Black with Brights Exchange Quilt

You wouldn’t think it, based on the infrequent posts in July, but it was the month of getting things done. I finished up two quilts and a small stack of baby gifts, which was pretty awesome, and although I didn’t start working on it until August, I pulled out a third quilt to get finished. It’ll probably take me a few more weeks – all that’s left is a mountain, A MOUNTAIN, of hand-work and weaving in threads from quilting – but I should have it finished by September. (Hopefully! It’s a gift for my grandma, and her birthday is in September, so the timing would be good.)

After that, I think I’ll go back to my mermaid/mod times quilt along quilt. I haven’t looked at it since June!

Anyway, this is a very, very old project, and one that I’m very, very happy to have finished. This project began all the way back in 2005 with members of the Quilting community on Livejournal. Someone had an idea to exchange quilt blocks using brights with black, so several of us joined up and we all made one block for each person, plus one for ourselves. There were 13 of us participating, as I recall, though I think one person had to back out in the end.

At the time I was quite new to machine quilting. In the previous couple years I had only done hand-work and then in 2004 I bought my first sewing machine (which I still have/use). I didn’t really know anything about quilting, and had only done nine-patches and some house blocks (by hand) and some very, very appallingly bad shoo-fly blocks by machine. The shoo-fly blocks had been for another exchange in that same community (mine is in the bottom right corner) and I was embarrassed by them (particularly when I got my exchange blocks of which several were immaculate AND significantly more complex), so I wanted to do something impressive and of good quality. I had heard about but never tried paper-piecing, which was supposed to result in perfect crisp points, so I bought a book – Carol Doak’s 40 Bright & Bold Paper-Pieced Blocks – and taught myself how to paper-piece.

Brights with Black block

Perfect! This block, called Chris’s Block in the book, has been used by me many times since then (once, twice, thrice, err… four times at least), usually for exchanges because it always makes an impact. More importantly though, it was something I could be proud of to send away. In fact, it hurt a little to send them all away – what if I didn’t like what I got back? Well, of course I did. I loved the way the bright colours popped up against the black and we got such a great variety of colours and block types. Here are a couple of my favourites:

I’d said before that there were 13 of use participating, which would have led to a rather difficult number of blocks to work with. Then one person backed out for personal reasons, so we would, including our own block, wind up with 12, which is not a bad number. But I couldn’t think of a good way, other than putting the blocks on point, which I didn’t want to do, to make the quilt large enough to use on the couch – my plan for it. So I made enough blocks to bring the quilt up to 16. I had some fun doing that – I made two more paper-pieced blocks and two fairly different looking Antique Tile blocks. Here are close-ups of all five blocks I made:

Both red stars are from the Carol Doak book, as well as the turquoise and green block. (The reds are Chris’s Block and Barbara’s Block, and the blue/green is Jenny’s Block. Doak named the blocks after women she was friends with or knew from the publishing company.) The other two are both Antique Tiles, which was traditional and looked easy enough for my then pretty weak machine-piecing abilities.

Obviously I used the same red/pink prints for both blocks. I’m not sure why, though probably I just didn’t have much of a fabric stash then to choose from. Some of the red blocks I sent away had a couple different fabrics in them, and I kind of wish I’d have had one of those alternates, but it’s not something that bothers me really. My favourite block, though, is the blue and green one. If I were making it now (and if I’d known then that I’d wind up using a printed sashing) I’d have switched the locations of my solid and print blacks, but never mind that. I LOVE that block. I wish I’d had tons of that green fabric, but I only ever had a 10th of a yard (or metre, not sure which) of it. And I have no idea who made it/what line it came from. (Not that I’d be likely to find it now!) I don’t know how well it’ll show, but it’s got little turquoise dots on it that almost perfectly match the solid blue. The kind of watery looking print is a batik with a range of blues and the print in a murky mossy green. LOVE.

In retrospect, there are some things I wish I could change about the quilt, namely I’d like to use a solid sashing and a different print for the border. Probably I’d do a 1/4-inch… flange-style framing border rather than the 1-in thick blue one I used. (What are those types of borders called, when it’s a little flap you can slip your finger under? I’ve used them frequently since, since they make a nice dividing line, but are very thin.)

But this quilt top has been completed since mid-way through 2005, and these are the things I choose 6 years ago. I was a starving university student at the time (counting pennies to buy apples!), so my budget was really limited and most of what I choose was on sale or gifted to me or already in my then very small stash. I think I was concerned at the time that a solid black sashing would make the quilt look dreary and too dark, so I wanted something with a print. The blue was chosen specifically to keep a pop of colour around the edge, and also to draw a little attention to the blue in the quilt, since I thought the warm colours were more predominant. The outer border, a kind of murky grey/black mottled print was chosen because I didn’t want a solid black, but also thought a more busy print would compete with the already busy sashing. I don’t know why I didn’t choose a coloured print border (except again for the competition with the sashing). Actually, it seems that the chosen sashing seems to be the sticking point. I could have done a lot of different things, if I’d only chosen a solid or a more neutral tone-on-tone sashing fabric.

I remember taking this project to show my grandma once, probably back in 2005 or 2006, and she wasn’t at the house (my grandpa was), but she was by chance at an Embroidery Guild meeting, though they were quilting that particular day. So I took the quilt – then a basted together top – to the Senior’s Centre to show her. Everyone in her guild all had to come have a look. The one comment I remember was that I’d chosen ‘weird’ colours. Hee.

Anyway, holy long post batman! After that point, the top just sat around. And it sat around some more. I was terrified of trying to quilt it on my little sewing machine (very nearly but not quite bottom of the Kenmore line in 2004), and so it sat. Eventually my mom decided that she would hand-quilt it for me, so the basted quilt went to her house. But it was summer, so she decided to wait until winter, and then it sat. It sat in my old bedroom for a couple of years, and periodically I’d tease her about it (since she often teases me about my unfinished projects), but still it sat.

Then this winter she decided it was time.

And so now it’s quilted. She did it all by hand, probably in the evenings whilst watching tv, quilting in the ditch of every single block and crisscrossing through the sashing. (She forgot to do the border, but for now we’re just leaving it unfinished. Maybe we’ll come back to it in a while and do some criss-cross quilting through that as well.) I’m so pleased to have it all done, and it was so exciting when she came out here to visit and pulled the quilted piece out of a bag. All that was left was trimming and binding. When I cut off the excess fabric from the back, I decided to use it for the binding. It was a strange fabric, a really tight weave and somewhat difficult to sew though. I wonder if I used a poly-cotton blend? I don’t know. (I disposed of the rest of the remnants so that they don’t wind up in my stash of good cottons.) But it works for the binding. I did a small section with some of the blue border print as well, which is sort of visible at the top left of the top photo.

So, six years in the making, I’ve finished my first non-baby sized quilt. (It’s about 6×6′.) And my first for-me quilt. SO happy to strike something off the WIP-list! And it’s not quite my oldest Work-in-Progress, but it’s good to knock something so OLD off the list as well.

1 thought on “Black with Brights Exchange Quilt”

  1. […] Neither of these are particularly embarrassing first attempts at quilting, but to begin with, I started out with the hand-pieced nine-patch (which would be hard to mess up completely) and then dove into these, which were both VERY simple. Most of my embarrassing early attempts were related to block swaps. The first swap I participated in, I used cheap and (I have to say…) ugly fabric to make really piss-poor Shoo Fly blocks. I’m pretty sure all the blocks were the wrong size and that all the people in the swap wanted to refuse to swap with me again! The next time we swapped, though, I made paper-pieced stars and they turned out pretty spectacular (That one would be the red and white star closest to the front in this quilt.) […]

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