Sunday, December 27, 2015

Finally Finished: The secret project!

Steph got a tattoo for her 50th birthday...and a quilt for her 55th.

You ever have an idea for a quilt that you can't get out of your mind? This was one of those quilts. FAIR WARNING: LONG POST AHEAD!

Many years ago my sister had a yen to get a tattoo, and said she would get one by the time she was 50. In 1988 when I was 30 and she was 27, we vacationed together with some friends at Pensacola Beach. One evening we went to Panama City to shop and eat. There was a tattoo parlor and she walked into it. I went right in after her, because I knew if she got a tattoo on my watch our mother would never let me hear the end of it.

I managed to draw her out and my butt was safe. She kept saying how much she wanted one but I never believed she would because my sister hates needles, and passes out at the sight of blood!

Five years ago, my sister went through a string of some horrible events, the sum of which would break most people into tiny bits and possibly not ever come back together. But she is not most people. She is stronger today as a result, and she is in a much better place now.

The sequence of events happened during the year leading up to my sister's 50th birthday. Everything she had been through in the past year, especially that last month, had only served to fuel the fire of getting the tattoo by her birthday.

A couple of weeks before her birthday, two of her friends called me and we worked out a surprise birthday party for Steph. Friends and family from Memphis and Little Rock were invited. I didn't know how we were going to pull this off as a surprise, but we managed. But before the party, she got her tattoo.




This was her design; she loves the mariner's compass and had painted one on the ceiling of her sunroom.

I was consumed by the idea of it being a quilt. I finally sat down with our oldest son and told him my ideas, and he drafted the pattern. Katrina blew up the design to the size I wanted and printed the pattern for me (she used to work for a sign company) over two years ago.
I set the goal of having it completed and gifting it to her for her 55th birthday because that's another important milestone for us; it marks the crossing of the threshold to the year beyond our father's lifespan. He died when he was 54.

I gathered fabrics for two years for this project. I didn't have much in the way of brights when I came up with the idea, and started picking up FQs and charm packs here and there for it. I used any scrap I had, too.

I had the perfect fabric to serve as the "grout" for the compass points. The big decision for me was choosing the background for the compass. After purchasing 2 fabrics that just wouldn't work, I received an email from Massdrop about the latest quilting drops...and my heart said, "This is it!"
Background fabric on the left; grout fabric on the right
By now you've probably seen the background fabric all over the place--the words are color names. PERFECT!

Being the process person I am, I thought a lot about how I was going to do this. My initial plan of attack was to do circles/dots/bubbles like Cindy's retirement quilt, but I have long admired this quilt from Cabbage Rose Quilts in Australia:

I love mosaics. I knew this would take longer than running the fabrics through the die cutter, but thought the effect would be worth it.

The due date was October 16, 2015--my sister's 55th birthday. I finally did a test point at the end of July and boy, did I question my decision to do this...

I had applied Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite to a bunch of blue scraps, and then whacked away at them willy-nilly, and then spent a LOT OF TIME placing them on the background. When The Girlfriends came over to sew a few weekends later, I showed it to them and while we were sitting there chatting (because we always spend more time talking than stitching!), Cindy filled in the green half.

She thereupon stated that The Girlfriends should help do this. I booked them for the Sunday before Labor Day to get-'er-done. I cut all the compass points out on one of my days off and prepped and cut all the mosaic pieces. All the Girlfriends had to do was peel and stick the mosaic fabric pieces onto the points.They came over again 2 weeks later and that day we finished getting the pieces on the points and yellow arcs.
Fabrics ready to cut up
Auditioning the points
I spent what little time I could over the next couple of weeks fusing everything down, trimming seam allowances, and positioning the pieces on the background to make sure it would all work together.



Then the other shoe fell...the Hubster had multiple surgeries on his kidneys, and I dropped everything to take care of him. The quilt was not finished on time, but that's ok. He's much better!

And right after his second surgery, Steph's partner called and said she was throwing a surprise party for her. I had to do a lot of cooking for the party while keeping watch over the Hubster, and that meant no quilting and definitely not getting the quilt done on time.

Now for the sticker shock--this is, without a doubt, the most expensive quilt I've ever made. While I was thinking that I could use a lot of scraps for it (I did), the most expensive part was the THREAD! I spent $250 in thread alone for this thing (when you need several colors...)! Add another $40 for the Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite, another $100 for all the background fabrics I purchased (I was able to use one of them for the backing), then the few fabrics I purchased for the compass points...plus batting...

About that quilting: I had in my head that I would stitch in black or lead gray the straight lines jutting out from inside the compass to the outside of the arcs, then doodle along side each point in that particular color. The black dots on Steph's tattoo were not going to show up with this background, so they were easy to toss out. But once I got it on the frame, my mind said it needed something else.

I used black thread instead of lead gray to stitch down the outer edges and centers of each compass point, and stitched the black radiant lines between each point. I then quilted straight lines in the appropriate color for the purple and pink sections, the longest points. I got tired of ruler work at that point! I switched over to meandering, doodling, random triangles, and more in the other colors.

In the background, I stitched a wavy line between each line of words, dipping into the spaces between each word. I randomly selected a few color names and stitched around them with the appropriate color.



Some of the threads used for quilting
This was the first time I have used a blue marking pen that's supposed to disappear with water. I should have tested first, but I was anxious to get this thing done. After it was quilted, I took it off the frame and placed it on a table where I could work on removing the marks. I used a paintbrush with some cold water and while it started to come out, a lot of it just stayed there. I did some research and decided to follow the advice of washing it without detergent. Before I could get to that, I was cleaning the studio and picked up the pen to put it away, and realized I had used an actual highlighter instead of a disappearing marking pen. YIKES! After researching highlighters and finding out they are water-based, I soaked each marking with cold water and it all went away. A tiny bit leeched out onto the back, but that's ok.

This quilt was quite the community effort. I couldn't have done it without all the help I had, and those helpers are on the label:
The quilt label is a full fat quarter in size; printed by Spoonflower
The first weekend in December, Steph and Holly came down under the ruse of my hosting a craft-a-palooza weekend with the Girlfriends. Katrina couldn't join us because she was on her way to New Orleans to hop onto a cruise ship, but we FaceTimed with her when I presented the gift. I wanted everyone here that participated in the making of the quilt; Jack was the only one who couldn't be there when she opened it. (The following set of photos were taken by Cindy.)









Comparing Steph's tattoo to the quilt
Steph on the right, me on the left
She loved it.
She also says she is now completely changing the color scheme in her bedroom. We'll see!

It was a beautiful weekend without a cloud in the sky, which made for a bad time to take full photos of the quilt. When Steph came for Christmas this week, I knew we would have some cloudy days and asked her to bring the quilt. We finally got some good shots this weekend:






The sun was coming back out... 







Quilt Stats:
Size - 71" x 80"
Batting - Quilter's Dream 70/30 Blend
Threads - Fil-tec Premo Soft in Black and White, and Wonderfil Tutti in various colors on top, with coordinating Glide bobbins on the bottom.

And with this quilt, I believe I have finally come into my own style. I cannot tell you the joy I felt working on this quilt. I want to make more quilts with my ideas instead of someone else's design. That doesn't mean I won't continue to make quilts from other people's designs (and completing a bunch of UFOs), but I am loving the process of starting with the germ of an idea and watching it take form. My quilting mojo is returning.

If you've read this far, thanks for indulging me. Now, go quilt!