Snow in Grandmother’s Garden

Well I have FINALLY finished my latest quilt. This one has been years in the making and it feels so good to have it off my plate. I started this project in the beginning of 2014 and after 3 years of putting it off for other projects, namely wedding and baby quilts (so many babies), and seeing pieces of it strewn around the apartment, I put my foot down and said no more.

Originally I planned for a simple red and white quilt, all in hexagons, using the English Paper Piecing technique. I really love EPP; the idea of slowly building up a quilt by hand and the convenience of having a project that you can take anywhere to work on is exactly what I wanted when I began this quilting venture (the slow-pitch tournament got a lot of questions from some very nice young men).

What I didn’t account for was how long this was going to take me and the challenges that can arise when working on a project over a period of years. What began as a simple hexagonal grandmother’s garden pattern became a lesson in design and took constant consideration. Over time my idea of how the finished quilt was to look changed and eventually I decided that the quilt was a bit boring with just hexagons and wanted to add other elements (plus I wanted this done already). I sketched out many ideas but would quickly change my mind – the design was always in flux. I did eventually, out of necessity more or less due to my self-imposed exile from other projects, decide that I wanted to have strips up one side to make it asymmetrical, taking into account how it would lay on the day bed with only one side falling over the edge. I was also inspired, after doing research on vintage quilts and my great grandmother’s quilt (see History in a Quilt from July 2016), to add a completely different piece of fabric running along the top, chosen from what I had in the stash. As far as I can tell this piece was added to the top edge of the quilt that sees the most wear from hands and face contact while in use on a bed. This portion could be removed for washing or easily replaced once it became too worn. I’m not sure if this had a specific name but would love to know if anyone else has ever come across it!

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

Snow in Grandmother’s Garden

I am calling this quilt “Snow in Grandmother’s Garden”. It was hand stitched with a starburst pattern on each white hexagon, with stitching around the hexagon edges that make up the red flowers. A lovely tulip pattern is stitched along the top and yarn knots make up the quilting on the asymmetrical edge overhang. The stitching was the hardest part of the entire project for me to figure out and I thought about it constantly from day one. I ended up using these variations of stitching and quilting in order to add interest and align with the piecemeal aspect of the quilt top, but also because in the end this was a quilt for me and I could do whatever I wanted without worrying about it too much.

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

Detail of the English Paper Piecing and quilt stitching and ties on the front and back.

The back is of a fabric that I found in the quilt shop years ago when I first started this project. I fell in love with it right away and knew I had to have it. I’m pretty sure I bought the whole bolt so this is definitely going to be used in quilts in the future. Yay!

Snow in Grandmother's Garden

I love the backing fabric on this quilt!

Looking back on this quilt, I am quite proud of how it turned out and I learned a lot in the process, especially that I need to work on keeping my stitches even from front to back! Now that this project is done I can’t wait to try out different shapes and styles…diamonds, apple cores, and clamshells are all in my future.Snow in Grandmother's Garden

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History in a Quilt

 

Gullena Block Quilt web 4

Family Heirloom Quilt, Front and Back View

A few years ago I was given an amazing family heirloom quilt but it wasn’t until this year that I really came to know the story behind it. The 48″ x 60″ quilt is tied with red and purple yarn and is made up of strips in the middle and a row of quarter square triangles running vertically along the sides. It is finished with a beautiful blue border that also runs along the sides, leaving an interesting edge along the top and bottom without it feeling incomplete or undeveloped. The back has a few strips of the fabric from the front in what I assume is a type of sashing to reinforce and strengthen the edge and that to me indicates the top of the quilt. This is an element that I seem to see quite a lot in older quilts and as far as I know has not really carried over into more modern style quilting. The back is made from a piece of bedcover and has a marvellous textured design throughout.

Gullena Block Quilt web 3

Quilt back showcasing the texture of the cloth and the sashing that runs along the top.

The front is made from 16 different solids, varying from light and dark blue to pinks, yellows, white, greens, oranges, and reds. Patterns abound here with plaids, florals, stripes, fruit, checkered squares, etc. to create a vibrant but balanced composition and a magnificent piece of art.

Gullena Block Quilt web

A sampling of the types of fabric used in this quilt.

The quilt is quite fragile so I have kept it stored away to try and protect it from further damage. I had it out to air and to take some photographs when I decided to send the pictures to my aunt, hoping she would have an idea of the quilt’s history.

Originally I had thought that it was made by my grandmother, who died in her thirties so I never had the chance to meet her, but my aunt informed me that it was actually my great grandmother who was the quilter. Gullena Block, born on April 8, 1905, lived most of her life in Estevan, Saskatchewan and made a quilt for each of her grandchildren as wedding gifts. In true patchwork fashion the quilts were made from leftover scraps of fabric she had from curtains and dresses, etc.

Great Grandma and Grandpa Block Sept 1956 web

Great Grandma and Grandpa Block, September 1956

I am only just starting to get to know the history of this side of my family and I have a lot more digging to do; all it took was a simple question about a quilt to get the ball rolling.

Beginnings

My first real encounter with a quilt was about 10 years ago when I was working as a medical photographer and happened to stop to admire a small exhibit of quilts on the walls leading to the hospital’s auditorium. I couldn’t figure out how the quilters were able to put on the edge (which I later discovered was called the binding) without any visible stitching! I decided that the easiest way to figure out a quilt was to make one and so headed down to a quilt shop that was relatively close to my apartment at the time. My plan was to go in at every step of the way, buying the new element of the quilt each time and asking questions as I went. It was a pretty good plan except that the store went out of business (or maybe moved) after my first trip and I was stuck with the little I had, which consisted of some piecing that I had painted with fabric paint. Five years and three moves later I still had the makings of a quilt in a plastic bag at the bottom of my closet and decided something had to be done about it. I asked around but no one was interested in finishing this project for me so I decided, finally, to take a beginner’s quilt class at  Earthly Goods (www.earthlygoodsquilting.com) and made my first official quilt (in which I also learned how to put on a binding).

My first quilt front

My first completed quilt! Easy as ABC “Hole in the Wall” beginner quilt class at Earthly Goods.

This was a machine pieced and quilted lap quilt and I tried my hand at a few quilts after, a wedding and a baby quilt, which is where my foray into quilting would have ended if I hadn’t decided to take another class on hand stitching. It changed my life and started me down the road of fabric hoarding and “just one more square before work” that I know most quilters would nod their heads in approval at. I still machine piece the top of every quilt I make, unless I’m english paper piecing of course, but no longer am I forever fighting with my machine as it sputters through three layers of quilt. Hand quilting, while I admit takes forever, is my favourite part of the process. Each stitch made while listening to music, a podcast, or a movie has let me enjoy the process of slowing down, being quiet and calm, and making something that I can really be proud of. And I’m hooked.

P.S. I did finally finish that first quilt last year and I decided to try something a little different and tie it with yarn instead of stitching it all together.

Tree Quilt 4

Hand painted and tied.