When we moved into our new house, I noticed at once that the nice, big living area lent itself to a nice, big echo. And I thought to myself that, alas, I would simply HAVE to make a wall quilt for our new home. Such a burden…right?
I did realize that if I was hanging it up in the main area that it would need to be something that I wouldn’t mind seeing everyday and that I was particularly proud of. Well, that can only be one pattern of course – the mariner’s compass!
Like many of my quilts I make, I tried to make this one out of fabric I already had on hand. Luckily for me, I had bought some blue and gold themed fabric at the same quilt store where I’d gone to look at mid-arm quilting machines. I don’t often buy fabric without a project already in mind, but this was too pretty to pass up. And it was the last of the bundles as far as I could see. The only fabric I bought after that was the fabric for the borders.
I like to use the Mariner’s Compass Stars guide by Carol Doak. Paper piecing can be difficult when you start out, but I’d already made a king-size quilt for my husband using this same pattern. So I’d had practice aplenty.
I’ll admit that this pattern, a paper-pieced mariner’s compass, is just about the one pattern I refuse to do on commission. If you aren’t familiar with it, then let me explain. For paper piecing you actually sew the fabric onto paper, and then you tear the paper off after each wedge is done. To make one block you need to make eight wedges! So yes, it’s very time-consuming. But boy the results are stunning!
By the way, the Quest Quilts image I use on a lot of things is another Doak star.
I am eye-balling a possible ready-made quilt at some point using one of these star patterns, but I haven’t fully decided yet. Stay tuned folks!
Would you like to know a secret? You see the rainbow quilt that’s at the top of every page? It’s for sale. It’s been on my Etsy shop for a while, and it gets a lot of attention at my craft fairs. But no one has stepped up to take it home. Here it is.It has sold!!
I’ve always considered bargello quilts to be particularly impressive. Seriously, they’re like a fabric kaleidoscope! I had also considered them out of my league, so you’ll imagine my surprise when I found a nice tutorial at the Lets Quilt Something blog that made them not look scary at all! In fact, the tutorial helped me make the decision to finally give it a go.
I wasn’t using a jelly roll (pre-cut fabric strips), though. I had so much fabric in my stash that I couldn’t justify it – although I did have to go out and grab some orange fabric before everything was said and done.
After cutting and joining strips for forever, I followed the tutorial exactly as described. It worked beautifully! (I won’t say without hitches, but those weren’t the fault of the tutorial.) I had so many little strips of fabric that I had to use my cork board and pin them up in order.
I finally saw the top starting to come together, and I really liked what I was seeing. Once the top was completed, I was at a loss on how to quilt it. I did NOT want the quilting to take away from the top design, so I knew early on I’d probably have to switch out thread and such. But unlike some of my other projects, I swapped out the thread in both the top and in the bobbin. This would make for a colorful design both front and back.
The quilting design came from a sort of challenge from my sister. She was with me at my second craft fair and commented on how I had no other quilting designs except for stipples and loops. She asked if I was capable of anything else. Well, I decided this quilt would be there I showed her what else I could do. I quilted FLAMES!
It took forever.
It’s by far one of my favorite quilts, and I even entered it into my church’s talent show in the craft talents section. Several times I’ve thought about just keeping it for myself, but I’ve kept it up for sale for some reason. I’m hoping someone else can see how much work went into it and can appreciate it for what it is. I do plan on making another one in the future, but I’ll probably cheat and just use a jelly roll next time.
After I completed the pipe organ quilt, I was approached about making a quilt for the handbell choir director. I looked around for a while and then figured out a really fun idea after seeing this clip-art image.
I realized I could use batik fabric and make the stained glass look more realistic. I would use my beloved crepe back satin to make the bell. The question was how. There were too many colors to try a reverse applique, and I didn’t think piecing them together like I do in paper-piecing would look like the slightly imperfect leading of stained glass. In the end, I realized that I couldn’t do much else than piece it together like a puzzle and applique it onto the white fabric. Since it would be a wall quilt, I knew it wouldn’t take a beating like some of the other quilts I make.
So first, I picked out the fabric. It’s one of the few times I have bought fat quarters. I also had some blue batik on hand at home from a previous graduation quilt.
I used a projector to trace the clip-art onto paper at the proper size, and then I traced the image onto the fusible interfacing. This explains why the image is reversed from the original clip-art.
In order to keep the piecing straight, I had to number them and take pictures for reference. Then I cut the pieces out and ironed them onto the different colors, mostly at random. There were so many pieces that I had to put my husband to work helping me. He was thrilled….
Then I reassembled the pieces and ironed them down.
From here, I began the tedious task of using the close-set zigzag stitch between all the piecing to recreate a “leading” look like there is in stained glass windows. Then I used some leftover black binding from a previous project and made the window outline.
At this point I was ready to quilt. I used a black backing and black thread on my bobbin with a white top thread. I did a normal stipple in the white area. I thought long and hard about how to handle the window part. I didn’t want anything taking away from the stained glass look or the bell. In the end, I played it safe and did a simple straight stitch over the black leading between the batik fabrics. Then I used a dull gold/yellow thread I had to give the bell curves and add depth to it.
This won’t be the last t-shirt quilt you all see. They are sort of my bread and butter. I do more t-shirt quilt commissions than I do anything else, and they help out with a lot around here. Graduation season is picking up, and I’m starting to see inquiries and am getting orders. I’ve completed two already and am meeting someone for a 3rd.
In honor of graduation season coming upon us (a time that is often busier than Christmas for me), I’m doing a post on one of the senior quilts I made last year. This one was interesting because the school colors were black and silver. You would think this makes for a boring or “ugly” combination. But I realized as we looked through the fabric that it was also a combination that was hard to get wrong. In fact, it made for a nice contrast to the shirts!
So I’ll show you guys a bit of my process. For starters, I make a draft. This was for a basic layout – no sashing or borders. The name was about the only frill. I’ve gotten rather good at drafting layouts far more complicated on Microsoft Word.
I use fusible interfacing to make sure that jersey knit stays put. It’s stretchy and likes to bunch up without a stabilizer. The shirts themselves were quick since I wasn’t doing a border. There was one spot open, and I made a quick 9-patch to match the backing. This is a great example of why I tell folks not to stress about how many shirts I’ll need. I usually tell them to send me what they want included, and I’ll try to figure out a way to make them all fit.
This one was made of the senior’s cheerleading shirts. There were plenty to be had and a generous amount of glitter! I liked the traces of pink in the shirts; they “popped” once they were placed beside the black and silver school colors.
For the backing, my client chose an “oil slick” design that was a nice and playful balance for the black and silver school colors. I used the same fabric in the front 9-patch as well as the letters of the name.
This quilt goes down as one of the most emotional quilts I’ve done. For starters, I was asked to complete it by another quilter, so I felt like it needed to be perfect. Another consideration was the fact that it was a memory quilt in memory of a younger person. I’d done memory quilts before, and it wasn’t the first one I’d made for a mother. But this one felt different, and I wanted more than anything to do the lady’s memory justice. After all, I remembered her memorial service because I volunteered to help in the church nursery while it was going on.
Some things that stood out, however, were that my normal medium was gone. This was not a standard t-shirt quilt. In fact, there wasn’t a single t-shirt in any of the bags of clothes I was given! But what I DID have was dress clothes. Clothes with cool textures. Clothes with beautiful embroidery. Clothes with unique colors. So I sat on the quilt idea and wondered what to do.
The mother, being a quilter, had suggested something akin to a “crazy quilt” style, but none of the patterns or images I found online seemed to be exactly right. I looked around and must have seen 100 different ideas on how a crazy quilt can look. And then one morning during my shower, where I do my best thinking, I thought of the 101st crazy quilt pattern!
Here’s the premise. The lady was an artist. Artists are all about color and balance and placement. So I would make a sort of art gallery out of her clothes. I would help to emphasize the “gallery” part by adding a shadowbox element to each of the sections. This would also allow all her different colors, textures, and details to be featured.
I started by going through the clothes. I’d just gotten a new/old dining table to use as a craft table. It was in my garage, so I stood there that night, listening to the chirping of crickets, at peace, sorting the clothes into the different color stacks. I had enough for eight different color panels. That left one empty block. Then I had an idea I hoped would work for the last block.
Since she was an artist, and this was her gallery, I went through her old Facebook posts until I found exactly what I’d hoped to find – her artwork! There’s some debate on whether the picture is a self-portrait or Tori Amos. She wasn’t exactly distant comparison. It was one of the few pieces I found, and I downloaded it immediately.
Now that I knew how many stacks I had and how many blocks I could make, I sent the mother a draft layout. We worked and switched a couple of color sections, and then I got the green light to start cutting.
One of the first ones I did was red. I’d been told she loved red; it was her favorite color. So it seemed natural to begin here. After that, I got better at my blocks and was able to knock out the other seven faster than I anticipated.
A close up of the pink square.
After that, I enlarged the artwork and used two pieces of fabric paper to print it out. It was still smaller than I needed, so I added a red border to make it the same size as the other panels and began piecing the top together.
I added the shadow boxes and was happy to see them coming together. It wasn’t long before I was able to send her a picture of the completed top.
Now the next challenge was with the quilting. I thought long and hard about doing a simple stipple pattern, but then I had another idea. I decided to revive the circle-swirl quilting pattern because I wanted to add some whimsy to it. I also didn’t want to distract from the clothing panels, so I kept the main part of the quilting to the white area. I used the dreaded “invisible thread” to reinforce the clothing panels and make sure they didn’t shift or bubble up. (Imagine trying to sew with fishing line and you’ll understand why this kind of thread is a last resort.)
We went back and forth on the backing and finally settled on a black, white, and red pattern. From there, I had to complete the last element – but maybe the most important. I had to make the label. That took some thinking because I didn’t want it to be a let down. I remembered that the mother was happy I’d chosen to focus on colors because her daughter’s memorial service featured a homily from a friend who described her in terms of color. I loved it and was startled because, as said before, I wasn’t at the actual service. I was in the nursery.
Keeping that in mind, I asked for a copy of the friend’s homily. I used phrases and created a label based on that. Now the lady’s sister deals in graphics, so she worked her magic and made my original label look far better.
I printed the label on fabric and sewed it to the back corner.
This quilt was a long journey, filled with emotion. But it was also filled with creativity and pushed me to new limits. In many ways, the artist from whom it was made inspired it, and I feel like she had a hand in its making. In the end, it was and remains an honor to have been tasked with making this. It is one of my favorite and proudest works.
Related Blogs and Posts – these are different memory quilts:
This quilt is made from a pattern called Seattle Streets. I found it online at the Caritas Quilts blog. A friend’s daughter was married, and for the wedding reception, they had all these different green and neutral combinations. I have used the Seattle Streets pattern for other projects as well, and I used it to make a quilt for my son and a quilt for my friend’s baby. I like it, and it’s a great pattern when you have a lot of fabric to showcase, especially fabric with little patterns.
The pattern itself does take time, but it isn’t nearly the amount of time that it looks like it takes. The tutorial is excellent! The secret I learned the hard way, and you can see it in the featured picture, is to remember to “square up” your blocks as this pattern can curve easily. I forgot to do this, and with anything bigger than a baby blanket it shows a LOT.
To quilt it, I decided that swirls would balance out all the blocks and such.
I used it again on my friend’s baby quilt – using a pink line between the fabric instead of the black.
A Seattle Streets baby quilt for a friend.
The first time I used this was for my son’s quilt. I loved the fabrics I’d bought and wanted something that would look like stained glass. This did the trick perfectly.
One day I’m going to make one of these bad boys using batiks!
Confession time: I am afraid of triangles. Specifically, I’m afraid of using triangles in quilt tops. My past experiences with them have been less than pleasant and have included prying stuck corners out of my sewing machine feed, cutting-trimming-recutting, and getting aggravated because my corners didn’t line up. It’s been a long time since I’ve even bothered to try them. I’ve done paper piecing plenty, and I had resigned myself to that being the only way a dreaded triangle will ever enter my work. However, I love a challenge and hate being defeated, especially by my own self. So I decided recently to give the half-square triangle (referred to in quilting lingo as “HST”) another go. Luckily, I stumbled upon this little tutorial. It was perfect! No cloth corners getting stuck, and the angles were assured!
After testing it out and making one lap quilt and some test squares, I decided to use one of my pre-made kits and go for it.
That green and gold pinwheel is so much more than just a square. It’s a refusal to be defeated!
I found a cute unicorn fabric in the remnants bin at JoAnn’s a while back, and I thought it would be cute with some pinwheels. It was at this point I decided to make the absolute, most over-the-top girly girl lap quilt impossible could! I made pink and green pinwheels, and I used light pink sparkly fabric for the borders.
When I went to look at the fabric for backing, I thought I might find a cute flannel, but I saw something I thought was much better. I ended up picking a bright pink flannel-backed satin, and it’ll be added warmth as well as a nice, sleek feel.
For quilting, I decided to forego my default “loops and swirls” and add another layer of “girly”. I drew a meandering pattern of hearts, stars, and flowers all over. The end result was rather cute.