I am FINALLY back in town, permanently, after the month of July spent living in and out of a suitcase and visiting family and friends here and there. Since it's now August 1, I've decided to tackle the mountain of photos and posts that I've planned from the last three months. So many creative adventures to tell about!
First of all, I'd like to show off some photos of quilts that I've completed recently and tell you a little story about them. This is the story of the 13 Niece Quilts. To begin.....
This is Morgan's quilt, finished in May 2011. I have made a quilt for each niece on both sides of my family, usually gifting them at the time of their high school graduation (if not before). That means I have made 13 niece quilts over the period of about 12 years!!
(back of Morgan's quilt) This year was kind of monumental for me because I had two nieces both graduating from high school and those were the last two quilts that I had to make to complete the series of 13. So I began on the project last fall, by asking each of them what colors they would like and if they had any special preferences (like plaids, florals, dots, stripes, etc.) I don't always ask each niece for their preferences, sometimes I have just used my own thoughts about the personality and fashion style for each individual girl. But for these last few years, I have been asking each girl, but still adding in my own inspiration so that it is still something of a surprise.
Morgan asked for "Black & white prints, mixed with bright colors, especially turquoise". Thus the colors above. Sally asked for "Fall colors: browns, oranges, rust, greens" (photos seen further below). I asked them both one evening at a family dinner, wrote it down, and went out to purchase the fabrics for each palette the very next day. Shortly after that I began cutting fabric the first one.
Since it usually takes me several months of cutting, sewing, and quilting to complete each quilt, I knew I would need to get started early this year. I'm proud and happy to say that I finished both, completely, in time and gave each to its recipient on graduation weekend.
For all of the quilters out there, you know that making a quilt involves many steps, and is a process. First you select the pattern, choose a color palette, shop for the fabrics. And then the work begins. Cutting the fabric and sewing (or piecing) the quilt pieces. You put together quilt blocks, then lay out the blocks into rows, then sew those together to form the quilt top. At the end of that process, you have a completed quilt top (but not a whole quilt yet).
You then have to select fabric for the quilt backing and sew that together. Then you choose and purchase the quilting thread, batting type, and quilting design. For large quilts, I prefer to rent the long-arm quilting machine at my local quilt shop and do the quilting myself. I pay the quilt shop staff to "valet" my quilt, which means they take the quilt top, backing, and batting and mount it onto the large frame to prepare for quilting. Then I show up the next morning to begin work on the quilting, working as quickly as possible because you pay hourly to rent the machine. It usually takes me about 4 to 5 hours to quilt a medium to large size quilt.
After the quilting is completed, you unroll it from the machine frame and take it home for the next steps. You then select a fabric for the binding. I like to wait to do this until the quilt is complete, because the binding is almost like a frame and it needs to be "just right" to bring the whole piece together. I'm picky about my bindings. I actually enjoy this part of the process but it does take several more hours. First you trim up the quilt, cutting off the excess backing and batting and making sure its all straight and squared up. Then you cut, sew, and press to prepare the binding. Then you sew the binding onto the quilt front by machine, and then turn and sew it snugly to the back by hand. That last finishing part takes several more hours.
(Morgan's quilt is from a pattern: "Toe The Lime" by Janine Burke of Blue Underground Studios. The fabric is from a mix of designers, mostly new in 2010. The quilting thread is a variegated dark and light turquoise. Free-motion quilting design by me.)
And this is Sally's quilt! A very different color palette as you can see. It's also a different pattern, and a more complicated one to piece together. This quilt took much longer for the piecing because of the smaller pieces and intersecting rows. The pattern is called "Spice Market" and is one published in a quilting magazine a few years ago. I had always wanted to make it and when Sally told me "fall colors" I thought of this pattern right away.
The fabrics for this quilt were also a challenge to hunt down because a lot of the "fall colored" fabrics at quilt shops have either a fall-themed motifs (like leaves and acorns) or a very old-fashioned floral pattern. I didn't want either of those because they just didn't fit Sally's personality. So my challenge was to find more contemporary prints (dots, stripes, and geometric designs) in the fall colors I was looking for. It took some hunting, but I finally was able to put together my fabric palette for this quilt.
For the back of Sally's I chose a small checked rust and cream colored print that would compliment but not overpower the vivid colors on the front. I also added to sage green stripes to add a little visual interest and also help tie it visually to the front.
For the binding on Sally's I found a very dark brown print with a rust-brown irregular stripe running through it. I really like how it brought together the colors in both the front and back of the quilt.
For the quilting design on this one, I chose to do a simple,free-motion design. I made long, wavy lines horizontally across the quilt and added free-form leaves every 12 inches or so. I really like how this quilting turned out and how it subtley complimented the quilt pattern. I used brown quilting thread on the top and a variegated greens thread in the bobbin.
I like how the quilting design looked equally good done in green on the backing as it did done in brown on the quilt top. I think this quilt pattern and colors is traditional enough to stand the test of time - I think it will look as good 10 years from now as it does today. Not as "trendy" as some that I have made. More classic.
That's it! A summary of the last two quilts in the series of 13 Niece Quilts! It was a great feeling to finish them. I loved making each one and thinking about the individual recipient as I worked on each one. Each quilt is as unique as the owner.
My next post will be "Quilt All Around - Part 2" in which I will give a summary of all 13 quilt nieces that I made. I'll try to dig up photos of each one, but I don't think that I was able to take digital photos of all of them. I've only begun photo-documenting my quilts in recent years, but I'll see what I can find and tell a little story about each one.