Enter Tocumwal Lane in Canberra's CBD.
While we set up this photo, two policemen drove into the alley and came over to make sure we weren't tagging the fence or taking drugs or something. Yeah - two ladies with quilts. We such trouble.
This is my Manhattan Clams quilt. I started this quilt straight after the Canberra Quilters exhibition last year - I'd purchased a clamshell die from the Sizzix stand, and finally I knew how I could showcase my prized half yard collection of Jay McCarroll's line "Center City". I loved this collection from the moment he started releasing teasers on the web. It is just so busy, and chaotic, exactly like the large American cities I love so much.
I decided to intersperse it with some solids. The only solids I had on hand at the time were red, grey and maroon. The green was included much later - after a bit of time out, it went back up on the design wall and it really was missing something. So I added a little green here and there. My clamshell versions of Madison Square Park, Central Park, Riverside Park and all those other little surprise parks you come across when traipsing across Manhattan.
The clamshells were appliquéd by hand. I did the first row of clamshells using papers, but appliquéing over paper hurt my arm so badly I changed the technique to using starch, Mylar and glue. I'm pretty proud of how I came up with the technique. One day I might share it here, but everyone then has to promise not to steal it, make it their own with their own photos, and then publish it in a magazine. Promise? (Yeah - that's happened. No I'm not at all bitter about it.)
I knew from the moment I decided to make this quilt how long and wide I wanted it to be, and how I was going to quilt it. Of course sometimes I can be so stubborn that it's hard to sway from the dream when the reality is something isn't going to be feasible (like when clamshells start veering to the right), but other than the length (it's about 20 cm shorter than I wanted it to be) everything is exactly as it was in my head. Actually it's better than what was in my head. I LOVE this quilt.
I matchstick quilted it. It took me 12 hours, eight bobbins and a one hour massage.I love the texture of it, how there is another dimension added on top of the clamshells. Like smog. Or smoke billowing from the bus headed down 42nd St. There is also something about doing really close, tight machine quilting on something that is completely sewn by hand that thrills me. It's like a flip of the middle finger to the stalest of quilting traditions.
I struggled to find the perfect binding fabric in my stash. The plain grey totally dragged the quilt down. I didn't have enough red, green or maroon. And the Center City fabric was just so busy the binding would have looked like a hindrance rather than a petite frame to the quilt. I found this Kei fabric in the grey section of my stash - it's so fine it's almost like lawn, but the geometric design looks a little like chain link fencing, and I thought that was perfect.
The backing fabric is a mix of newsprint and Sketch in black and white. I think the quilting makes the newsprint look crumpled ...
... and I like how in the late afternoon sun, you can see the shapes of the clamshells through the back.
I had some leftover clams, so I have used them for both the quilt label, and the mandatory address label for entry into the Canberra Quilters exhibition. (As an aside, I think appliquéing a label on something after matchstick quilting is too hard. Binding was bad enough. The label and sleeve is just ridiculous. Ridiculously ouch, that is.)
This is my favourite photo of the afternoon. I used painters tape on all the graffiti murals as I didn't want to destroy anyone else's work with regular clear tape. And I placed the quilt right next to one of my favourite sayings "Look Up More" (we shall ignore the "pimp" tagged right above it). I think at this point on stepping back I actually went "wow". I love how this quilt turned out, and I think the amount of work that went into it was totally worth it.
Thanks to Bron for this photo. Love it!
Pattern: My own design, based on the traditional clamshell shape
Techniques used: Needle turn applique using Superior Threads Egyptian Cotton
Fabric: Center City by Jay McCarroll, and various solids in my stash
Quilting: Machine quilted, matchstick style, using Aurifil Mako 50/2 thread in grey (2610)
Batting: 100% cotton
Started: August 2013Finished: July 2014