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Our Preview of the Festival of Quilts 2011 features Nik's description of how a quilt that will be on display on The Cotton Patch stand A24 began...
The first of many we feel...
Patchwork & Quilting for People Who Don’t
by Nik Sewell
I am responsible for producing Newsletters, advertising and selecting fabrics here at the Cotton Patch. While I love working with fabric and helping customers choose fabrics in the shop (when I can) I have to confess that up until November 2010 I had never done any sewing – not even threaded a needle, hand or machine. Then one day last November I picked up a copy of Jane Brocket’s book, The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making, and took it home to read. Jane had visited our stand at The Festival of Quilts back in August where she was signing copies of her book and we had a selection of her wonderful quilts on display.
Jane’s book had first caught my eye because she is a fan of fabric designers Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs and their fabrics appear in several of her quilts. I also enjoy the colour and exuberance of their designs so I was interested enough open the cover and read her introduction. Now I have seen enough quilts made over the years to know the degree of dedication and commitment that is required to complete a quilt and that alone has been enough to convince me without much further thought that patchwork and quilting is not for me; I’m far to busy. However, certain phrases in Jane’s introduction such as “my aim is simplification”, “use(s) beautiful fabrics rather than complicated designs” and “ignore the tyranny of perfection” made me rethink my reluctance to have a go.
At that time had recently taking delivery of two new fabrics, one from Kaffe called Line Dance, in red and another called Japanese Chrysanthemums, in green.
When put together they create an intense contrast of saturated colours and I when I first saw them I thought they would look great in a quilt. Having read Jane’s book I decided to see if I could find a design in which they would work “if I ever had the time to make something, which I don’t”. In the end I didn’t choose one of Jane’s designs, but picked a design called Floral Parade from a Kaffe Fassett project book called Quilts in the Sun (now out of print). There were two reasons: firstly it has a one star rating and uses big squares of fabric (not too much piecing); secondly the centre block uses a piece of fabric no less than 19” square – perfect for displaying the larger-than-life Chrysanthemum design in all its glory. After that it was just a question of picking the coordinates, definitely the most enjoyable part of the whole process if you follow Jane’s philosophy.
The piecing of the quilt was done much quicker than I expected. In hindsight I should have given more thought to how much space an 84” quilt occupies, but then again that might have put me off ever starting! As I mentioned I had never used a sewing machine before, but decided to just go for it. My first block ended up in the final quilt. A couple of others didn’t, but having worked out that accuracy was the key there was a general improvement. I can definitely say that I managed to “ignore tyranny of perfection”!
Working in a patchwork shop does have certain advantages and I was fortunate to be able to quilt on the Handi Quilter Avante HQ18 longarm machine at The Cotton Patch Studio.
Another first and a very impressive result using the “Breeze” design on the optional Groovy Boards (you follow a pre-set design rather than free-motion quilting). I appreciate that the actual quilting part is a major hurdle for many potential quilters and the reason that many quilt tops remain stored away unfinished. When I started I hadn’t considered the Avante option, I was just going to follow Jane’s straightforward method. For her Hydrangea quilt which features on the cover of her book she simply added horizontal lines of running stitches and that’s it. No complicated quilting designs and it still looks stunning!
Having completed the quilting, I found the end was still not quite as close as I had imagined. Cutting, folding and hand stitching over 28’ of binding turned out to be somewhat time-consuming, but was possible to do with one eye on the TV.
Was the end result worth it? Absolutely. What more proof can I offer other than I am working on quilt number two at the moment! You can see my tropical version of the Floral Parade quilt on display at The Cotton Patch stand at the Festival of Quilts.
It’s there not because it represents a fine example of patchwork. Far from it, it’s full of errors and imperfections. It’s there to show that a quilt doesn’t have to require a huge amount of time and commitment if you choose a simple design and let the fabric do the talking. You may not be a fan of Kaffe and Philips colour-saturated fabrics, but there are a plethora of beautiful designs out there that are just perfect for this style of quilt. Pick your favourites and just dive in!