So, the really big quilt mentioned around here in the recent past was a Christmas gift for Mom & Dad. I'm not going to post a pic of the entire thing because it contains images of the kids, but I can show bits of it and describe the rest. Sort of.
For a variety of reasons, I usually don't work with traditional blocks. I prefer to make up my own and flow down as I go, partially because I tend to build out from tiny squares 1-inch or smaller. (Yes, you read that correctly - squares 1-inch or smaller. The JL block in this post is made from 1-inch squares. All of those blankies I've made in the past were formed of blocks created with 1-inchers. Most of the hanging pieces are 1-inchers, though some of those are 1/2 and 1/4-inchers. My future psychotherapist is going to have a field day...)
Due to the size of this one I knew I couldn't do it with 1-inchers, and figured launching from a traditional base would be the best approach. As usual, I had only a general Sense of Being when starting:
- It will incorporate images
- It will use up lots of the Vintage Mom Cloth
- It will involve lots of gold (one of Mom's fave colors)
- It will involve lots of blues (another of Mom's fave colors)
- It will not have so much gold as to irritate me (I'm the one who has to look at it for months, after all, and bright colors get on my nerves)
- It will not have top stencils
- It will be big enough for a full size bed
After going through my various quilt history & pattern books, I decided the Churn Dash best suited my needs. Here's the basic template of that block:
That turned into the test block below. (Image is of Moi from nine years ago wearing the St. Lucia hat I made for that holiday, having learned about that event from the Norwegian whose apartment I took over at the time. I used to make elaborate holiday-themed hat things to wear off the plane when I returned to the homestead. This one remains the favorite of the parental units, and I still remember how the entire plane burst into applause when I took it out of the bag, put it on my head and turned it on. It lights up! I took a string of teeny tiny Christmas lights, rewired them so they worked off a battery, hid the battery pack in the wreath, wove the lights throughout the wreath and then decorated the rest of the hat with St. Lucia-type things. My parents still have it and it still lights up. They use it as a Christmas decoration. I should make them a new one now that I think about it. That one is getting kind of ratty...)
Anywho, I finished the test block but kept feeling eh about it. It's okay and all, but boring! It needed to be spiced up. I reworked a couple of prototypes until I got one I really liked, and here's the final result. (The image if of my maternal grandparents, taken in the ancestral homeland of Chicago. She was 19, he was 23.)
In essence I flipped corner squares, breaking up that internal frame, and tucked under the quarter triangles of those squares. The result kind of looks like a sun, which was cool and fit the vibe I was after. Each of which has a different image at the center: Maternal g'parents, paternal g'parents, Mom & Dad, my sister, the nephews, the niece, Me, my first cat (family joke), and my fave picture of my sister & I from childhood.
With the exception of the grandparent blocks, each image is framed with mom's vintage cloth. My block and that of my cat is framed with the cloth she used for the apron she made me when I was 11 or 12, for example. (I still have and use that apron...you can see the cloth in the test block.) The grandparent blocks are framed with mudcloth, which I felt was appropriate for the whole ancestor thing.
Though the sun blocks were cool, they introduced the problem of squaring them off. A quilt is a rectangle, but I had created a bunch of ovals. What to do? I tossed ideas in my head while making the suns, but it wasn't until I laid a full-sized sheet on the floor as a guide and started fiddling with the suns on top of it that I was able to figure it out. Basically it came down to laying the suns out as a grid -
- Top row 2 suns: maternal and paternal g'parents
- 2nd row 3 suns: parents in center, Me on one side, sister on the other
- 3rd row 3 suns: cat in center, nephews on one side, niece on the other
- 4th row 1 block: sister/me in center
- and connecting them to each other using strips of mudcloth I hand dyed in royal blue. Anchoring the suns to a grid created the needed rectangle-ish space. In fact it made two spaces, internal and external! Yaay.
To fill the internal space I went with a basic 9-square checkerboard block made from dark blue linen (more of Mom's vintage cloth) and medium grey brushed cotton (which I got from one of the dollar stores in the garment district). I made six of those, attaching the corners underneath the suns as needed. For the external space I cut strips of the linen to shape, attaching to suns and checkerboards as needed, and squared the entire thing off. (Or is it 'rectangled' it off?)
Then I assembled a false sandwich, using basic poplin as base. I needed the false sandwich because I wanted a strong anchor for the hand embroidery. It's in no way elaborate embroidery, just criss-cross in purple and in silver floss outlining some of the checkerboard squares. Also included was my Anansi Bug. There are three in the final piece, stitched from rainbow blue floss.
People who do blackwork will probably recognize that and you're correct! It's a slightly altered Algerian Eyelet. To me it looks like a Daddy Longlegs, and because in my world the DL is the symbol for Anansi (and, like ladybugs, they're good luck) at least one AB has to go somewhere on any cloth thing I make. They're not always visible, though. Sometimes I hide them.
Once all the hand embroidery was done I put on the binding and then the real backing, which is purple fleece. Stitch, top stitch, done! In all, it took about three and a half/four months. At first I was surprised that this took far less time to make as compared to when I do something less than 1/4th its size. But when I thought about it, I figured it's because it wasn't built out from tiny squares, it is largely based on traditional blocks and I have Fredi now as opposed to hand-sewing. When working with big squares and not free flowing the design, it goes faster. (Yes, four months is speedy to me. Usually it takes me almost a year to do a piece.)
I wanted to do two pieces this year, going back to my traditional itty bitty square approach. Not sure if I'm going to be able to, but we'll see. One of them involves lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of green. Dare I also say 'vintage polyester'? *cackle* The other one is still kicking my ass concept wise. If it ends up I'll have to drop one of them it'll probably be this one.
So anyways, my parents loved it! I think Dad liked it even better than the stuff I brought him from the set of Homicide a few years ago, and Mom liked it so much she didn't even notice the stray cat hairs. When I left they still hadn't decided if they were going to use it for the bed in the guest room or if they were going to hang it on a wall in the living room. Yaay! If they had hated it? I had nothing in reserve.
And this post will have to hold you through the majority of this week. See you again in a few days.