Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Unitarian fans tutorial


A reader requested that I show how I do the Unitarian fans free motion motif. I'm sure I didn't invent this variation of Baptist fans, but I've never seen it demonstrated in exactly this way so I figured I earned the right to rename it.

The big difference between this and other variations I've seen is that the arches don't overlap or touch the previous stitching. I'm bad at following a previous stitch line, also called "travel stitching." I also do my share of ripping out and having a continuous line of quilting is MUCH easier to rip.

This is an edge to edge, overall filler design. What I like about it is that it requires very little thinking or planning. It's impossible to get stuck in a corner because you weren't thinking far enough ahead. You just work your way across the quilt in rough rows, then start again back on the other side. The end of a row makes a good stopping point to take a break. And my brain likes regular, repeating shapes.

Start in the lower right hand corner of the quilt, about two inches up, and sew straight down to the corner. Turn left and sew about two inches across the bottom. Turn up at a right angle and make the first arc back up to the right hand edge.


At the right edge, sew straight up about 1/2" to 3/4", which will be the spacing of the rest of the arcs. I just eyeball this spacing relative to my presser foot. The "Unitarian" part of these fans implies that they are rather liberal and not too straight laced. Wobbly is OK, organic is OK. Arc back down to the bottom, then left that same 1/2" to 3/4" spacing.

Sew six lines back and forth in roughly parallel arcs, ending at the bottom edge of the quilt. I've tried four arcs and eight arcs, but six works best for me in that it keeps the whole fan contained in an area small enough that I don't need to keep moving my hands to control the quilt.


Start the next fan by stitching about 2" along the bottom to the left, then arcing up about 2" until close to, but not touching, the last fan. How close I get varies a bit, but usually is about 1/8" to 1/4" away. Stitch parallel to the last fan up 1/2" to 3/4", then arc back to the bottom. Note that the first fan edges were parallel to the edge of the quilt, but subsequent fan edges are parallel to the previous fan.

Sew the six arcs and end at the bottom of the quilt. 


Repeat across the bottom of the quilt to the left edge. In my drawing, you can see that my fans aren't all exactly the same size, and that's fine with me. It will all tend to mush together after multiple rows and give a nice overall texture.

Start the next row about 2" to 2 1/2" inches above the top of the first fan. Sew straight down to within 1/8" to 1/4" of the first fan but not touching, then turn left. This time, instead of sewing directly to the left (parallel to the bottom of the quilt), stitch roughly parallel the top of the first fan about 2", then turn up to form the first arc.


Repeat the six arcs, ending each one close to but not touching another fan. You can see that this fills in the space nicely with no obvious gap between the rows.


Repeat across the width of the quilt. Because my fans are not identical or premarked, they vary a bit in width and height. That means when I get to the far left edge, I might be in the middle of an arc. Just treat the edge of the quilt like another line to sew right up to, but not touch, and continue the six arcs. The final fan might be wide, or it might be squished, but as long as the arc spacing is roughly the same, you get a consistent texture.


The bottom row of fans all have that nice, straight edge, but all the rest of them have curvy edges dictated by preexisting fans. At first, that threw me off from making consistently curved arcs, until I focused on trying to make the first few stitches of each arc roughly perpendicular to the previous fan.

This design scales really nicely. The numbers I give here are what work for me, but you could make this design super tiny or big and widely spaced. On the Scrappy Chili Peppers quilt, my initial arcs were about 3" and the arc spacing closer to 1". This gave a softer, looser feel to the finished quilt and sewed up quite a bit faster. But I couldn't stitch an entire fan without stopping to move my hands. I found that quite annoying, since The Little Kenmore That Could doesn't have a needle down feature. So I changed to this tighter spacing for Bright Bento.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much. This is a great tutorial. I see exactly what you did. Now to give it a try. Stay safe with this bad weather.

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