Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Making of The Seven Sisters ... Or Channelling my Inner Van Gogh Starry Night Style

I introduced this quilt in the last post, stating that I made it to celebrate 5 years of meeting with a special group of women.  Each star is unique to the members of the group. She picked the colors. I made the stars to reflect each lady's color preferences.  No two are alike!   ;-)

This post will focus on the the making of this quilt.

The Wonky Star block pattern comes from Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine (May/June 2009, Uneven Star by Virginia A. Walton) but the layout and setting is my own design.

For the longest time, the stars were just an idea in my Sweet Leaf Notebook.  Here's the page that held the idea for 2 years until I could make it in fiber and stitch.  I needed a "map" to follow as I made each star to the color specifications. 

Next was the task of collecting the fabrics in the right colors.  Keepsake Quilting's Batik Jewel Fat Quarter Set was nearly perfect!  I say nearly because I did wind up dyeing the pure yellow for Kristin's star.  She has that distinction!  Sorry this particular fat quarter set no longer seems to be for sale.  That's the thing about fabric--when you see, you have to get it, because it likely won't be available for very long.

It's a little hard to tell, but the dark background is actually a patchwork of a variety of different blacks.  So I had to collect just the right blacks for this project, too.  This photo shows the blacks a little better.  This is the top before I added the borders.

The next task was to start making the stars.  I really wasn't sewing much at all this past year, so I was lucky to get 1 star done a month.  Then they sat on my design wall for a long time while I contemplated how they might come together ...  

At Quilt Camp this fall, I was able to add the title Seven Sisters.  I had originally printed the words in a pleasing font on the computer.  Then I traced it to Wonder Under and fused it to an orange fabric, cut it out, then fused it to the quilt top.  I stitched around the edges of the letters with red thread, but I decided it looked kind of sloppy, so I kept stitching, filling in the letters completely with thread--free-motion embroidery style.  I didn't bring any stabilizer with me so I used a piece of muslin.  It puckered a little, but it seemed to work.  Then I trimmed the excess muslin off the back.  Tedious, but necessary work. 

Next step : Rainbow strip piecing for the narrow inner border. 

 Rainbow Strip Sets made with the remainders of the Batik Jewel Fat Quarters.

 These were cut into strips and sewn into that narrow border.  Crazy, I know, but that's what quilters love to do : sew fabric together, cut it up, then sew it together again!

All those lovely colors!    The narrow rainbow border really sets off and contains the stars.   Then more black for the outer border.   I love how all the color just POPS on the black background.

Here it is all smoothed out, layered with Hobbs 80/20 Black Batting, and the backing, and basted with safety pins.    I actually had to piece the batting together as I was using leftovers from another project.  The edge-piecing foot made the a piece-o-cake!    It's all set for quilting!   

 Next it was practicing the free-motion quilting pattern I wanted to use : Simple Spiral.  This is an easy one for me--still I hadn't free-motion quilted in about 12 months.  I had to literally warm up, gear-up and psych myself up for the task.  It's very important to get the pattern into the muscle memory so you don't have to think about it when it comes to the needle.  Enter my handy whiteboard, and practice quilt sandwiches.  Finally I was ready to begin ...

Here it is in progress.  See those little spongy things on top of my sewing machine?  Those are wonderful little quilt grippers that help me move the quilt around under the needle.  I have a hard time with gloves--too much putting them on and taking them off to fix threads or make other adjustments.  With these little quilt grippers, it's very easy to just let go when I need to.  No micky-mousing around with gloves.  This was my only project the whole weekend.  I made great progress, and got the whole center part quilted with the spirals. 

I decided to use variegated threads that loosely matched the star I was working on and around.  The spirals work in and out of each other.  Fortunately, Donna, at the table next to me brought a suitable assortment of threads and offered to let me use any of them in the piece. Thank you, Donna!

I did the borders and binding after I got home.  That was my first chance to use my new custom-built sewing table, made by DH.

At first, it was very stiff--as quilts often are when are the fibers are squashed by the quilting.  Kind of like sleeping under cardboard, as my Unca Ray says.  The remedy is to wash it.  That's why I LOVE the Hobbs 80/20 Batting.  It crinkles up and makes the quilt look like an antique after that first washing.  Soft and supple. Yum!

It still needs a hanging pocket, and the official label. Still mulling that over ...  How to tell this story!   And how to let each Lady take a piece of it home ...  The ladies get to see the real thing at the end of the month.

Ah--It does feel good to quilt again!


Vicki W said...

What a wonderful tribute to your group!

Anonymous said...

I liked the behind-the-scenes look at the process. Just like my
favorite show, How It's Made.