Friday, July 24, 2015

Finished: Maple leaf quilt

All the way back in 2011, there was a little exhibition in New York which displayed over 600 red and white quilts from the one private collection. The event lit up the online quilting world and all over were amazing visions of red and white vintage quilts in cabinets, and hanging from the very tall ceilings. It was just breathtaking (and I so wish I had been there to see it!).

So when The Quilters' Guild of NSW announced that would have a special category in 2015 for red and white quilts, I knew I had to make one and exhibit it! My original plan was for an improv art quilt inspired by a particular favourite work of mine by Piet Mondrian, but even though I sketched it out, bought all the fabric and made several blocks, it just wasn't coming together on the design wall so I scrapped the idea.

In the end I went for a simple design using the fabric and quilting to create the impact, and I am so glad I did. Friends, meet my red and white quilt, which I've named North-West.

No, I did not name it after a Kardashian baby. No, I did not even know who the Kardashians were until recently, and I certainly didn't know there was some poor child named North West or Drain Pipe or something.

(Seriously though, Drain Pipe would be a pretty cool Kardashian name)

I used a simple maple leaf block. Can I just say how much I love this block? I have no idea if there was a faster way of making it, but I worked it out in my head and then realised it needed a stem, so I just flew by the seat of my pants on that too. Everything was made too big and trimmed down to size using my Bloc-Loc ruler (the greatest tool ever invented for quilters).

Anyone who knows me will know that red is my favourite colour. So I thought I had quite a substantial red stash. Turns out I did not. I had red with other colours, but not enough reds that "read as red" which was one of the quilt show rules. So my good friend Bron allowed me to raid her stash one afternoon. I cut enough fabric for four blocks (thanks Bron) and then realised much later that I hadn't cut any stalks out. Wah! But I don't mind embracing the quirky in quilting, so I added some of my favourite ever text fabric by Kumiko Fujita so that each of Bron's leaf stems has a little message.

All 25 blocks of the top came together very quickly, and then my battle was how to quilt it. I've mentioned before that I had stupidly described the quilting as "swirling through the leaves" in the catalogue description, but in the end I didn't have it in my to do circular or curvy quilting. This quilt was screaming out for directional straight lines in a thicker thread, so I used Aurifil 28/2 weight thread in 2024 White.

I started from the middle edge of the quilt and turned the quilt 90 degrees at the middle point and made my way back to the other edge. I was after an arrow in the north-west direction. Sigh. You just can't take the geographer out of the geography department. I echoed this design every half inch. I wasn't intent on perfection and was happy for some wobbles here and there as it gives the leaves more movement, like they are about to blow away (I don't know where they'd blow. East South East perhaps? Down the Drain Pipe?)

This half inch quilting was going really well. It was mindless, I could meditate or listen to music ... and then I realised I was going to run out of thread. And I didn't have any way of getting more of that thread. And also I was really, really getting sick of the half inch thing. So in the last row of blocks at the North and West side, I quilted straight lines an inch apart, intersecting them within the furthest most north-west block (known to non-geographers as the top left hand block).

And the concept worked really well! It definitely prevented the quilt from looking too boring and this is where using the Aurifil thread in the heavier weight definitely paid off.

Here's the back. I don't know why I'm showing you. It's pretty boring but I like how you can see the shape of the blocks through the back.

The label however is not boring. It was provided by the Guild when I got my acceptance letter and I love it. It's based on Maree Blanchard's red and white quilt exhibited at the 2013 show. Maree sadly passed away earlier this year, but she and Bob James still had a beautiful red and white quilt in the show.

As for the show, well what can I say? It was spectacular. I managed to get laryngitis just before the show and I wish I'd been able to ask permission from the quilters there to show you more quilts ina  blog post.

I was lucky enough to do white glove duty in  the Red and White category section on the first day of the show. There were over 110 quilts in that category! I did not intend to dress to match the quilts but there you have it. It was really busy and everyone loved seeing the quilts. If you want to see more of the winning quilts, check them out here.

What else can I say about this quilt other than I absolutely love it? Even though it's been made with my usual simple block design, the fabric selections and the limits of a red and white palette make it quite different to my usual quilts which tend to be a cacophony of fabric and colour. Because of my general dislike of sashing, there is nowhere for the eye to rest, but you also get some interesting secondary patterns in there too. I don't think this maple leaf quilt will be my last, do you?


Pattern: Traditional maple leaf pattern
Size: 60 " by 60 " (12 inch blocks)
Fabric: Scrappy "reads as white" background, and fabrics from my stash and Bron's stash for the "reads as red" leaves
Quilting: Straight line quilting done by me
Thread: pieced with Rasant, quilted with Aurifil 28/2 Weight thread.
Batting: 100% white cotton
Started: January 2015
Finished: June 2015


  1. Congratulations on such a beautiful quilt, it's just stunning. I love how you have used both white and cream for the backgrounds. Funny how 'mistakes' can actually take you to a better place. I wish I had known about that exhibition to go and see it.

    1. Thanks Carole! The brief for the category was "reads as white" which also included creams, and that added a bit of movement for me, rather than having a totally flat quilt.

  2. I loved this quilt when I saw it....and it was fabulous meeting you too! Thank you for sharing it's story!

    1. Thanks Alison! I loved finally meeting you too! Hope to catch up again at next year's show, if not sooner.

  3. It's wonderful seeing this quilt again, and relive the happy show buzz. The photos taken with the wintery bare tree are perfect, it's as though you're adding leaves back to those empty branches. A fabulous quilt and easy to see why you love it so much!

    1. Thanks Rachael! Nothing can beat your two red and whites though - they were sensational! Unfortunately due to injury I'm limited to taking photos in my overgrown back yard at the moment - but it adds a certain rustic charm, don't you think?

  4. Yesss! This is such a stunner :D :D :D

  5. It is very lovely. It looks so good photographed in a wintery backyard.

    1. Thanks Barbara! I would have loved to have taken photos while the leaves were still on he trees in Nara Park down at the lake, but my overgrown unloved back yard and 1960s hills hoist is it while my back leaves me out of action!

  6. Michelle, Your quilt is beautiful! I love the different red fabrics you used and the white/cream background is brilliant. I also loved the scale of the blocks.

    1. Thanks Jodi! It was a lot of fun trawling through my white and cream stash to get the scrappy look!


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