Monday, November 5, 2007

Quilting 201 -- The Sixth Quilt from A to Zach

The first step in quilting, at least for me and at least at this point (mid-2005) in my education, was to have a recipient in mind. My sixth quilt was to go to Zach, the (then-) newborn baby of my friend Kristin. I first talked to her about it before Zach was born, and she explained how she and EJ, her husband, had different aesthetics for the baby's room. (I think one of them wanted bold, and the other wanted simple.) It struck me that a quilt with two colors and a fair bit of contrast between them, but low contrast within each color range might work to make both parents happy. And happy parents means a happy baby, right?

I had a pattern for a crib quilt using a variation of the Perkiomen Valley or Split Nine-Patch block. (I did find the book I got the idea from -- a cheesy freebie, cited below -- but I don't think you violate any copyright laws figuring out how to make it from my pictures and/or any discussion of the specific block.) I had a novelty fabric I'd bought online that I loved -- I described it to Kristin as "Mother Goose illustrated by Salvador Dali" and she thought that sounded wonderful. In the end, I decided it didn't deserve to be cut up, so I used it as the backing. Hey, if the quilt's not on the wall, you're going to see the back at some point, right?

I used that fabric to pull colors for the top. I started with a novelty print that's actually in Bean Jones's "Cat" quilt -- cute animals on a fairly saturated cerulean blue background. That gave me the blue I wanted for the dark sides of the blocks, and I just pulled light -- but not white! -- stripes and prints from my stash. I fussy cut the animals for the middle blocks in the nine-patches, and strips for piecing the triangles. Here are the fabrics:

This is in the craft room at Hub 1.0's house. It doesn't look like this anymore -- he's reorganized it to better suit his bookbinding -- but for what it's worth, here's what it looked like when I sewed there:

The sewing machine is the small white cabinet on the left; it gets pulled out and unfolded for use. My fabric stash is folded on the shelves of an Ikea media shelving unit. The original yardage for Zach's quilt is on the right, probably waiting to be ironed. Here's the other end of the room:

Hub 1.0 and I installed Ikea kitchen cabinets with counter tops that also went over his existing plan chest (useful for large sheets of the sorts of things bookbinders use; he brought that over from London when he moved in). Everything was carefully arranged so that the working surfaces are ergonomically appropriate for people our height. It may be a bit low for him now that he's the principal user, but it's still got to be way better than it was in the "boiler room" of his parents' home in London!

The next stage is to cut the single-color squares and make squares that have one triangle of dark and one of light. These get sewn together, one light and one dark, with a double line of sewing along the diagonal. Cut between the two lines of stitching, and you've got triangles. When you have to make a lot of half-square triangles (which is what the result is called), you can use a paper template product called Thangles. That's what I did with Zach's quilt. Here's a cheaper and thus better way, which I didn't know about at the time!

Then you sew together the block. Sew a dark square to a dark square to the dark side of a half-square triangle square. That makes the bottom third. The middle is dark square to a fussy-cut square to a light square. The top is a half-square triangle turned so you sew the light side to a light square and to another light square. Sew the three stripes together, matching seams, and you have a block! Sew a bunch more in the same fashion, trying to keep it so the different lights and darks are intersperse in a faux-random (which is not random!) way.

This shows the fussy cut center square:

Next you organize the blocks and sew them together to make the top. At this point, there was a long gap in my sewing, and in an effort to get this quilt finished before Zach went to college, I took the top to the April 2006 national quilt show at Paducah. I was taking a bunch of classes, one of which was on color and value. I held up the quilt top, which was oblong in roughly crib-like proportions, and everyone wanted me to make enough blocks to square the quilt so that it would make a full light square within a full blue square.

I didn't take their advice. I had some practical reasons, and some personal reasons (I made 6 trips to the U.K. in 2006, so my quilting time was severely curtailed), and I'm not sure I'd have had enough of the backing fabric, but ultimately, I doubted their advice. People just want things to be finished. Well, this block -- like a traditional log cabin block -- doesn't do "finished" well. If I had squared it, there would have been a new square growing at the corners. It has to stop somewhere! But judge for yourself:

I dunno -- I like that it pushes out to either side and not in all four directions.

Here's a close-up of the machine quilting I did:

I did stars in one of the light stripes and a continuous loopy bubble meander in another, an all-over meander on the blue stripes, and vague outlines on the animals I'd fussy-cut. Not proper trapunto, but a little more of an accent.

Here's the Dali-esq fabric:

Isn't that great fabric? Childlike without being too cutesy. Here's how it contrasts with the quilt and the binding, which I picked out really carefully on Hub 1.0's and my trip to New Bend, North Carolina for my 50th birthday:

And that's how you make a quilt!

The pattern came from "Artistry with Quilts," a slim volume produced by Wizard Attachments. I believe they have three "Artistry with Ribbons" and two "Artistry with Elastic" publications! There's a clue what they sell...


  1. I'm not a quilter, Magdalen, but am definitely enjoying these posts! Thank you!

    (But you know I would read your grocery list and love it.::grin::)

  2. Magdalen, I want to keep your blog today and print it to record the making of Zach's quilt. I knew it took a lot of work, but seeing the making of it... it's fabulous.

    Even though you made me promise not to hang it on the wall, it really is too beautiful to be dragged around by Zach. He does get to sit with it on our couch here and there though...