A few deep breaths of clean country air did wonders for my head this weekend. As did the excellent company of good friends, and plentiful, delicious food (mostly prepared by said friends), a softening soothing massage by a skilled masseur, a bit of a sleep in, a few good laughs, the exchange of ideas and opinions, and just the general break from the day to day routines of life. It is always hard to wrench yourself away to head home.
Especially when you haven't quite finished the one project you've spent the last two days working on. Especially when you're wondering whether the recipient will find it as wonderful, beautiful, enticing as you do. Thankfully though, the recipient, my son, who knew that I had gone away for the weekend just so that I could make him a quilt (isn't everything about him?) told me he loved it even before it was out of the car, and the bag, and unfolded so that he could look at it and dance on it.
Never mind that the edges weren't finished, and the tag stitched on, until after he went to bed last night. More important that it was full of interesting colours and patterns and things to find (an owl here, a mushroom there, some scraps from several of his pyjama pants, and so on). There are many, many favorite bits of fabric in here. Many from my stash, or scrap box, and many raided from my mum's broad and varied quilting fabric stash. The colour scheme came from the main theme fabric- a wonderful farm print that I picked up from Amitie a few years ago (a Japanese print, but I don't know who by).
Thrilling as my son's initial response was, I would guess that I am possibly more excited by the quilt than he is, as so many of the scraps within it are special to me. I assure you I would have rather spent today snuggled under it, gazing at all the patterns within it for a few hours, instead of sitting at my desk trying to get my head back into work mode. I thought I would share how I went about making this, because it is a quilt style that I loved from afar before I summoned up the courage to give it a try. I don't think that I am cut out for more conventional patterned quilt making (I'll leave that up to my mum, amongst others), but random piecing is a creative process that sits very well with me, and which I find immensely satisfying despite my structured and perfectionist tendencies. I know that this won't be my last.
How it was made:
To make the quilt I cut about 4 or 5 random sized pieces (typically rectangles varying between 5 and 12cm) of all the different fabrics I had gathered (including a few gleaned on the weekend), and some larger feature pieces of the farm print. I sorted them roughly into colour families- grassy greens, ochres and yellows, naturals, reds, and dark browns and greens. How much to cut is a bit of a dilemma, and an impossible thing to estimate. Somehow I fluked it perfectly, despite being convinced early on in the process that I was going to have to do a lot more cutting at some point.
To assemble the pieces I worked through each family, stitching them together in pairs, by matching the length of two sides, and paying no attention to shade or pattern (other than to ensure I wasn't stitching two pieces of the same fabric together). These were then pressed, and sewn together in pairs again, matching the length of two sides. Some bits end up as long strips of four. Some bits end up as fatter rectangles. All varied. After pressing these again, I sewed them together into larger and larger blocks by matching the side lengths, aiming to create strips, with a couple of the farm fabric pieces in each strip. This was perhaps the hardest step, playing with chunks and bits and seeing how I could get them to come together in the right sort of size and shape.
I worked on the greens first and assembled three strips 140cm wide (the width of the quilt) by about 25cm high. When working through the ochres, naturals and reds, I made the long strips by combining consolidated blocks of each, again 140cm wide varying in height from about 10 to 25cm (just because that's how they worked out). With the dark greens and browns, I aimed for skinny strips, thinking that these would help to divide the quilt like the dark cypress trees that are planted as windbreaks, crisscrossing the local farming landscape. Some of these morphed from the dark colours through to reds or yellows as I used up every last little scrap that I had cut, avoiding cutting more.
With all the pieces incorporated and a collection of 140cm wide strips created, I played with the layout on the sticky quilting wall (there's probably a technical term for that), alternating the three green strips with the others, and getting the dark strips roughly evenly spaced through the quilt, looking for some overall balance within the colour and tonal variations. The arrangement resolved, I sewed the strips together and then prepared to lay out the quilt sandwich of backing, wadding and top. Of course there was one of those moments as I hurried to try to get it finished, when I realised that I'd left one strip out of the middle when I sewed it together. There was debate, but after looking at it, as it was, I took the time to unpick the one seam and sew it in as I had intended.
I did contemplate hand quilting this- it would be a lovely way to select and highlight different pieces, but being as I wanted to get it done in the weekend I opted for a tied quilt, using the assembly process outlined here (as I did for the Red Wedding quilt). I used a single piece of soft, natural linen (from Tessuti, again) for the backing, which was simply folded over at the edges and stitched down -the easiest binding method ever.
For the ties I used a variety of colours of stranded embroidery thread, tied on the front, and which reveal themselves on the back as a random coloured grid. My knees hurt a little today from the tying process, but it only took a couple of hours to tie the whole thing, which is a darn sight quicker than any other quilting method I'm sure. The ties are about 20cm apart, and I could add in some more between these, depending on how it wears. So far though it seems fine.