In two weeks, we head to the wedding of my cousin! He’s known his bride-to-be forever, and in fact I’VE known her since she was in high school, if that gives you an idea. We’re thrilled to see them getting married and can’t wait to party with that side of the family. Of course, I sewed them a quilt. I need to mail it off to them—but I’ve never mailed a quilt before, so it feels like a Big Deal and I’ve been avoiding it—before I show you the final product, but for now, a peek at the label:
I was inspired by all the typography stuff that’s become so popular lately; it seemed perfect for an embroidery project and would feel “of its time.” Also I didn’t want to cop out like I have in the past! This is a proper label, made separately, hand-stitched on, etc. It helped that I finished the quilt a while ago and knew I had plenty of time before I needed to send it out (that is, I wasn’t staring down a hard deadline). I just used a khaki colored thread that matches the background of the backing, and I like the effect. The solid green is a Kona cotton.
When the online quilting bee that made this quilt started years ago, I had pretty much zero quilting experience, much less bee experience. In retrospect, I committed a huge quilting bee faux pas when I made my request! Luckily, this bee was formed with really good crafty friends who didn’t mind. And you know what? I don’t regret it in the slightest, because it made me a quilt that means so much more to me. So what gaffe did I commit?
I asked everyone to use fabric from their own stashes to produce the main motifs. I provided a generous amount of background fabric and asked them to sew a 12-inch wonky star that, from afar, you would identify as a star of a single color (even if individual fabrics were made up of many different colors). I made no limitations other than no neutrals/blacks. There was no requirement that they use lots of different fabrics in a given block—a single fabric star would’ve been fine.
But what I got was a treasure trove! The feedback was all positive—and because I erred on the side of far more background fabric than was really necessary, many made me more than the 3 blocks the bee specified. In the end I was given 27 amazing blocks in all colors from Maritza, Caro, Nova, Diana, Julie, Christy, and Pam. And I can look at any given star and know exactly who made it, which I love. I needed to make just 3 more myself to complete a 5×6 top. I played around with their placement, starting random and ending with the rainbow of goodness you see here:
I captioned that photo “swoon” at the time (back in 2010!!) and I still feel that way when I look at this picture. My love for this quilt in progress was huge! But making those last 3 blocks just . . . didn’t happen. Two years later, in the spring of 2012, I pulled the fabric out, filled in those gaps with stars in the right colors, cut sashing and made a backing and all that. (I made three wonky stars for the back, too.) The quilt was suddenly enormous—just shy of a true queen size. I decided it would be perfect for our bedding at beach week, so then I was racing to finish up. I ran into a wrinkle, literally, when the quilting started catching puckers on the straight lines, so I only machine quilted the sashing and decided to hand-quilt an echo around the stars. But I’d never hand-quilted before, so I was going to need to amass supplies. I went ahead and sewed on the binding and was hand-sewing it down in the car on the way to Jersey (the hand quilting wasn’t going to be near the edges, so I could bind it before finishing the actual quilting).
We stopped at a JoAnn Fabrics on the way, where I bought hand quilting thread, needles, etc. At the beach I went online and researched how to hand quilt. We were using the quilt on our bed, but every morning I scooped it up, brought it downstairs, and quilted in the living room before we went up to the beach for the day. I learned a lot about hand quilting in that week, and while I enjoyed doing it, I have lots of practice ahead of me to be actually good at it. I didn’t quite finish quilting all the stars while we were there, so there was no triumphant photo shoot like I’d intended.
After we got back, I finished, but by then we were using it on our bed and I just never got around to photographing it. I still love it to pieces: We keep it on the couch in winter and use it on our own bed in the summer. So we brought it to the beach again this year, and on our last day I finally had the photo shoot! Big thanks to Jason and my dad for holding it on what was, as you can see, a super windy day.
These pictures give you the overall sense of the quilt but sadly they can’t capture the awesome of each individual star. They’re endlessly interesting to look at, with choice fabrics used in small amounts and even some fun “I spy” elements that my boyfriend thinks are great, like the gnome, the bus, and the shaky dogs! I couldn’t resist taking pictures of each block so you could see them a little better. Click on a row below to see that row bigger.
When I last posted, I had just finished knitting the lace batwing top to wear to a bridal luncheon during my cousin’s wedding weekend. Knitting that flared up my carpal tunnel so badly I knew I needed to take a long break from knitting. (I didn’t exactly do this, and I knit a few more little things. That? Was a super bad idea, and the pain has reached seriously frightening levels, so now I’m completely off knitting until I can get up the nerve to call a hand specialist. It sucks.) This means that I’ve actually been spending time watching TV while doing nothing at all—unfathomable for me normally, and so so boring. But it also means that there’s been a lot more quilting, because so far that hasn’t bothered my hands very much. First up? A wedding gift quilt for the two who got married in April!
I’d asked my cousin for color preferences and she said “blues.” This necessitated a trip to some quilting shops for some stash development—how did I not have a good range of blues? Navies, khakis, greens, and purples actually matched their blue and khaki wedding colors, and it turns out they coordinate perfectly with the colors in their living room. I wanted to find a few “special” fabrics but came up empty on that front. However, the one cream with little oars was perfect for them, since they like to kayak often, and Jason donated a plaid shirt that never fit him so that he had a presence in the quilt too.
I have several different triangle rulers and opted for an isosceles one; I cut all the fabrics into triangles and tossed them into one of those big blue Ikea shopping bags, giving it a big mix regularly. Then I set up my flannel design wall and started building the rows by grabbing from the bag without getting caught up in planning the sequences. The only pieces that were immediately put back were ones identical to the one just placed. I ended up with a nice random arrangement, and just a little bit of rearranging at the end gave me a nice balance of colors, patterns, etc. Then I got to seaming!
Though it felt as if I had thousands of triangles, I’d really only cut enough to make the blanket throw sized, and once I realized this I couldn’t bear to cut any more or seam them up, so it is a modest 5-something feet by 5-something feet big. I am in awe of those who have made multiple triangle quilts. While simple in theory, it was a lot more time consuming than I’d expected it to be! I didn’t get the hang of matching my triangles for a long time, despite many attempts to systematize the process.
For the backing, I couldn’t resist my “signature” back, with a little stack of strips of the fabrics used on the front. The main fabric for the backing is Kona, not sure the exact name right now but I suspect it’s actually the color called “brown.” I embroidered their names and the date of their wedding right onto the back, rather than make a label, and I really like the effect. The binding is the same khakis used on the front (both Kona), hand-sewn down; I finally remembered to tuck my “by pepperknit” label into one corner. I quilted lines a half inch from all the seams and greatly underestimated the amount of thread I’d need to get this done; I ran out of two spools in the process! I also had some serious issues with the basting–lately I can’t seem to get my quilt sandwich to come out right on the first try. I’m not sure what is going wrong but I’m blaming the batting, because I know I’m doing a very good job taping the backing down. Should I be taping the batting too? Something is off and I really need to figure it out before I do my next quilt, because it’s not as if I didn’t rearrange my entire living room (separating our sectional sofa even) in order to have as much clear floor I could. Anyway, we’ll see if I can remedy this for my next quilt.
I gave the quilt to Meg and Josh at our annual family beach week, just like I did for her brother last year, so we did a little shoot in the backyard of our beach house on the one rainy, cold, terrible weather day. And her husband proved that it’s the perfect couch blanket for curling up with a book. (Note: That is a different cousin sitting on the couch with him.) I hope they love it and enjoy a lifetime of curling up together under it!
I somehow ended up with a copy of this book, 5500 Quilt Block Motifs, and every now and then before bed I browse it. The blocks in the book are all individually inspiring to me—as potential quilts. I have a long list of blocks from this book that I think would make great full quilts if blown up. I find it both inspiring and soothing to think about quilts before bed—in fact, if I’m having trouble falling asleep because of work stresses or something spinning around in my head, I shift gears and mentally plan quilts. Getting caught up in both color planning and actual math (calculating sizes based on internal blocks) is better than counting sheep for me—I zone out and drift off to sleep in no time. But I wake up with ideas solidified in my head, so it’s a win-win. My recent mini quilts are a perfect example of that. But this traditional square caught my eye; it seemed perfect for a Big Birthday present for my dear friend, Holly.
It came together over a few weeks last fall, using fabrics in a variety of colors that coordinated, many from my stash. Rather than make HSTs by stacking two squares and cutting on the diagonal, I cut each triangle individually, decided on my preferred placement, and sewed them together. I wanted all the pairings to be unique, rather than structured in pairs. It was also not that useful to work it as HSTs because there are a lot of triangles that don’t have an opposite one. The backing, which is hard to see in the photos she took, is just a zig zag using up extra triangles I’d cut, and the binding is the Kona Berry that I used as the background for Rosie’s Spoked. The quilting is just double lines along all the angles.
Holly took these pictures for me on her birthday weekend trip to Mexico. She took the quilt with her on her trip. Sniff. It’s just the best to make something for someone you love, and then find out that they love it exactly as much as you’d want them to, you know?
A few months ago I got this idea in my head, and it’s been swirling around ever since. “Primary intersections,” I labeled the folder, and I sketched out some variations. Even though I have other crafting deadlines looming, this weekend I set to making them real.
I’m so pleased with these little rainbows! Someday, when I have an actual crafting space in my home, I’ll hang them up in there. And I can definitely see myself scaling the designs up and making them larger, maybe with all solids in a single palette (all greens, for instance).
All strips were cut 2 inches wide, and the finished tops are right about 20 inches square. I did all the cutting first, making the sewing very speedy. Both mini quilt tops were finished in less than a day, once I had the fabrics selected. The solids are all Kona cotton, of course; the background is Kona Snow. Next up, sandwiching them and finishing them up; will they be the ground on which I practice free motion quilting finally?