bowl quilting adds! Both quilts are going to look fantastic!

  12. lisabongean says:

    I want you to know that you inspired me to get back to my hand quilting… I so enjoyed it and also hearing about your rescued quilt tops that you so lovingly finish…you along with your blog posts are also treasures….keep inspiring us all!!!
    PS…found you on the Vintage quilt Facebook group…
    my best
    Lisa Bongean
    Primitive Gatherings

  13. Thanks for sharing! You do amazing work!!

  14. Pat Long says:

    You’re right they are both beautiful in their own right.

  15. lilquilter says:

    What a great choice of a quilting design – curves to complement the straight lines of the star. Well done! But I’m confused about the diamonds – you said it was “made up of lots of scraps all pieced together to make the diamonds” but in the photos, they appeared to me to be large solid diamonds – I couldn’t detect the piecing. Either way – it will make a lovely finished piece. Do you have a name for it yet? How about “Swan Star”? (having gone from a bit of an “ugly duckling” top to a thing of beauty!)

    • timquilts says:

      it might be hard to tell in the pictures but the star diamonds are made up of many pieces, I just counted the blue one I am quilting over now and it has 12 pieces ….the one next to it has 13. they are all the same fabric so the piecing is hard to see . Next time I will try to get pictures that show it better

      • lilquilter says:

        Wow…interesting. Perhaps the seams were pressed open so were flatter than if pressed to one side, making them virtually invisible from a distance. I wonder where the maker got the fabric – perhaps leftover scraps from another project, necessitating piecing to make a piece big enough for that large a diamond. Good luck at Grand Rapids next month!

  16. nmaec43 says:

    I am amazed at what you can accomplish. Thank you for sharing your method. I know I over think it and then get nothing done at all. My new motto
    “Just Start” I do talk to my quilts and they do answer back. So I have that down. Thanks again.

  17. Kristen says:

    Tim, you simply speak Quilt. Most of us are not native Quilt speakers as you are, struggling in Quilt as a second language. The quilts tops are quite aware that you are a native speaker and favor you, don’t you think?

    • timquilts says:

      Hmmmm….that could be true, sort of like Harry Potter speaking Parseltongue
      “I spoke a different language? But I didn’t realise it! How can I speak a language without knowing I can?”
      —Harry Potter after he speaks Parseltongue
      I think quilt speak is probably more useful… LOL

  18. glendajean says:

    My heart skipped a beat when I came in to your blog this morning Tim when I saw you had started quilting this stunning old rescued quilt. I’m so glad you could not stop working on it, there must be some thing magical about it for you to start rescuing it as soon as it arrived and now you are quilting it. Love the clamshell design (as we call it down under) it is perfect for here, I first saw this used many many years ago in Japan on the Indgo quilts that they have been making for many many 100’s of years and fell in love with it. Thanks for sharing and the fun of watching this quilt grow so quickly. Cheers Glenda

    • timquilts says:

      Thanks ….I am quite sure you are right about there being something about it that makes me want to work on it….this is not something that happens often….I usually have them for months or even years before I work on them but this one wouldn’t let me ignore it

      Glad you like the clamshells….I didn’t know they used them in japan….I will have to do search for some images of that….I find it fascinating to put a design in historical context

  19. Astrid says:

    I can’t help commenting: I cannot believe how prolific you are, in quilting, in gardening, and in answering user comments. Extremely generous of you! I’ve started hand quilting my first quilt (queen size), and have no idea what I am doing, sort of giving it the mule/race horse treatment, but I’m enjoying every minute of it. Thank you so much for all the great information you provide on your blog.


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