Another Confession: Tied Quilts.

posted in: Quilting 37
It just looks so comfy. Image: Wikipedia.
It just looks so comfy. (I could do without the cow skull, however.) Image: Wikipedia.


I confessed the other day that I am scared to go see my doctor. I don’t have my appointment, yet, but I do have about nine friends who emailed, texted, or called me to tell me they’d go with me when I do. And the virtual company I’ll have because of you — yes, you — means that when I report back after the checkup, I’m sure I’ll tell you that it wasn’t so bad after all. Thank you; I’ll keep you posted.

Now that that’s settled, I have another confession. This one is not so dramatic — or is it??  

Here we go:

I love tied quilts. I love tied quilts maybe-almost-kinda-just-a-little-bit-more-than quilted quilts.

Wait! Stop! Don’t throw me out of Quilting!

Here’s the thing: Every quilt is different. If you pay attention and think and cock your head just the right way when you look at a quilt, it will tell you what it needs when it comes to stitching the three layers together. Sometimes the quilt wants to be quilted with a gorgeous feather motif; sometimes it needs straight lines. Some quilts (like this one!) will say “Hand quilt me!” and some say, “Put me on the next UPS truck to the longarmer’s right now.” Other quilts are happy to be quilted on the domestic machine while you watch old episodes of Quilty with Mary Fons. What?!

And some quilts — though they don’t get a lot of press — want to be tied.

I hardly need to explain to the non-quilters out there what a tied quilt is, but just in case Mark is scratching his head, a quilt’s three layers (being the pieced top, the warm middle batting, and the backing fabric) need to be stitched together. Most of the time, this happens with the quilting of the quilt with thread and this is done in pretty patterns and stuff. A tied quilt is a quilt that isn’t quilted at all: It’s tied together with many little knots, basically, across the expanse of the quilt.

The tied quilt is not as sophisticated as the quilted quilt. I think that’s pretty much a fact. I mean, you can’t really add any design elements with tied knots; no lovely feather motifs are going to emerge. And you need very little skill to tie a quilt; if you can tie a knot, you can tie a quilt. So a quilter doesn’t get a lot of points for tying over quilting and in fact may get some snickers from her quilting friends, though I know none of you would ever, ever snicker at anyone’s quilt, ever, because you are kind and welcoming to all quilters everywhere, regardless of pattern, technique, or taste. Ahem.

But here’s the thing: Tied quilts are sometimes…softer. And they may be slightly warmer. Of course, there are many factors that go into the softness and warmth of a quilt, but it’s true that the heavier the quilting, the less warm or soft a quilt will be. A tied quilt has more space for trapping air in between the layers, and that will arguably make it warmer. And because there aren’t a bazillion tiny knots all over the quilt, that sucker’s gonna be soft. Well, as long as you’re not tying with electrical wire or something. (It’s usually embroidery floss or yarn, Mark.) And there’s also the intense, inexplicably satisfying textural thing that happens with all those little ties. Run your hands over all the little nubby ties and you’ll smile. You just will.

I’m tying a quilt right now. As in, I stopped working on it to write this and will return to my task when I’m done. I’m having so much fun. I love it. I mean, I love this tying process. I want to tie more quilts. This particular quilt on my floor right now is so charming with the ties, I can hardly stand it. It’s hitting three ‘C’s: cozy, comfy, and…country.

About a year ago, I heard a Chicago chef talking about her strategy for making the desserts that have made her world famous. She said, “It’s simple. If it’s delicious, it goes on the plate.”

This has become my approach to quiltmaking. If it’s delicious, it goes in the quilt. And I’m telling you, these ties are delicious. I’ll show you when I’m done.

Postscript: I have just realized I may have stoked the ire of longarmers everywhere! Longarmers, fear not: You will never lack for business. If a small tied-quilt trend begins in a small corner of the quilt world, it’s not going to be a problem, I promise. As long as quilters are making quilts, this is good for everyone. Please, please don’t be mad. I will forever need you in my life, believe me…