karlee porter review

Karlee Porter’s all over graffiti quilting

Karlee Porter is well known for her graffiti quilting technique.  It is very popular amongst modern quilters because it moves away from the more mainstream feathers, blocks and stippling.

I am not in the habit of writing reviews of other digitizers’ or quilters’ designs.  In using this design, I have found joy and frustrations.  I hope this review will be of benefit to you, if you are considering buying this design from Karleeporter.com.

About the design

I think that the market that she appeals to are generally experienced computerized quilters, and under most circumstances instructions won’t be necessary.  This design is different thought, because it is very intricate, “and not for the faint of heart”.  Her instructions are detailed, and she gives you a good indication of the width of the quilt you can make based on the throat space of your machine.

The design consists of 8 rows that are stitched out as a pantograph on your longarm machine.  You do require a computerized system, and the one I use is Quilter’s Creative Touch from Grace Quilt Company.

She recommends that you use the placed design, not the row by row design (placing each row yourself), because she has each row placed in the correct starting point already.  Problems arise when you do the design row by row.  Part of the reason for the problems is that each row starts on its own i.e. it doesn’t have a reference point from the previous row.  It always starts on the left and finishes on the right.  To get around this there are a few things you could do:

  1. Using your own digitizing software and the full quilt design, place reference points that you can transfer to the relevant rows.
  2. Using your own digitizing software, reverse the starting point of alternate rows, and add a joining element.
  3. If you are very patient, and prepared to try until you get it right, place the rows until you learn where the correct placement is.  This is what I did.

Finally, she recommends stitching the design at least once before using it on a completed quilt top.  This is not enough in my opinion.

Quilter’s Creative Touch vs ProStitcher

Karlee Porter refers to ProStitcher in her write up of the design.  There is functionality in that particular software that will allow you to use the full quilt design with success.  I have no idea what ProStitcher is like, but what I do know, is that Quilter’s Creative Touch does not give you any functionality to place your rows based on a complete design.  If you have any idea how to do this – let me and others know!  When you stitch panto’s using Creative Touch, the software aligns and adjusts each row according to a mapping system.  The full quilt top does not tell Creative Touch that it needs to make adjustments, and just tries to continue stitching as though you have a 3 foot square frame!

This means that I have no choice in using the full design that she has ready for stitching, but have to place each of the rows myself.  I do this using PantoStacker (part of the Creative Touch package).  It takes time, and a big monitor definitely helps, because you need to carefully compare the pdf picture to your screen in order to make sure that you have the rows aligned properly.  This is where loads of patience is needed, and you have to be prepared to add some casual throws to your personal use collection.

Homemade feel

The design looks like it is a “recording” of Karlee Porter’s quilting while she was doing a client’s quilt.  This is my opinion, as she does sell designs where she indicates this, but does not state this as fact for this design set.  So why do I draw this conclusion?  Repeat stitching is not accurate on each line, nor are pebbles perfectly aligned or running stitches over each other.

I do like this, however, since it maintains the homemade feel, and makes the quilt uniquely different to mass produced quilts that are widely available.

It also makes row placement more forgiving, as you are going to struggle to get a 100% perfect row placement for a number of reasons including fabric stretch and shrinkage on a quilt frame.

How much consumables do you need

I created a 55″ by 78″ quilt to determine this, and the thread and bobbin requirements for this size are:

  1. 3200 feet of thread – this is both top and bobbin and assumes that it will all run perfectly through the quilt.  That seldom happens, so make sure you have extra for the unpicking and restitching.  Note:  this is not a design problem, but rather machine and frame that are temperamental!
  2. I work on a bobbin per row, though a bobbin could run a quarter of the next row as well, depending on the stitch density of that particular row.  This is m-size bobbins.

My tips for you

If you decide to purchase this design and stitch it out, here are a few tips to keep in mind over and above those suggested by Karlee:

  • Increase your number of stitches per inch.  There are some intricate places that could do with a smoother curve, and most quilters use 10 stitches per inch.
  • Wind your bobbins ahead of starting the quilt.
  • Make sure you have sufficient thread.
  • Mark the start of the next row before you take a break!  My tablet doesn’t charge whilst it is working on the quilt machine, so I have to take a break around the third or fourth row.
  • That being said, make sure you keep an eye on the battery power of the tablet.  You don’t want to run out of oomph in the middle of a row.
  • Keep your placement markers until the row is finished.  I live in South Africa, and power failures are a regular event.  And it happens in the middle of a row!  If you keep your marker you will be able to place the row appropriately when you start again.  The same will apply if your tablet runs out of battery power.
  • Every quilter sets quilts on a frame slightly differently.  Even if you were able to use the full model from Karlee Porter, you will have to make some adjustments to compensate for your own degree of shrinkage from the stitching.
  • Karlee Porter recommends you stitch this out at least once before doing a client’s quilt.  I did it six times before I was comfortable with using this on a client’s quilt.  We have lots of throws in the tv room as a result!
  • If the starting point of the next row is not aligned with the previous rows, there is obviously a problem.
  • Finally, if you can, use a marking pen tied to your machine needle, and do a trace of the row, at least where it joins the previous one.  This is a sure way to make certain you have your rows in the right place.

Last word

This is a fabulous design, but definitely not something for a beginner computerized quilter.  You need to know your machine, frame and fabric behaviour really well to get the design placement accurate.  That being said, row by row placement is possible, with patience and testing.  Remember that I couldn’t test the full design, and cannot comment on that at all.

I have now made a number of quilts using this design, and the result is always beautiful.  My clients are more than satisfied, and I have noticed some bragging with their quilts on facebook shortly after delivery!  You can see some of my work in the quilt gallery.

Happy quilting!


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