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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

That finishing feeling

In terms of deadlines, my life is pretty cruisy at the moment. One Canberra Quilters exhibition entry is done, and the other - a group quilt - is basted and waiting for me to quilt it. I also have a birthday quilt to co-sew with a friend by Spring. It was started a year ago but I can't find the pieces.  Actually, there is a lot of misplacement of good fabric and patterns going on here lately. You'd thing living in a bigger house this wouldn't be a problem. You'd be wrong.

In the process of searching for things I'm also unearthing long-forgotten projects. I have more than a few projects that are only a couple of hours from completion, and as I'm sick of them taking up space on the spare room floor, sewing room floor and study (floor) I'm aiming to complete them as I see them..

Trip around Honshu - binding

I had this Japanese fabric Trip around the World quilt top quilted by a commercial quilter last October before we left for Japan. I trimmed it for a show and tell lunch one day, and then it has sat folded neatly, with the backing trimmings piled on top so I could use them as binding, on the floor in the spare room ever since.  Yesterday I made the binding and attached it, and then spent a few hours last night stitching the binding down. 320 inches of binding in 5 hours - I was obviously on a mission! Photos to come soon.

City Lights quilt - innards

In my searching I also found this Oakshott quilt which my husband has been nagging me for 18 months (that's how long since we finished renovating) to finish so he can put it on the study wall now that it's painted. I want to quilt it with a circular pattern, so I will do this before I quilt the group exhibition quilt (practice! The group quilt will be quilted the same way!).

Scrap piecing the back

I never had enough backing for the quilt, which is why it has festered for so long. So yesterday I also put together some of the Oakshott scraps to make up the difference. I really love how this fabric sparkles. I don't love how it frays.

In the meantime I still haven't found the lost birthday quilt project, but this morning after swimming I found the energy to clean up some of my fabric shelves. With the frantic stash- and scrap- busting that went on with my Sydney exhibition show quilts the shelves got into a right royal mess. Add some stash enhancement to that, and you have yourself a bit of an organisational disaster.

Sewing room stash management

 I've finished seven of the sixteen shelves, but I seem to have run out of storage for all the greys I seem to have acquired.  Wish IKEA made a bigger Expedit. Not that my sewing room would be big enough to hold it.

Sewing room stash management

A lot more work is required, so it's time to put the music back on and get back to it. I'm pretty pleased I finished one UFO this weekend - if I can finish the backing for the Oakshott and find the birthday project we'll know that I had a winning weekend!