Sunday, December 5, 2010

1,000,000 Stitches?

Detail of heart applique - tiny stitches!
I can barely thread a needle, and I'm probably the last person who should be talking about the construction of a masterpiece quilt, or any quilt for that matter. However, I've been asked to show some more details of the applique as well as pictures of the back of the Album with Lyre Medallion, so I'm more than happy to oblige. The first thing you may notice is the tiny stitches. Mary Couchman Small must've had great eyesight, very nimble fingers and a lot of patience!

Back view of the quilt looks like whitework trapunto
The back view of the whole quilt looks very much like a whitework trapunto, or boutis. The whole background is densely quilted at 10-12 stitches per inch, with 1/8th to 1/16th of an inch separating the rows, but there is little to no quilting in the applique.

Back view of Lyre center block and surrounding blocks
As much as I've studied the quilt, I've had a difficult time figuring out if it was quilted in blocks and pieced together afterwards, or if it was pieced first and quilted afterwards. If you click on the detail shots and click again to enlarge, you may see what I mean.

Detail view including the binding, which was rolled from the back
The binding is especially fine. It is 1/16th of an inch in most places, and no wider than 1/8th of an inch at  its widest. This quilt is approximately 93 inches square. I was curious, so I did a little mathematical estimate based on quilt size, amount of quilted area, number of stitches per row, and distance between rows. A very conservative estimate would be approximately 500,000 stitches, but I think there could be 1,000,000 stitches or more. How cool is that?


  1. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

  2. As a quilter I am as impressed with how even the little stitches are as I am with the sheer volume of them! Amazing...

  3. Thanks so much for posting more pics of this amazing quilt..especially the back!
    I thought your musing over whether the quilt was assembled then quilted, or quilted then joined very interesting. Closer inspection doesn't seem to clear that issue up, because stitches in the seams have been avoided? As a hand quilter, I can tell you it would have been easier to do that intensive quilting to each block, then join them, but it doesn't look like this quilter was looking for an easy way on this quilt?
    Each time the needle is poked down through the quilt, the quilter gets a little pin prick to her finger. Wowsa! :)

  4. Thanks for showing us some close ups, front and back. The applique stitches are so fine that it was not possible to see previously that the maker has used white thread. These days the mantra is to use thread colour that matches the applique piece, not the background. It doesn't matter because they are practically invisible. Wish I could both applique and quilt like this woman!

  5. It seems to me that she assembled this quilt in rows - then quilted the row - then added the next row and quilted that one. At least, that's how it appears from the photos of the back that I can see. Of course, I'm not an expert, but that's what I'm seeing.