My latest quilt finish has been a long time in the making and has also been a huge learning curve for me.
In October last year (2013 - when I was still VERY new to quilting), the latest Tilda range of fabrics was released - Tilda Fruit Garden & Tilda Summer Blues. As soon as I saw them I just fell head over heals in love. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I knew that I had to buy them for Mum as the colours would go perfectly in her bedroom!
I had recently been given some old quilting magazines from my dear friend Carlie, so I flipped through them looking for patterns that I felt that a) I could handle and b) that I had sufficient yardage to make with this range. I marked the selected patterns and handed the short list to Mum to choose a design. The quilt that she chose was from Australian Patchwork & Quilting Vol. 5 No. 2 and is called "Jewel Box Variation Quilt" by Bev Darby. As stated in the magazine; "While it looks intricate, this quilt is simple to make, with quick cutting and piecing techniques." I thought this should be within my then capabilities.
My first lesson was in Quilt Maths. This pattern is for a quilt measuring 186cm x 267cm (73 1/4in x 105 1/4in), but Mum didn't want it as large as this - she only wanted it big enough to lie across their queen sized bed but to sit just below their pillows. I decided rather than resizing the blocks, I would instead take out 3 rows and then the pattern would still appear balanced and would be adequate for Mum's requested sizing.
I learnt how important it is to audition fabric and placement of pieces on a design wall. As I did not have a design wall, I initially hung an old blue woollen blanket on the wall in the spare bedroom. I really wish back then that I understood what a "low volume fabric" was and how to (and not to) use them. I think this quilt is a real failure in that department. Standing up close, the fabrics look really pretty together and I can understand looking back why I placed them where I did - however from a distance these fabrics "blend" into the background and the full effect of the pattern is lost.
|My completed quilt top hung up on my original design wall.
I also learnt how different colours can look in different environments. For example, on my blue design wall at home the colours in this quilt looked drab. However when I placed the top on Mum & Dad's bed the colours came to life. The greens took on a gold tone and the sand coloured homespun appeared brighter, whiter and creamier. The pinks and blues took on a personality of their own and they highlighted the pops of colour of the accessories throughout the bedroom.
|Laid out in Mum & Dad's bedroom - the colours all come alive.
I started to make this quilt in late December last year (our summer - and summers in Bendigo are unbearably hot). Whilst my landlord was undertaking renovations to my back yard, I was inside sewing like a mad woman. I had this crazed idea that I would have the whole quilt completed by the end of that year. Boy was I naïve! It didn't take me very long to sew the top together, but attempting to machine quilt a near-queen size quilt on my old Elna in 40C+ summer temperatures - yeah right. At this stage of my quilting journey I had never attempted to machine quilt anything before so I didn't really understand what was involved, and nor did I have a walking foot for the sewing machine.
Thus this top sat neatly folded up in a bag and neglected for many months. Over time Mum chose and purchased the backing fabric and batting. I slowly fumbled my way through learning how to quilt a quilt, Mum even paid for me to attend a "Free Motion Quilting" class at my local quilt shop. However, I soon came to realise that with the limitations of my health, this quilt would be too large for me to handle. Eventually the decision was made to have this one finished off by a professional quilter.
I had never had a quilt professionally quilted before and some of the quilters I approached made me feel intimidated either by their attitude or their prices. After hearing of my woes, a friend referred me to her friend and local long arm quilter - Linda Cotton of Ladybug Quilting (Linda's contact details are further below). As soon as we met her, Mum and I felt immediately at ease. Linda showed us many examples of her work and patiently discussed our many options.
Another lesson I learnt was when purchasing fabric or batting - even if you are not using it for a while - always double check the length of your purchase as soon as you get home. From memory the batting was purchased back in April and we were unaware that the girl had cut it shorter than we had requested (and paid for). As it had sat unchecked for more than 6-months in the bag, we could not rectify this with the shop that we purchased it from. A disappointing and expensive lesson learnt, but hopefully I can use this batting for another project. We only realised the problem when Linda went to load it onto her quilting frame. Thankfully Linda has a good quality cotton batting available for purchase so we ended up using hers. In the end it was cheaper to purchase and of a better quality!
Here are some close up photographs of Linda's quilting:
|Quilted by Ladybug Quilting using "Lively" by Lorien Quilting for the E2E pattern
As you can see, Linda has done an AMAZING job quilting this quilt. I will definitely be using her services again! Here are her contact details:
Long Arm Quilting Service
Kangaroo Flat, Bendigo
I recently collected the quilt from Linda but had to wait for cooler weather to finish binding it. I don't know what it is, but since the quilt has came home from Linda's, my cat Gemma cannot stay away from it. I think Gemma might be a Tilda fan! My mum might have a fight on her hands trying to get her quilt back from Gemma.
|My little helper helped me to pin the binding onto the quilt.
|Attaching the binding.
|Whilst I was hand sewing down the binding, Gemma was curled up under it with her little lion.
|Sewing on the quilt label.
|It's MY quilt not Grandma's!
|A cat's motto: What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine too!
This quilt was one of the very first that I made and it is far from perfect. I have made a few errors and my piecing is not as accurate as I would like; but through each project we learn from our mistakes, we progress as quilters, and we gain more experience. I ask myself, "If I made this same pattern again could I do a better job?" My answer is yes - I know that I have improved as a quilter over the last 10-months. I understand more about low volume fabrics, my cutting and piecing is more accurate, and I have had so much more experience with sewing together HSTs. I have also made a new design wall which has a neutral background. Believe me, it does make a HUGE difference! My sewing room is not as dark and cluttered as it used to be and I can now stand back properly from the design wall and critique my work better. But the most important thing is that despite the obvious flaws, my Mum loves her quilt as it was made for her with love - and that is what matters.
The final fitting: