Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sun on the Sea

The crazy quilt I mentioned last has served as a dramatic focal point for anyone entering the house, but after two years I thought it might be time for a change.
Voila! I’ve finally finished the quilt I’m calling “Sun on the Sea”. I know it’s totally pretentious to name my quilts but it helps with the illusion that I’m and artist.
I am a huge fan of embellishment, which is a way to add layers of detail to a piece. For this quilt I combined traditional quilt piecing and stippling (more about that here), with appliqué, thread painting, and embroidery.
The body of the quilt is composed of two by two inch squares (1½ x 1 ½ finished) of Kona Cottons solids by Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Though I bought larger pieces, something like the Classic Kona Cotton Solids Charm Pack - Robert Kaufman Fabrics would work well for a project like this. The entire background area is stippled and varies from dark turquoise and green “sea water” at the bottom to blue “sky” and light fluffy clouds at the top. Overlaid on this background is a large sun appliqué composed of a round center and sixteen rays. In addition I used thread painting techniques to add additional rays and then outlined and bisected some of the rays with stem stitch embroidery.
This project was a learning process for me, especially in the area of thread painting, a technique I’m just beginning to learn. I learned that thread painting and embroidery needs to be done on the quilt top prior to layering with batting and backing. And, if possible, the work should be done on small pieces that are joined later. Thread painting on a full or queen sized quilt top involves manipulating a large and heavy piece of fabric which can be quite a challenge.
This quilt make no less a dramatic statement than my crazy quilt did for those entering our home. Don’t expect this one to stay up here for two years though. I have a spare bedroom that is calling for this quilt on the bed, and ideas for a dozen more quilts in my head.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crazy About Quilts

For the past couple of years I’ve had my crazy quilt (a tribute to the needlecraft of the women in my family), hanging in my living room. Growing up I was fascinated by a crazy quilt my mother had. It had belonged to her mother, and was composed of several sections; perhaps one was made by each woman in the family and these were assembled into a bed sized quilt. Such a quilt would have been made as a wedding gift or trousseau piece and intended for display in a parlor. If made for my grandmother, that would date it to the turn of the century, though I don’t know for sure how she came to have it. offers an interesting article on how this style of quilting caught on in this country during the Victorian era.
Though I knew I would someday end up with my grandmother’s quilt, but it was already too fragile to display, so I thought to reproduce it. Not long before my mother died I visited her and took pictures of her quilt and began planning my project.  I bought bundles of fabric on E-bay, cut up old clothing and purchased more new fabric too.
My quilt, pictured here sharing the room with our Christmas tree, is composed of sixteen squares. Each sixteen inch square is a traditional crazy patchwork with embroidered seams. 
In the center of each square is a black silk velvet patch with an embroidered vignette. Several of these are replicas of embroidered motifs on my grandmother’s quilt. The others are just images that appealed to me. 
In the center of the quilt I embroidered a thistle and a harp. These are the national symbols of Scotland and Ireland respectively, the two predominant nationalities in my somewhat mongrel ancestry.
The finished quilt is 82 x 82 inches, and made of silk satins, dupoini, and velvets. The backing is plain cotton. Each of the crazy quilt squares is worked onto medium weight muslin. Given the weight of the fabric and stitching, and the fact that the piece was intended more for show than use, I skipped batting. Still this is the heaviest quilt I’ve ever made.
With all the handwork (every stitch and decoration in the quilt was done by hand), it took me more than two years to finish. Sadly my mother never did see it, but I think she would have approved. In addition to everything else she taught me, she gave me my first lessons in embroidery back in the late 60s. Back then I employed this knowledge to embellish blue jeans and army surplus jackets. I think she might find this quilt a more fitting use of my “womanly skills”.