Saturday, February 28, 2015

BOS Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival & The Jester's Folly

Thursday morning started with a bang -- a good sort of bang.  No, make that an awesome bang. Picture this, it is 6am, and I just have my coffee.  The rest of the house is asleep.  I went to my computer to check up on things before I went to quilt on a very time-consuming Baltimore Album quilt.  I knew that this was the opening day for Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, but I also knew they were getting a snow storm, and the usual people I might know going, were not going to be there until Friday.  News tends to filter slowly from this show unless there is a person you know on the ground, so to speak.  Anyhow, I had a number of emails already, and a message from my sweet friend Sherry Reynolds of congratulations.  My quilt Big Bertha, which I will not show because everyone has seen a bazillion pictures of it, it won the Best of Show!  This is such a bittersweet win for this quilt.  It is at most 3 shows from being retired.  It is aging out, and has run the show circuit hard for 2 years, racking up many awesome awards.  It is the reason my family can afford to do a 2 week trip to Europe this summer!  It started it's shows at MQX in 2013 with a BOS, and this is very close to it's end of life, so another BOS is delightful.

A while later, one of the vendors posted a picture of my other quilt that is at the show.  Let me introduce you to The Jester's Folly.  It is the 38-ish" silk quilt.  I have showed a few snippets of it's creation, but realized that finished photos were never shown.  This quilt won the wall quilt's Best Machine Workmanship award!
It is made from a stack of about 12 hand-dyed silk Radiance fat quarters I bought in Houston in 2013. I added pieces of other colors that I had leftover from other quilts.  When I bought the silk I was fully into my silk phase.  It quilts beautifully, but is not forgiving to hiding errors if you might want to!   Though I designed the top on EQ, it was clearly a "design as you go" top.
Here's the finished center section.  The band of piecing making up the empty space (above) was made that way so that I had enough of each color to do it!  It was a bit avant garde, never conceived as being the octagon that I brought out of it in the quilting.  For those of you that don't work with this fabric, I interface all piecings before I cut them with Pellon Bi-stretch lite interfacing.  It is a tricot interfacing that leaves the silk still feeling silky and pliable.  The hand is essentially unchanged.  The raveliness of the silk is controlled with the interfacing.  BUT, the interfacing makes the seams thicker, and it is more challenging to get nice points and great matches.  I did try extremely hard! This center block, in fact, was designed to "float" so that I would get the points.  I wasn't on the ball though when I designed the outer row of HST's -- I had to be really careful because the silk made it harder.
The last border was another case of "I don't really have enough fabric so I will piecemeal something together with this olive silk that I have more of...".  You get the idea.  I often avoid straight frames in my piecing because they must be quilted perfectly to remain nice and straight, and nobody wants non-straight quilting lines.  Didn't avoid them this time.  I designed the little spikey flowers in fuscia and blue to break up the green border, and to bring the center outward.  Copying a design from one area of a quilt to another is critical to creating cohesion.
 Some of you may have followed my progression of this quilt on facebook, where I floundered around on the use of tiny circles stitched on the points of the points.  Many readers thought that the top didn't need them or was not enhanced by them.  I went my own way, though, and added them anyways.  I'm sort of a rebel like that.  Every time I looked at the top above, I thought of a court jester, and his hat would have the little balls on the end of the points.  I added them, judiciously.

So, without further adieu, here is the finished quilt.  I like to show the top before quilting so you can truly appreciate how much detailed machine quilting can transform and even alter a mostly basic pieced top.  I think that this is a perfect example.
Aha...I am seeing the light bulbs going off, as you are seeing the octagon I was talking about.  When I sat down to design the quilting, I immediately saw the octagon, and saw it as a way to get rid of that wide olive border I placed on the center star block.  Using a wide border was my way of enlarging the quilt, simply.  Creative quilting easily masks the fact that it is boring!
So one of the most common questions I get from quilters is "how do you know what to quilt where?". Sometimes it is obvious, other times, it comes by drawing several wrong choices.  One thing I can say is that to keep this with the Jester theme, I knew I needed the 30-60 diamonds.  They just speak the theme.  So O placed them as you see below, in the rather large-ish dark green corners in a cluster of 3, AND (remember that wash-rinse-repeat thing) - you got it, repeat the diamond motif into the inner border too.  To give some variety, the diamonds end and straight parallel lines run into the pink jester-spikey things.  They really oughta have a name!
One other thing I chose to copy in terms of the quilting is that curli-que.  In the background of the HSTs, there is this serpentine line, with curli-que hooks on each end.  I liked how they hooked around each other in the corners, because they were also visible in the blue quilting and the corners of the octagons also.  Curli-ques are whimsical, sort of like a Jester, so this seemed in keeping with the theme.  Feathers were used sparingly, as they almost seemed too formal.

The outer border, which if you remember I used straight lines on against my real wishes, needed the curved quilting to soften the edge.  My style of quilting can be very rigid and geometric, and curves help to juxtapose that.  The arcs of pebbles tie into the octagon of pebbles, making that a repeated and useful motif.  Sections of pebbles can be pretty, but they can also be monotonous and over used.  I prefer to use a motif judiciously and with purpose.
I tend to repeat many motifs, right down to cross-hatching (using a 1/2" curved hatch in the HSTs) as well as 1/4" in the outer border.  They are different textures, yet similar.  A word about using lines to get a design to show...It was a challenge to get that octagon to be a prominent design feature.  To do this, there are two parallel 1/4" lines, pebbles, and then another set of parallel lines.  Tip to remember - if you want a design to show on an otherwise busy background (while the solid silk is not really busy, the multi-colors and way I pieced it make it busier than a single fabric), you must stack parallel lines.  One stitched line will vanish.  Two parallel lines will show, but only a little.  Three parallel lines, which create 2 ridges of positive  space, show more.  You get the idea...Places on this center design that show prominently had the design quilted with more than 2 lines!
I added what have to be the largest crystals I have ever used - some are size 30 and 34!  I just hope that they are still on when the quilt arrives home.  They were being a little persnickety the day I mailed off the quilt.  
Last fun thing to show you is how I like to torture myself with silly bindings.  I have done things like this before, but this one was the, an odd 32.5 degree angle.  But I love the way the border blends right into the binding.  I am just not a fan of turned-edge facing-type bindings.  I don't like them and when I tried to do one last year it was a disaster.  This is my approach.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.  Hope you tolerated the long quilting discussion.  Many people ask what goes on inside my head as I design, and this is it.  And if you are lucky enough to be coming to MQX in April, you should be seeing this quilt hanging in the show!


Vicki W said...

It was a real treat to see both of your quilts up close and personal! Are you going to be at AQS in Lancaster?

Karen Lambdin said...

Ooh, I have been waiting for this reveal, thank you. Loved it. You are very generous to share your process.

Janet Ann said...

Absolutely Beautiful! Just Love your work. Congratulations on a well deserved BOS!

Susan Lawson said...

Beautiful Margaret! and Congratulations :)

What Comes Next? said...

Congratulations on both wins! This quilt is stunning and I for one love reading about your process and looking at the gorgeous pictures and quilting. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I love the long quilting discussion! The quilt is amazing and it is fascinating and helpful to see what choices you made and why.

Joy said...

Congratulations on your wins. They are so well deserved.

I really appreciate your blog because you explain how your quilts are designed and created. It makes your blog most interesting and it stands apart from most others.

LynCC said...

Definitely enjoyed the pictures!!, and I always soak up your discussions. It's very generous of you to share your process, thoughts, and tips here when you also write for publishing. So although I feel like a broken record saying "Thank you" so much, I'll keep doing it. :) I'm the same way about bindings.

Diane E W said...

Thank you for sharing your process. It is a beautiful quilt and your quilting has made it even more beautiful. Can't visit this show but hopefully it will be in a show closer to me. I would love to see it and meet you one day, maybe in Paducah.

Michele said...

I'm looking forward to seeing it in person at MQX.

Susie Q said...

Oh I enjoyed this post !!!! and decided to take the time to tell you. Your hard work and thought process just shows through and because you took the time to tell us about it< I will see quilts differently.

Sandi Whitford said...

Amazing quilting and design! I really appreciate you walking through your process and thoughts. I have never quilted with silk and it still seems a little daunting to me. It's good to learn from one who does it so expertly! Congrats on your win. Beautiful work!