The Question of Embellishments

One of my online quilting friends recently asked a question of her colleagues: whether we’d found adding embellishment had ever actually improved a less successful quilt.  IMHO it doesn’t; any real fixes are those that involve a bit of adding/deleting, unpicking and re-sewing perhaps – but anyway, things to be done before layering, quilting and finishing.  That’s just my opinion though, and there are clearly people out there who’d strongly disagree.

Tidal Shallows 2, 1995, 30inches square. machine embroidered with triple needle metallic thread before assembly and quilting.

Tidal Shallows 1, 1995, 36 inches, entirely beaded with tiny glass beads.


Although I have never gratuitously added glittery charms or doodads, tassels,  shells, teabags and the like, I have extensively embellished several quilts with machine embroidery, typically double or triple needle stitching, and sometimes hand embroidery; but in one notable exception I totally beaded the one directly above, Tidal Shallows 1.  Perhaps I was exhausted after totally beading it, I don’t recall exactly, but I was working on them and another at much the same time, as they all resulted from a coastal holiday to a wonderful part of NW Western Australia.  I feel the quilt was already successfully ‘watery’, although the stronger design of the two, so perhaps that’s why I beaded only that one and didn’t bother beading of further embellishing Tidal Shallows 2.  A viewer of the beaded Tidal Shallows 1 exclaimed “How watery that looks” and so I did feel my decision to go all out and totally bead the quilt  was vindicated – but in no way was it an attempt to improve ‘a less than successful’ quilt.


One Response to “The Question of Embellishments”

  1. Kit Lang says:

    Hi Alison,

    I saw this question asked on the QuiltArt listserve as well – perhaps it was asked by your friend?

    In any case, I agree with you. I don’t think adding “glittery doo dads”, as you (and I!) call them to a piece that’s not working is going to improve it – my personal experience has been that adding them (in general) cheapens the piece. I’m a magpie so it’s a funny stand for me to take, but no matter how many times I’ve tried adding beading, I never like it and always take it off.

    Several months ago, my QuiltArt group had a challenge – we were each given a bag of things that we’ve never used before/don’t use, and had to use them in the finished piece. Of course, I was horrified to find there were beads in the bag!!!

    I did finish the piece, and DID use the beads ( but I designed it with the beads in mind from the beginnning. If the piece hadn’t been working, adding beads certainly wouldn’t have improved it.

    (That said, one of the women in my group uses beads often, to great effect!)

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