Aurifil Color Builders Thread Club - The Whale Shark

Aurifil Color Builders Thread Club - Whale Shark

We're happy to welcome HollyAnne Knight back to share her mad quilting skills! Let's dive in to a bit of her whale shark inspiration!

When Aurifil first announced the 2021 Color Builders Program last October, the whale shark made me so excited that I immediately emailed the Aurifil team and asked, “How can I be part of this project??” As we are here at the halfway point of our adventure, I’m so excited to quilt this block with you! Before we get to the quilting plans, though, let’s take a moment to talk about stitching in the ditch.

When to Stitch in the Ditch

You might be thinking: “But HollyAnne…. Aren’t you the free motion quilting gal? Are we really going to talk about stitching in the ditch??” Yep! Stitching in the ditch is a valuable tool to:
  • Secure the the three layers of your quilt before adding more detailed quilting
  • Create clear lines between different sections of piecing
  • Quilt bulky areas of your quilt top that aren’t suitable for FMQ
While I’m all about the amazing textures of FMQ, strategically using stitching in the ditch is key to a crisp final product. Let’s take a closer look at each of these scenarios.

Secure the Quilt

Personally, I’m a huge fan of spray baste, and generally, spray basting is pretty secure and minimizes shift while you are free motion quilting (If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my blog on Homemade Spray Baste HERE. If you prefer pin basting, however, intricate quilting or quilting that requires you to work the quilt top a bit haphazardly, I strongly encourage you to stitch in the ditch around the major elements of the quilt first before adding more details. For the Endangered Species BOM, I like to stitch around every animal early in my quilting process to hold it steady for further quilting. If you plan to assemble your BOM as a sampler, consider stitching in the ditch between all blocks first, then around each animal, then carry on with your more detailed quilting. 

Recommended Foot: A walking or piecing foot

Create Clear Boundaries Between Pieces

When you stitch in the ditch between different pieced elements of the quilt, the slight indentation made by the stitches makes the visual boundary between your piecing more crisp. If one section is then quilted more densely than the other, the less quilted area will appear “puffed” and more dimensional. I quilt around each animal in the Endangered Species BOM to make them as dramatic as possible. 
Recommended foot: Your FMQ foot if you can work in flow with your quilting plan. A ruler foot gives you the added advantage of being able to use a ruler as a guide if you need it.

Quilt Bulky Areas of Your Quilt

When a quilt is intricately pieced, some areas are simply too bulky to be easily quilted (please refer to the February tips article for my tips about navigating bulky seams). The Endangered Species BOM is an excellent example of how detailed piecing can create thick areas of fabric that threaten to break thread and / or needles. For these areas, especially on the faces of many of our animals, simple stitch in the ditch is the perfect option to secure these areas discreetly so the piecing can shine. 
Recommended Foot: A glide foot or walking foot

Introductory Level Quilting Plans

Introductory Level Quilting Plan, #1

Introductory Level Quilting Plan, #2

Introductory Level Quilting Plan, #3

This month’s majestic Whale Shark by Cassandra Beaver has larger pieces offering the opportunity to add details to its back without wrestling with much bulk. I’m stitching in the ditch around the shark, then adding small FMQ to the darkest blue areas of the back with a lighter thread for visual interest. 
For the water, one of the motifs I explored was switchbacks at various angles to look like waves. If you choose this option, I would consider making the switchbacks no more than 3-4” long or using a ruler to help keep your lines steady and even.

Beginner Level Quilting Plans

Beginner Level Quilting Plan, #1

Beginner Level Quilting Plan, #2

Beginner Level Quilting Plan, #3

My first thought for adding spots to the shark was to use French Knots, but as I have exactly zero embroidery experience, I think pebbles are the next best thing! You could also mix a few pebbles into the water around your shark to show it disturbing the surface as it swims.

Intermediate Level Quilting Plans

Intermediate Level Quilting Plan, #1

Intermediate Level Quilting Plan, #2

Intermediate Level Quilting Plan, #3

Intermediate Level Quilting Plan, #4

This Whale Shark block offers the perfect opportunity to use the Rippling River motif I teach in Free Motion Quilting Academy. It creates amazing texture of water movement around the shark. Another super fun option is grafitti quilting-- in this case a mix of McTavishing, swirls, and paisleys-- to portray a choppier sea. 


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