Hand or Machine?

I have a love-hate relationships with my sewing machine. No, that's not quite true. It's more of a hate-love-hate relationship. Until I bought my new machine several years ago, the thought of using a sewing machine would reduce me to tears. I only used it if I really, really had to. Like sewing the binding onto a king sized quilt.

And then I bought my sewing machine - replacing my thirty-year-old machine - and things changed. I no longer cried whenever I sat down at the machine ... but I still couldn't sew very well and I knew it. The machine was used for sewing long straight lines that are rather tedious by hand, attaching binding, mending a seam if I couldn't convince DH or myself it was time to throw the item out, and whipping up the occasional Christmas stocking.

I never seriously contemplated using it to quilt (as opposed to piecing) a large quilt that I didn't want to be ashamed of ... until today.

The quilt top that may turn out to be the guinea pig for machine quilting was finished many, many years ago. At the time I knew I would never have enough time to hand quilt it so I turned it into a doona cover. But a year or so ago I decided I was unhappy with this option and undid it. Since then it has remained hidden away in my sewing box with two other quilt tops that need quilting.

For some reason (probably because I have a little spare time on my hands) I decided to put it together with backing and wadding and baste it. What normally takes one day took longer because I had little helpers without whom I wouldn't have untold photos of my hands pinning the quilt.

But I digress.

The problem is, I still don't have time to hand quilt this particular quilt. I could start it and accept the fact that it will be a l-o-n-g term project or I could (I can't believe I'm going to suggest this) quilt it on the sewing machine.

Am I losing my mind or what?

But I have something in my tool kit that I didn't have years ago. It came with the machine. A walking foot. Today I got it out, read the instruction booklet, and managed to get it attached to the machine all by myself. This accomplishment made me so giddy that I immediately sat down to try it out.

And it works. I mean, this is incredible. I did some practice runs and this gadget is a marvel. I want to use it all the time now. I want to quilt a queen sized quilt. I can see myself becoming a machine quilter extraordinaire.

Slow down!

Quilting a small sample is not the same as quilting a super large quilt. And while I'm excited that I had no puckers or tears (as in crying) when trying out the walking foot I am realistic enough to admit that I am not up for free motion quilting yet. I think the most I could manage would be straight lines or gently meandering lines and maybe the odd cable or two. But more than that - no!

And therein lies my problem. Close examination of the quilt in question reveals that a grid pattern isn't likely to work. The quilt is essentially a medallion construction with borders arranged around a centre square. Each border is a different width and design to the one previous. Straight lines - whether from top to bottom or diagonal will match some borders while making others look odd as lines cut part way through the design. The only all-over design I can see fitting onto the quilt top that I would be remotely capable of executing would be closely spaced wavy lines. Which would take a lot of time and I'm not sure if it's the look I'm after.

At the moment I don't have the thread to begin quilting. Which gives me more time to contemplate whether I really want to start machine quilting such a large quilt and if so, do I allow myself to be tempted by all the gorgeous threads out there (I've fallen in love with variegated threads)? Or do I decide that hand quilting is the more sensible route but do I then do traditional hand quilting or challenge myself with big-stitch hand quilting (and given the way my eyesight is going, it might not be a bad idea to get this skill under my belt anyway)?

What to do? Anyone have any suggestions?