Italian Quilting

Moira Neal explores italian quilting.

Shadow corded quilting
Shadow corded quilting using sheer voile as the top layer threaded with a selection of blue yarns

Corded quilting is thought to have originated in Italy hence its other name, Italian quilting. It is simply a decorative effect, achieved using two layers of fabric and a corded channel. It is sometimes incorporated with other techniques, such as trapunto, a wadding technique. The backing fabric is muslin or other open weave fabric, but make sure that it is pre-shrunk before use or your finished project will not wash successfully. The basic principle of corded quilting is to machine (or hand stitch) parallel lines to form a channel through which cord or quilting wool is threaded. They are both obtainable from haberdashery shops in a neutral shade and can be dyed and used for shadow corded quilting. In its simplest form, corded quilting could be used to create a new fabric. Simple meandering, parallel lines can be stitched in one direction. This is then threaded with the quilting wool using a blunt needle. Parallel lines of meandering stitching are added in the opposite direction and these are corded as before, bringing the wool out where the channels cross and back into the next bit of channel.

Thread quilting woolthrough the channel
Using a blunt needle to thread quilting wool through the channel.

TIP! To prevent the work from puckering or shrinking when washed, bring the wool to the surface frequently and then leave a tiny loop of wool to allow for ease. This is particularly important on angular or curved designs.

If the top fabric layer is translucent (for example voile) coloured wools or fine ribbon may be used to produce shadow quilting. The cord was introduced from the front of the fabric instead of the back with the ends left to become part of the design, either knotted or tied in bows. If vertical rows of corded quilting are added to a garment, the ends could be threaded with beads and hang free. Experiment using fine netting as a top layer.

Celtic design
Celtic designs lend themselves perfectly to this technique.

Before embarking on a project using this method; it is worth having a practise run with your intended fabric, to establish the width of stitched channel required and if the result is satisfactory. I found that some fabrics are too rigid, with the backing looking magnificent and the RS remaining stubbornly flat! Using a more rigid backing fabric (loose weave nylon netting for example) will force the top layer of fabric to stretch and stand out in relief.

To transfer the pattern onto fabric, use a vanishing marker and draw freehand or cut out a card template to draw freehand or cut out a card template to draw around and then draw a second line 5mm inside or outside the first. Complicated patterns are best drawn onto paper that is pinned to the reverse of the fabric and muslin backing. The pattern is then stitched from the back. This method keeps the fabric perfectly flat but does test your patience when it comes to removing the paper later! You can practise this technique by making the Java Jive cafetiere cover

Java Jive
Java Jive

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 11 Number 4 April 2003