As summer filtered away into deepest August, Rod from Carson City, Nevada decided to do something about a lingering idea.  His used jeans pile had grown to 15 after going through his right knee at least as many times and he had been searching for someone to, in his words, “assemble them into a quilt versus discarding them.” Cue the vast and wonderful interwebs, which led him to my email.

I wish I had taken a picture of the box .... maybe 18 inches square and weighing about 26 pounds (according to the UPS label)

I wish I had taken a picture of the box – maybe 18 inches square and 26 pounds (according to the UPS label)

And so it was that come fall, I opened a box to find multiple Levi’s (size 34-32), Lee, Kirkland (the Costco brand – thanks Lori!), GAP (relaxed fit), and Joseph Abboud jeans.  Rod’s jeans were all retired around the same level of wear (right knee out of most, left in some), some with dark brown spot stains (Rod guessed paint, or maybe blood?  He’s a hunter), all neatly folded.  The charge at this juncture:  pattern ideas for Rod choose from.

This beginning stage of a project is always the most fun for my smallest household residents.

This beginning stage of a project is always the most fun for my smallest household residents.

This random arrangement of legs in rows reminded me of a Diamond in the Square wall hanging I made a few years ago

The stripes are men's shirt plackets and the border peicing is men's shirt cuffs

Stripes = men’s shirt plackets and border = men’s shirt cuffs

and I wondered if this quilt style would work in this setting.  After checking with Rod (and marveling yet again at the trust people place in strangers), it was a go for my first Denim Diamond in the Square.

I cut the segments much more neatly

At least the math was relatively easy. I went for the longest strips given the 32″ inseam. Placket-narrow wouldn’t work here, but 3-5 inch widths seemed about right.

I cut sections for fade, wear, stain spots, and pockets until there were enough for four quadrants.

Alternating light and dark is a tried and true method for ...

This looks nice and orderly, but after the cut …

I used a rotary cutter on the diagonal resulting in 8 triangles

Cut and flipped, the quadrant becomes a Diamond in the Square

… it looks so much livelier.  And now for the fun, or paradox, of quilting … sewing pieces back together

Four diagonal cuts of squares result in eight sides of triangles needing seams

Four diagonal cuts of squares resulted in eight sides of triangles needing seams

This takes time:  two triangles are placed right side against each other, care is taken that seam presses are all laying in the right direction, then sides are pinned together  to hold through the machine

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Until a diamond appears.

I don’t know how well pictures and words convey the literally painstaking (needles, knees on the floor) nature of this process, but it’s a good example of how a word like “painstaking” arose in our shared language

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Corner triangles are added one at a time to the diamond

As the whole grows in size, it pays to carefully fold it up at each step both to keep it straight and facilitate feeding through Modest Machine.

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My workspace isn’t big enough to lay out a project this size, so I walk back and forth, project in hands, from my college son’s vacant room to my workspace.

Unfortunately for my knees, this tedious work is best not interrupted because the concentration and resulting work quality might not return in matching levels.  So I keep at it until all sides are done.

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For everyone who asks me how long a quilt takes: sewing these eight triangles together took about four hours.

Quilt folkways generally call for a border around a design, so it’s time to confer with Rod.  He agrees with my recommendation of a simple “strip” border, and so I paw through the pieces that remain.  This turns out to be a good way to deploy the decorative potential of all those jeans pockets.

This "strip" border is actually a block border, a good deployment of the decorative potential of jean pockets

The pocket areas add visual interest, but a look at the underside shows all those layers that complicate sewing and make jeans a difficult clothing item to repurpose

I probably spent more time than absolutely necessary selecting pieces for the border, but this part of the process was fun, and I was seeking a feeling of balance

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Joining, sewing, and iron pressing continues until the border lengths surround all four sides, which means the quiltop is done

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Now for a quick review of the end process that returning Patwig readers may recall:

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Batting is placed on a clean surface, wrinkles smoothed

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Finished quiltop is placed, right side up, on batting

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Backing is placed right side down on quiltop and layers are pinned together around perimeter, leaving 12-18 inch opening on one side

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And it’s back to Modest Machine for sewing twice all the way around. I’m feeling kind of just-shoot-me-now at this point.

Until that’s done, and I’ll leave off the last tedious details to show the finished quilt …

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….and with this view I appreciate it much more, and the work it represents.  I hope Rod from Carson City is enjoying its use, and that you enjoyed reading about its creation.  Thanks for reading to the end.  If you want to be sure to see more of my projects, scroll down and hit the Sign Me Up! button to subscribe, and when I publish it will come to your email automatically.

 

 

Linda came back to me around this time last year with an armful of stuffed plastic bags and a twinkle in her eye.  She had an idea:  a wall hanging using her mother’s old scarves and rhinestone buttons.

In her bags were buttons, which were a marvel unto themselves

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I probably spent the better part of a day arranging and rearranging these on my worktable

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I wanted to make a wreath somehow with them, but that wasn’t what Linda wanted

And there were more scarves, even after her project from last year

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This was sheer, so I backed it with black fusible interface

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Some were cut for a section of their design, like the one here for its polka dots

There was even a rhinestone belt, which she hoped could be used for the tabs to hang the finished piece on a rod

How could this be done? Twist around the rod?

How could this be done? Twist around the rod?

And best of all, she knew how she wanted to apply the buttons …as the center of fabric flowers!  The mission was clear, I just had to figure out a way to do it.  I won’t show you the how, because it involved flame and I don’t want anyone to start a fire on account of my shenanigans.  If you’re so inclined, after doing a little googling, you could find a tutorial, too.

So it was that flowers began to proliferate, and eventually each paired up with a matching button

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The size she specified for the finished piece wasn’t huge, in fact it was a mere 22/23 inches square, while I was abundantly supplied with 30+ buttons and 25 scarves.  How to arrange so many elements in such a small space?  Somehow I had to simplify it.  Eliminating the solid color scarves, which already were appearing as flowers, I chose a square representative sample of each

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and kept going to fill in a grid as background to the flowers

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Now for the floral arrangement.  Big bouquet?

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A smattering here and there?

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At this point I texted Linda to see what she preferred.  While I waited to hear back I began to play  with a color wheel border

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And tabs had to be fashioned out of that rhinestone belt (this was also something I don’t need to do again),

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Then Linda chose to place one flower in each square

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Best of all she was happy with the final product and bargain price given the work involved.  I haven’t made fabric flowers since then. Looking at the finished piece now, I think I like the border the best.  There are just so many ways to vary the entire composition.  What a riot of color to remember a woman who loved her scarves, her garden, her clothes, and colorful designs!

It has occurred to me time and again over the last many months that I haven’t posted anything quilty since before I put up that “most inspiring blogger” patch (thanks again Tall Tales!).

These pics are mostly for my followers, who signed up, I presume, because they wanted to see more of my creative process.  Thank you for following me!  Here are  some quick pics of what I’ve been doing since the last peep.  I’m not sure which one to write about yet.  Why don’t you let me know which one you’d like to see and read more about?  Please comment here or email me at patwig63@gmail.com.  And Happy Summer!

Playing with remnants from clothes

Playing with clothing remnants.  Click for a closer look.

Flowers made by melting edges of poly scarves over a candle

Flowers made by melting edges of poly scarves over a candle flame.  The client wanted flowers, so after googling, I adapted a burning method.  Do NOT try this at home!

playing again with clothing remnants, this time the unfolded hems, side seams and waistlines from jeans

More play with clothing remnants, here the unfolded hems and side seams from jeans

My latest commission which took about 3 months to make

My latest commission took about 3 months to make, from scarves, a skirt and curtains.

Sometimes lovely things seem to appear from nowhere … as this weekend, when I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by a fellow quilter, Tall Tales From Chiconia.  Thank you for your kind words Tall Tales!

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Apparently once one receives this honor, there are things you must do, in addition to simply being inspiring in the blogosphere.  It’s a little bit like all those copy and paste status thingys people put on Facebook.  Well, I’ll play, ’cause I get to display this cool award sticker.

First, you nominate other blogs that inspire you!  This is the spreading the love part.  Herewith, in no particular order  ….

Andrea Feucht

Traveling Academy

BEXJ80

Vicky Myers Creations

Andrea Works … And Writes, And Runs

Improvised Life

Start Making Sense

Things Organized Neatly

Unconsumption

Crazy Mom Quilts

Sarah the Gardener

The Cool Cat Blog

Neenah Paper

The Full Circles Blog

And the other thing is to list 7 interesting things about yourself.  Herewith, though I’m not sure how interesting it is …

1.  I like to chop wood

2.  As an adult, I have had 12 feline companions

3.  I pick up pennies on the sidewalk

4.  I fell in love with brussell sprouts in my 40s

5.  My favorite movie is Room With a View

6.  I like looking for worms in old leaf piles

7.   If my first child had been a girl, I would have named him Celia

Levi's backside = icon

I love denim.  I love it new and deeply saturated, I love it softly threadbare.  I love the gradations of blue.  Perhaps as a child of the 70s I just have jeans in my blood.

A recent Sunday found me and my quilts at Greenflea market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where an amiable man named Donald stopped to look at the quilts on the table and the fence.

The patchwork in the foreground is made from jeans, khaki's, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

The patchwork on the table in the foreground is composed of jeans, khaki’s, canvas shorts, and upholstery samples

“If I gave you a bunch of jeans could you make me a quilt like that?” he asked.  This is music to Patwig’s ears.  I truly enjoy giving new form to clothes that would otherwise be discarded.  And I like the surprises and challenge in coaxing something from a given pile of cast-offs.  A few emails later I had these on my worktable.

7 pairs jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs

Seven pairs of jeans and cut-offs and 14 legs, most blue and black, with one pair of corduroys and one pair of white denim in the mix.  Donald wanted something that looked like the finished quilt he saw at Greenflea, but with a uniform border, for which he provided a yard-or-so of soft blue fabric.

One of the tricky bits about working with clothes, because of their shape and the need to cut unusable parts away, is that it’s not always clear how much is needed.

The legs were readily arranged

Donald wanted the finished quilt to be 75 x 80 inches

A quick arrangement of these cut legs helped me eyeball that there would be enough material to achieve the desired size.  So I paired up pockets from different pairs of jeans.

Probably because I started with a grid-ish structure, I alternated colors

Definitely needed to keep those iconic Levi’s tags

Some of the pocket areas were quite worn, so I repaired them with a bit of fabric underneath and a zig-zag stitch

This piece looks like it might have an ink stain in the rear right pocket.  Remember when we used to carry pens in our back pockets?

After much arranging and contemplating, I sewed until there were several rows, a beginning for the center of a queen bed.  I thought this a good time to check with Donald to see if I was barking up the right tree, so I emailed him a picture of what I had so far.

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He said it looked OK, but a bit boring, given the orderly grid.  He also wanted more emphasis on the blues and less on the orange and white, which made up the majority of the piece so far.

Dear Reader, I wanted to do better than OK and a bit boring, so with his blessing I cut it up again.  Then the project really opened up – it would be orderly no more …

I had been emphasizing the pockets, now I added it more plain blue legs, which offered their own variety in the form of worn knee areas

I cut to maximize blues

With so many of my "rows" ending with the top of the jeans or other particularly thick spots, I ended up sewing the rows onto backing pieces

I resewed pieces back at angles, joining sections with smaller strips of non-blues

I cut the original section out at angles, varying the row widths

The angles varied the row widths

I increased the length of the rows by adding in a couple of stripped sections

I increased some rows by adding two strip sections, including a button fly strip.

With a lot more movement in the mix, my focus turned to getting the size right.  The goal was 75 x 80, and the fabric Donald provided would yield a 6 inch border.  So I had to close the gap between the center above and the planned outer border.  Scrap time!

Cuffs often get frayed, which gave me a start on opening up those bottom seams. The worn areas resemble a sort of tie-dye pattern

Frayed cuffs start openings in the bottom seams.  Fully opening the hem triples the width of workable material and reveals a sort of tie-dye pattern

Strip borders are quick to compose and sew and, most dear to me, reduce waste.  Less goes in the garbage can

At this point there was fabric laying around everywhere

I laid the cut bits out until I was sure there was enough to go around

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A row at a time is sewn together, pinned to the center, then the whole piece is folded up, ready for Modest Machine

Joining pieces

Though I used needles sized for denim, Modest Machine still broke 3 teeth on this project

One row at a time sewn together, sewn to the center, and trimmed

After rows are sewn to the center and pressed, they are trimmed at the sides with the rotary cutter

Each time I lay the quilt down I risk losing it to this resident

Each time I put the quilt down on the floor I risked losing it to this household resident

The blue fabric Donald wanted for the border was the last part of the quiltop

Once all 4 strip rows were done it was time to add the blue border.  I think it frames the active center well

This part of quilt making is physical.  Down on the floor, crawling from side to side while straightening, smoothing, pinning, and folding, then up and down the hall to feed carefully through the machine, sticking myself with pins multiple times along the way, then back to the floor, unfolding and doing it all again.  Knees, back, ankles, wrists — all recruits to the effort.  No wonder whole groups of women made larger quilts before labor saving devices were available.

Only once the outer border is done is it time to turn the quiltop design into what we know as a quilt.  That starts with batting

Quiltop done, it's time to actually turn it into what we know as a quilt

Batting is a layer of pure cotton fill which gives a quilt its warmth

The batting is placed on the floor and smoothed out

On a flat surface, batting is placed down.  I have trimmed it to just over the size of this piece

The quiltop is placed on the batting, right side up, smoothed out, then a single layer of backing is added.  Sheets work well for this job.

The backing -- Wendy's sheet -- is the third layer

Who knows what calculus goes into such decisions, but luckily for me, this baby blue in very good condition was retired from its household bedmaking rotation, donated to me, and perfect for this quilt

As well as being physical, the end stage of the process features craft and precision.  It’s not especially fun.  I’m always concerned that I’ll seriously mess something up and all will be lost.

once pinned together, again I fold it up and bring it to Modest Machine.  For this I sewed around the perimeter twice.  Because of the smooth surfaces -- compared to the bumpy layers of denim -- it goes smoothly, with no broken needles

Now for the final two rounds around the perimeter joining all three layers

Once turned inside out, pressing the edge seams is necessary to establish the edge

Once turned inside out, pressing outer borders is necessary to establish the edges.  I do the first part on my ironing board then, you guessed it, back to the floor

Because of its size, ties will help keep the layers from shifting around.  I've got this old spool of needlepoint thread -- I think it was my mother's or grandmother's -- and it matches the corduroy perfectly

Simple ties will restrict shifting from the weight of the denim. This old spool of needlepoint thread — I think it was my mother’s or grandmother’s — matches the corduroy perfectly

As I go through my photos while writing this post, I realize I don’t have one overall picture of the finished quilt.  What I do have are these detail shots,  which is what I liked most working on this, the juxtapositions of various bits of old jeans.

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You made it to the end!  Hope you enjoyed this scroll through my quilt making process.  Please feel free to share/link/forward Patwig’s Blog with anyone you think may enjoy it.

I’m not sure when or where it was, but at some point I was lucky enough to see Ellsworth Kelly’s Colors For a Large Wall on a wall, in all it’s pristine, elemental squareness, with colors stacked boldly in perfect certainty.  And I, in my complimentary simplicity, thought, that’s a great quilt.

So I gathered from my stash matching solid colors (except a purple, which I didn’t have a close-enough, so I threw in a lilac batik) for a homage to Kelly’s work.  I thought it came out a little flat.

Lacking some luster

Later I added yarn ties; I think it looks better here, without

Apparently the lesson of Kelly’s architecture needed time to percolate.

Since I make quilts from old clothes, I need to cut them up before I use them.  I don’t necessarily use all these cuts for whatever project is at hand.  I always seem to be cutting a lot of shirts, and began to save the shirt pockets. They accumulated.

Because you never know

I think there were 65 or so

Recently I got them out, and began to play

There's something pleasing about these orderly rows

Started on the worktable but there wasn’t enough room

I like this rug for this purpose because the inner bordered area is about 4 x 6 -- giving me a guideline of how big I'm getting

I knew I wanted a nicely stacked square, like CFALW

I knew I wanted the orange in ...

Colors interact, as do pattern and texture

Working on the floor does have its hazards ...

Working on the floor does have its hazards

Until

I was looking for balance

Certain colors drive other color choices. The brilliant pumpkin orange (two buttoned shirt pockets see above — thanks Nancy!) led to the inclusion of this playful green patterned print which I had forever but hadn’t found a use for

Color text on the shirt:  Full of mischief! and Good Times!

Bright text reads “full of mischief”

Some pockets I included because I liked their elegant insignias, and some for their weighty, tweedy feel

Modest Machine

Modest Machine still by my side

Eventually I settled on an order for the rows

Seven rows of seven pocket squares

Seven by seven pocket squares

And since I’m never too fussy about lining up my points

I am careful with my pinning

I am careful with my pinning

The top came together quickly

All sewed up

All sewed and pressed

Because the shirts emphasize fall colors, it seemed fitting to wrap a warm brown flannel around the block design

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I finished this quilt in mid-September and brought it along to Greenflea Market where I put up my quilts on good-weather Sundays.  The first week it was out on a table and passersby stopped to put their hands in the pockets.  The second time I put it up on the fence.

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I could call it Fall Colors for a Large Fence

Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Kelly.

When I was working on my last commission, two friends gave me fabric donations:  five pair of frayed, paint-splattered blue jeans and a seasoned sewer’s remnants, including several jaw-dropping 1960’s and 70’s Marimekko prints.  I marveled at my good fortune and vowed to coax something wonderful out of these cast-offs that might have otherwise joined a landfill.

This simple strip block throw that I made in 2006 was my inspiration

My inspiration quilt for this project

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the quilt above.   I like the way the light-and-dark strips define the center area.  And the red shamrock fabric (pocket material from an old pair of jeans) highlights the corners, though not enough.  I notice now that the dark strips at the upper right remind me of the  new red equality symbol.

I began sewing strips from other old pants together with the jeans …

Thanks Russ and Laura Irwin for the Levi's!

Thanks Russ and Laura for the Levi’s!

and kept going until it was something approximating what I liked in the inspiration quilt

Because I had started into some old khakis and white canvas carpenter pants (which I think I bought for my husband eons ago and he rarely wore them)

Joining Russ’ jeans are old khakis, white canvas carpenter pants, black jeans, corduroys and old cargos (thanks Greg, Dan, and Peter!)

More denim for definition

A good solid denim border for good measure

Maybe being a child of the 70s makes me a sucker for faded denim

And now for a bold border, care of those original Marimekko pattern designers

I actually used two different prints in the border, one a remnant and one a single print.  Thanks Ellen!

There are three different prints in the border, two remnants and one single print. Thanks Ellen!

Since I could go no farther with this quiltop at queen-size, I launched into another.  From trimming the denim-and-khaki strip blocks in the prior project, I was inspired to ladle a heavier dose of denim in this one

I sandwiched Marimekko strips from the first quilt between denim strips

Marimekko strips sandwiched between denim give contrast

It’s basically a Chinese Coin, a type I like to do.  It’s a straightforward assembly process, and is visually striking

Bordered in denim

Bordered in denim

Pressing the seams on all those narrow strips takes the most time

I made these quilts between April 4 and May 6, according to the camera dates

I made these quilts between April 4 and May 6

At this point the denim mass is crying out for a foil.  This print seems robust enough

But maybe a little transition is needed

But maybe a little transition is needed

This white is from a super lush, thick sheet set (thanks Wendy!), and works perfectly to set off the red blaze

This white is from a super lush sheet set (thanks Wendy!)

I dislike playing favorites, but I really do like this quiltop.  It is also queen sized.  It’s heavy, due to the denim, and would be marvelously warm in winter.

Detail

Detail

There was time for one more small quilt before the floor I was using would morph into my college son’s summer bedroom.

I cut out some big patterns in the Marimekko prints (quilting term of the day: fussy cutting)

“Cut-outs” is right … the saturated colors against white ground remind me of Matisse’s cut-outs, which story of him making even when bedridden at the end of his life so fascinated me in high school art classes (thanks Mrs. Hornstra!)

The tic-tac-toe structure seems suitable to house these color blocks

More white sheet sashing to pop the color

White sheet sashing pops the color

and a denim border frame

Bright primary colors -- child's quilt or play mat?

Primary colors — child’s quilt or play mat?

At this point all that was left from the five pair of Levi’s was small strips, and of course, lots of scraps from the other fabrics.  Using jewel-size bits for the center and working out, I launched right into making blocks to use up the scraps

Alas, this one is still a work in progress

Alas, this one is still a work in progress

The three completed quilts featuring vintage Marimekko are available for sale or show.  Please email me or comment below.  And thanks for reading my adventures in quilting with old clothes (and other fabrics).

Linda is a nurse who happens to be caring for her elderly mother at home.  Years ago after her father died, she started to weave a blanket from his old ties for a way to remember him.

She wove together her Dad's ties

She didn’t finish it, so she set it aside.

She’s also a neighbor, and one day she saw some quilts I made from old clothes, and asked if I could make a quilt using the blanket she’d started and her mother’s old scarves.  She planned to keep it at a vacation home her family has had for generations in Maine.  I was delighted to have a new commission!

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She brought a large bag with the tie blanket, and this assortment of scarves and a few other pieces of clothing from other family members.

After showing her a Chinese Coin pattern quilt I made for my mother,  she chose that style as the primary design.  With a plan in place, Patwig got busy:  all materials washed, ties cut up, and fusible interfacing pressed to all ties and scarves.

Once the ties were all cut open and the scarves pressed, the interface is pressed onto the backs.  LOVED this red and black scarf so much I couldn't bear to cut it

Linda said her Mom’s black and red scarf was from the 60’s; it killed me to cut this up

Dad’s ties were myriad browns, featuring the small, repeating patterns typical of ties, in a handful of muted color variations.  In contrast, Mom’s scarves packed saturated jewel tones in a variety of splashy prints.  I was having trouble at first seeing how to work the two styles in together, until  I pinned the jazziest scarves to the wall and mated the ties by color to each

I pinned a bunch of the scarves to the wall and "matched" ties to them ... this helped me see a way to mix them together in the coin stacks

Then I cut and laid out just enough to show Linda how a Chinese Coin stack from her fabrics might look

She was happy with it, so I could proceed

She wanted a finished square of 84 by 84 inches for a full size bed.  I made enough rows to fill the bed top, which ended up a 54 x 62 inch rectangle.

This came together quickly

Lots of border was needed all the way around to bring this out to 84 x 84.  Ideally I might have bordered this in all black or navy to corral the rowdy colors.  But I had to work with the fabric I had.  After consulting one of the quilting reference books I’ve  picked up over the years, I thought I’d give the “basic braid” border a try.  Luckily Linda liked that idea

Light colors inside the border

I ended up grouping the lights on the inside and darks at the outside to highlight the center.

The corner, or capstone

For a braided border you can start with a triangle.  Strips are lined up at a right angle one at a time at each side.

Once I had a critical mass, I sent a picture to Linda just to be sure I was still barking up the right tree.  Fortunately her answer was “it’s awesome,” so I continued full steam ahead.

Luckily the measurement was in the desired 84" ballpark

It helps to be happy with how a project is turning out, but this work moved at a slow pace, one step at a time.  That’s the nature of craft, I suppose.  It always takes longer than I think it will.

Braided borders can also be made just all mixed up, but I think the inner light works best on this quilt given the center coin section

With repetition, it gets into a rhythm and begins to move faster

I'm thinking there may be another braided mash up in my near quilting future

The mostly white appearance at the back of the braids is due to the fusible interfacing. The couple that look grey/blue were nice thick denim, which didn’t require supplemental backing

Linda dropped the fabrics to me on New Year’s Eve.  At this stage it’s mid-February.  If I had worked all day every day I would have finished well before the end of January.

After the third side was done it was kind of depressing to see how many more strips I would need

I had light and dark strips ready from the earlier prep, from which I could pick and choose as I went along

As a project gets bigger, the pace slows because it’s harder physically to move the whole thing around.  I have a son in college so I use his room and floor down the hall from my workroom to lay it out … thanks Pete!

Ironing out the last side strip before attaching to the body of the quilt.  Makes a nice contrast to the floor covering in my office.  Color anyone?

Once all borders are sewn around the center, it is a finished quiltop.

I'm trying a new type of batting for this project -- for this one I used NAME HERE and it has a nice, fluffy loft.

Do any Patwig readers remember what you do with a finished quilt top? Yep, place it, top up, on a piece of cotton fill or batting …

… and then it needs a back.  I combined the handful of cotton clothing items Linda provided with old sheet sections from my stash to piece a back together.

For the backing I pieced together old sheets from my stash with cottons from clothes from Linda

Pressing, sewing and seaming the back took an afternoon

I stopped counting when my estimated hours on this project neared 90.  This is an info nugget for those who always ask me how long it takes to make a quilt.  Answer: it depends, but usually a long time!

The layers are sewn together, turned inside out, then press it out with an iron a final time

At the end of the day, the piece itself is the reward, because I really liked how it turned out

I used 16 yarn ties to secure the layers together (thanks Ellen Banner for your yarn donation!)

I can't get a full picture of it but this is one side ...

I'm happy with the liveliness of this piece

I hope you enjoyed reading about how this came together. Thanks for making it to the end!

I think it’s on its way to Maine.  Next project will be an experiment using recent fabric donations.

I write from the Darklands of Lower Manhattan, where Patwig is camping at home, Modest Machine sits idle , and I have plenty of time to conjure my 19th century ancestors who made queen size and larger quilts without electricity in a house just like mine.

And I’m thinking of Tom and Todd, many blocks north in the Land of Light and Heat, for whom I made a queen size quilt before Hurricane Sandy came to town.  Luckily my husband’s office has working backup power, so I can blog about making it now.

Our block the morning after the power went out.  We were fortunate to lose only trees on the block and in our backyard.  For many families and neighborhoods it was much, much worse.

Earlier this fall I showed and sold my quilts at a Sunday fleamarket  in Manhattan, where Tom and Todd happened by my table.  They admired a twin sized quilt I made in September

This is a block style of my creation, an improvisational log cabin using scraps of varying sizes. Tom and Todd liked the  modern and masculine aesthetic

Even better than admiring the quilt and musing how they would customize it (queen size, brown instead of black border, mostly browns and light blues, not too old-timey) they followed up the next day with an email to get said customization started.  Project!

I began with the blocks, which they gave me carte blanche to create.  I had a pretty good sense of what they liked, still wanted to run colors and patterns by them

They nixed the feathers and snowflakes because their quilt is intended for summer use

Then I began putting blocks together, one scrap at a time

There’s no plan in this, just joining colors and shapes that seem pleasing together

And so it goes up to about  13″ by 15” before trimming, enough for 12 to fill the top of a queen mattress top.  This was a lot of fun, because composing these blocks is something I really enjoy.

Thanks for the opportunity, Tom and Todd!

One block at a time until

12 are done.  There will be white sashing from an old featherbed.

The blocks always look a little different  surrounded with another color.

Now the brown border.  I went through my brown stash and ran some fabrics by Tom and Todd, but  they just weren’t their style, which by their description was “somewhere between Jetsons and colonial.”  What I pieced together didn’t find that middleground, so we were at a pause until Tom and Todd saved the day by going out to buy fabrics they liked.

Inspired by this new infusion I cranked out the border

The border is 8 inches deep at the head and foot and 10 inches deep on the sides, so there was a lot of cutting and measuring, but otherwise this stage went quickly

I liked the fabrics Tom and Todd chose much more than mine

The quilt center is ready

It measures 52” by 70.”   Borders are sewn to all sides, then pressed

And topstitched for durability and decoration

That’s the quiltop.  Then there’s the back.  I didn’t have a piece of fabric big enough, so I started with two pieces from a couple of old sheets

then sewed together strips (trimmings from a sheet used to back a smaller quilt)

So the back also sports a neat, finished feel

Now it’s time to sew the three quilt layers together.  It’s so big and unwieldy at 87 by 96 inches that I really have to work without pause.  I’ve been through this in earlier posts — batting (the inner cotton fill), quiltop, and backing are piled, smoothed, and pinned together all the way around the 362 inch perimeter (leaving a small opening to turn the whole thing inside out).  Then I   carefully fold it up to take to Modest Machine

This is like wrestling with an alligator: it’s far longer than me, heavy, and has a lot of sharp bits sticking out

After sewing around the borders, the pins come out

perimeter is trimmed with the rotary cutter

and it’s ready to turn it inside out (so the quiltop, now under the batting, can be seen).

After a final iron press, once over with the lint remover,  a seam stitch around the perimeter and delivery to its new home at Tom and Todd’s, it looks like this

The piece measures 86” by 95.” Happily, Tom and Todd love how it came out. I do, too.
And I’d be happy to take another commission as soon as the power comes back on here in lower Manhattan.

I love the process of constructing a quilt.  It starts simply enough.  Sometimes two colors lodge in my mind and I want to explore the various ways they interact with each other.  Other times texture leads the way — a rough, loosely woven linen is warmed with worn faded denim.  And the path fabrics followed to my work table is always present in my mind:  scads of worn linen from a couch slipcover enthusiastically shredded by the family cats; a caution-cone-bright orange backing a graphic superhero print on boys’ boxers;  a lightweight denim workshirt that put me in mind of a shirt found in Florence years ago, long since disappeared.  Pulling all these pieces together is a reflection on the various parts of my life.

One of the warm oranges here is from curtains my mother made for her kitchen.  There’s also a pillow case given me by a friend’s mother when she and her husband moved out of their longtime family home.

Inspiration also comes from my environment … I’m always looking when wandering.  Lucky enough to go to Israel this summer, I admired this doorway in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood

Orange and blue have always created sparks for me, though they’re too bright and lively for me to feel comfortable wearing.  They work to good effect in this Nine Patch Patwig from a few posts back

And so I embark on a quilt in these colors, with my creative process guided by a wish to use materials on hand, to not waste.  On this occasion I turn to my stash of completed blocks, made from scraps after earlier projects

There are lots of blocks in my stash, but I choose these mostly for color, and partly for shape

The blocks need to be unified, so I surround them, frame-like, with a soft blue.  My blue stash offers a combination of scraps, from lightweight faded denim to old blue Oxford shirts

Narrow borders recall the small squares of the nine patch

Making these borders goes relatively quickly, if workmanlike.  When a border strip is big enough I sew it around the sides of the block, iron-pressing down the seams along the way

The underbelly of a quilt block

It’s hard to explain what I like about doing this, but I get utterly lost in it, much in the same way as I do gardening.  Times like these the work is its own reward, and I forget for a moment that there is as of yet no particular destination for the end result

Modest Machine never questions why I ask it to do so much, it just trundles along, well earning its next oiling

As the blocks are surrounded in blue a feeling takes shape which reminds me of those black and white “scan boxes” that seem to be everywhere these days — which googling just told me is  QR code

With the center composition done it’s time to think about how to border it.  There are many different ways to do borders on quilts but I often end up making simple strip borders.  It helps to lay out a bunch of fabrics to see what happens

A little orange really does go a long way

This is more rote work, though I have fun rifling through my orange fabric box for strips.  The border length is roughly determined by the size of scraps I’m finding — I prioritize using up what’s already cut and not hacking into another large piece of fabric.

And since there’s no end to light blue men’s dress shirts the heady orange is readily diluted

I often hand tie my quilts with yarn (again, as in the Nine Patch above), but this quilt turns out small enough at 55 x 59 that I just seal it with a machine stitched border around the outside.

And it’s done.

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