Seemingly Seamless Quilting

Paula Nadelstern – quilt artist, author, teacher, fabric designer, and BERNINA Ambassador – shares her secret for “seemingly seamless” piecing in her kaleidoscope quilt.

I’m often asked if I trim my seams. The answer is no: I consistently use BERNINA’s 1/4″ Patchwork Foot #37. But I think there are two reasons for this impression: First, I always piece using a single hole throat plate. And second, my design MO is to camouflage seams.

This requires an approach contrary to conventional patchwork. In traditional patchwork, contrasting colors in adjacent patches create distinct, straight edges. The shape of each patch is emphasized. A Nine-Patch, for example, is a pattern featuring a single shape—the square—laid out in a checkerboard effect. (Image attached)

Nine Patch Quilt Block

My aesthetic is to obscure the seams, to encourage an uninterrupted flow of design or color from one patch to the next, creating the illusion that there are no seams at all. The key to camouflaging the seam for a smooth transition is to choose a fabric based on the color in its background, the color that will land right along the seam line and connect to the neighboring patch’s background color. That position, right at the seam, turns out to be crucial. When the color that functions as the ground in patch #1 is pieced to a similar color in patch #2, the seam line between them is disguised. Instead of focusing on the patchwork lines, we see patterns in the fabric advance and float against a receding common ground. The viewer synthesizes disparate elements into a harmonious whole. This illusion is easier to pull off with dark rather than light backgrounds because colors like black, indigo, forest green, and wine tend to blend smoothly into each other. Tones of beige and white don’t have the same color dexterity.

circle quilt

quarter of circle quilt
Detail; look closely for the camouflaged seams.

Although the backgrounds are often similarly colored, the patterns don’t need to be related by palette at all. In fact this is how you can instill the unpredictable and unrestrained profusion of color that is synonymous with a kaleidoscope. The colors released by the individual fabrics don’t touch each other, the backgrounds they sit on do.

kaleidoscope quilt

Kaleidoscope Quilt
Detail; look closely for the camouflaged seams.

Visit Paula at her website, PaulaNadelstern.com.

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