Monday, 13 March 2017

Off the Grid {a finished quilt}

This blog post has been a long time coming. I finished making this quilt back in October last year, but I've only just got around to editing all the photos and actually writing about it. Which is kind of annoying, as this is one of my very favorite finishes ever, and I've been pretty excited about finally sharing it. But life happens, and when you've got three small children things take months longer than they need to a lot of the time ;o).

So, a bit of background. Around the middle of last year, I started thinking it would be cool to make a quilt that was inspired by aerial views of farmland, and after doing a quick Google image search I knew it was something I wanted to do. Green is my absolute all-time favorite colour, and I've actually only made a couple of quilts that feature green - so it was about time! And then a few weeks after this, the Modern Quilt Guild announced their 9 Patch Challenge as part of QuiltCon 2017 and it felt kind of fateful. So I started making a quilt, intending to enter it into the 9 Patch Challenge. It didn't get juried in, but I've made a quilt I'm so proud of and am completely in love with, and at the end of the day that's what it's all about.



This quilt started the way a lot of my recent quilts have - a pile of fabric, a vague idea and a design wall. I cut a bunch of strips, made a bunch of blocks, and started putting them up on my design wall. I had farmland in mind when I chose the fabrics for this quilt - greens, yellow-greens, ochres, and rich browns. And to start with I thought the layout would end up something like this, with narrow sashing between blocks in these colours.



But as I got further into the piecing, I decided my original vision probably wouldn't work like I wanted it to. So I played around with the blocks I'd made for a few weeks, until that lightbulb moment when the design really started to take shape. I didn't take a whole lot of photos at the beginning of this quilt - so fast forward a lot of piecing later, and the design finally started to take shape. Apologies for the darkness of these photos - my design wall is in an awful spot for taking decent photos...



Once I was happy with the layout of the green/brown/ochre blocks I started trying to figure out what on earth I would do in the rest of the quilt. At some point (most likely while I was trying to get to sleep one night...) inspiration struck and I decided to continue the 9 patch theme into the negative space, using pale grey and dominantly white prints to create the 'background'. As you can see from the next few photos, it was very much like putting a puzzle together. Such a fun process, figuring out how to make all the pieces fit.



Once I'd filled all the gaps with grey/white 9 patch blocks, it was simply a matter of joining all those blocks together with white sashing. It's impossible to see in these photos, but every single fabric I used is a print - even the whites are tone on tone. 


I won't lie - putting this quilt together took a very, very long time. It involved a lot of trimming, a LOT of problem solving, and a huge number of partial seams for the final stages of construction. But I think this quilt is more 'me' than any other quilt I have ever made - and I enjoyed every moment of putting it together. Over the last year or so, quilt making for me has become so much less about the finishing and so much more about enjoying the process and embracing the idea of 'slow sewing'. I love Carolyn Friedlander's concept of Savour Each Stitch, it has become my sewing mantra.



Over the course of piecing the quilt top, I had (as usual) been thinking about how I'd quilt it. During the making of this quilt, I travelled over to Adelaide to the Australian Machine Quilting Festival and happily Aurifil Threads Australia were there with the ENTIRE range of Aurifil threads, including the relatively new 28wt (grey spool) threads. So I bought a few spools in colours I thought would be good for this quilt. I wanted this quilt to be all about the texture, and since 28wt is a pretty heavy weight thread I thought it would be fun to give it a try.


I've included a lot of photos of the quilting on this quilt, because it is such an important part of this quilt. It is entirely free motion quilted - yes, even those 1/4" spaced straight(ish) lines. I quilted this one over a few months, so it didn't feel too monotonous doing all that straight line work (and to give my shoulders a break. That kind of quilting requires a lot of focus, and I find I do get a bit tense when I do it for long periods of time!)


I started off by quilting the green/brown/ochre blocks, using various grids and x-shaped designs throughout these blocks. I only quilted one of the two fabrics in each block, allowing the unquilted fabric to pop beautifully.


While I was quilting the blocks, I was trying to decide how to treat the white sashing strips. I did toy with the idea of hand quilting these, but in the end I decided machine quilting was the answer. Walking foot quilting them did cross my mind, but the thought of burying all those threads was not especially appealing ;o). And in the end this quilt required a huge amount of thread burying - it would have been far worse had I walking foot quilted!!


I think my favorite part of this quilt is those sections where the lines intersect in the sashing - it's a little nod to the grids in the piecing, and the texture is fabulous.



A close second are those 1/2" checkerboard blocks. I'm becoming a bit obsessed with tiny piecing lately, and quilting tiny piecing is so rewarding. Again, amazing texture.





 This is my favorite block in the entire quilt - it's 1/2" squares, and I used a green 28wt Aurifil to quilt this one. I just can't get enough of how puffy those little squares are :o).


I'm so happy to have FINALLY shared this quilt properly. And I'm will be back later this week with another finished quilt top!

xx Jess


18 comments:

Ella said...

So floored by the awesomeness of the quilting!

Gonca Girginkaya said...

I loved your quilt, wonderful work

Patchwork and Play said...

What a fabulous piece of quilting art Jess! I love all the greens, the subtle background and the intense quilting! You are so right to be proud of this quilt! Congratulations on another fantastic achievement!

Lynley said...

That is very beautiful - well done! I love the echoes of the checkerboards in the quilting and can only imagine how much work that would involve :)

Patti said...

Oh my goodness! This is phenomenal!

Unknown said...

What a gifted artist you are !

Unknown said...

Incredible. I liked the quilt when I saw pictures of it in the Quiltcon posts, but I appreciate it so much more after reading this post and seeing the close up shots. A great example of the process of turning an idea into a thing of beauty,

lynne.litchfield@gmail.com said...

That is a truly stunning piece of art. I'm amazed at your ability to 'see' how the finish is going to look and to work so long and hard to get there!
It has given me much food for thought ! Having just finished straight line quilting a medium sized quilt with all over 3/8" lines I cannot imagine doing that much quilting, but maybe one day .... !

Lynne

Lynette said...

Wow, Jess - this is amazing! I can't believe it wasn't juried in - to me, it's a terrific example of Modern with a twist of uniqueness, and folks who are familiar with complex piecing can immediately see how much work is involved in this from construction through quilting. (Not snarking at the show, just surprised) I particularly love your choice of using low-volume checkerboards in the "surround," and the rectangular patches intermingled with the squares. Superb design work. :D

cityquilter grace said...

beautiful rendition of a terrific idea!

Laura Links said...

I always love your quilts and I rarely write to tell you (sorry!) but this one is just so amazing that I have to write. AMAZING. And I loved reading your description of your inspiration and your process of the piecing and how you went about your quilting! You are an incredibly gifted quilter and I always look forward to your posts.

Sharon M said...

Thank you for taking the time to show the process of how this quilt came to be. The inspiration it brings is endless. You are a true artist in the peicing arena and the quilting. You brought this quilt alive with the creative quilting only a master can. Congratulations. I look forward to seeing all your creations.

Karen said...

Oh. My. Gosh. This is a jaw droppingly gorgeous quilt! The concept, the colors, all the tiny piecing AND your amazing quilting decisions. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Total eye candy :)

Shari Borger said...

Love it! Pinned it! Inspired by it!!!!

Wendy said...

Wow Jess, this is incredible! The quilting absolutely makes it but I love the design concept too. Can't believe it wasn't juried into QuiltCon!

Cut&Alter said...

Wow!!! Jess this is gorgeous! I had seen a picture of this before but didn't appreciate that all the background was pieced aswell, I thought the colour variance was due to the quilting. Such a fantastic piece you have here.

Kathy@KayakQuilting said...

Amazing! Thank you for sharing the process story! Quilting is perfectly amazing!

Elizabeth Amos said...

This is absolutely fabulous!! I am in awe. I would love to create my own version but it would never be as fabulous. Hehe.