Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A red & aqua quilt


Wow, I really didn't mean to let this lapse for so long yet again. The last time I wrote, I was attempting to stay on the ball with August's month-long Instagram meme, #SewPhotoHOP. It was pretty hard to keep up though, as August marks the start of my annual costume summer job, when I'm sewing so much at work that I never make anything for myself. I spent the whole month doing alterations, re-decorations, and re-makes on all manner of costumes for a West End show. Combine that with starting a Masters degree, 5 family birthdays in 4 weeks, and flat hunting when we realised we had to move - well it's obvious that blogging has been pretty hard to fit into my agenda.

After collecting fabrics for my first quilt between 2013 and the beginning of 2015, I finished this project during a week's quiet between jobs at the end of July. I took photos at the beginning of September (when it was incessantly rainy, not much natural daylight, gah!) and finally now I'm blogging it.

Without further ado…My first quilt! 

I've wanted to make a quilt for years. Years! I'm sure that I've at least been entertaining the idea since I was 17. When I was 19, a family member asked me to make one as a wedding gift, which I obviously didn't do as I was a time- and cash-poor undergrad student. (Only now do I realise that this was a request bordering on unreasonable, given how time consuming and costly these things really are! Did she not realise?! I guess not.)

I could pour over quilting books for hours: there is so much potential for design. The fabric choices, the shapes you cut them into. Patterned or plain; dark, light, or mid-toned. Piecing in blocks, or making crazy patterns from geometry and patience. Being random, sketching in colour, or creating images and symbols. And then there's still the quilting process itself.

I knew that I wanted to make a big quilt. I'm not a fan of small lap blankets; they slide off your knees. I wanted something to get underneath. So as it was my first quilt, and I wanted it to cover a double bed, I decided to focus on either log cabin or half square triangle quilt patterns. That actually turned out to be pretty hard; did I mention how creative quilters are?? There was SO MUCH CHOICE of what I could do with these patterns! In the end, I fancied cutting out squares more than strips; so it was the half-square triangles. Finally, I decided to go against making a clever, well thought-out, planned pattern on the quilt. I knew that this was going to be a big project, and I didn't want to put myself off doing it by giving myself too hard a make.

So random it was! This meant that errors in piecing could be utilised creatively, within a mish-mash of tones. I tried to choose specific colours: postbox red, burgundy, sea foam green, jade, aqua, and cream. The fabrics in the quilt are also very random: alongside your predictable ditsy roses and 1970s-esque mini floral prints, there are lobsters and whales; 1950s kitschy animals; geometric shapes; and Japanese woodblock prints.

Then there's the quilt backing. I could have gone for white cotton…instead, I decided to stash bust this elephant print cotton lawn that I impulse-bought four metres of on Goldhawk Road and never made into a dress.

I wound up with a metre of delicious dusty aqua alphabet print uncut, so I used it for binding off the quilt. I love this edging, and of course that's the part that you look at the most when you're lying in bed! I adore the aqua with the grey and yellow elephants; so it's a nice option to have for reversing the quilt.

Only after making the quilt and looking at it from a distance did I seriously question my decision to use a bold print on every single piece. The quilt is extremely busy, to say the least. I'm almost looking forward to it fading a little, so that the eye can relax on it a bit more!

After making such a nutty quilt top, I knew that I would have to quilt it as simply as possible. I just ran down the square seams using the longest stitch on my sewing machine, and off-white thread. My piecing errors are very obvious on the underside: it's far from a perfect grid. But I love how it looks like a vintage eiderdown from this side; and the elephant fabric is so soft to lie beneath.

The quilt really is big! It hangs over the bed, which is great as your feet don't poke out the end of the blanket! I originally intended this to be used in the summer months, but it's proven a welcome layer on top of our duvet now that the nights are much colder. The project really was epic, and I was utterly relieved when I finally stitched the last stitch in it! I got a frozen shoulder with the effort of stuffing it under my domestic sewing machine to quilt it. I also cut my finger really badly whilst quilting, not just once but TWICE in the same spot! 

The fabrics used in the quilt were accumulated over several years. Several were from my stash, utilising small scraps that people gave me; and leftovers from projects.  Others were acquired on my travels around the UK, in small independent sewing shops in towns such as Londonderry, Aberdeen and Dunfermline. Some I bought from Goldhawk Road in London. And the lastly, many are from Ebay. Although the quilt batting is polyester, I only used natural fibres for the quilt top and backing. 

I have many scraps of these busy prints that I don't know what to do with! I contemplated pillowcases. I quickly decided that they would be a terrible idea, and that I should only ever put solids against this quilt.

At the time, I said to myself, "NEVER AGAIN!" But of course, now that a couple of months have passed since finishing it, I find myself having thoughts of making a clean quilt…a quiet quilt…a quilt with hardly any patterns on it…and only big enough for a single bed… 

1 comment:

  1. What a very beautiful quilt and you can see that many hours of sewing have gone on to make it. I don't blame you for wanting to make a quiet smaller one next time!