First Finish on the Last Day

So my sister called and said, “What are you doing?”

And I said, “Working on a blog post about my first quilt of the year.”

She said, “It’s the last day of the year, don’t you mean it’s your last quilt of the year?”

And I said, “It is also my first quilt for the year!”

The Planets Are Aligned

The Planets Are Aligned

A few years ago I bought this fabric on sale, intending to use it for donation quilts for kids.


This is “Extraordinary World,” designed by Jennifer Heynen, In the Beginning Fabrics, 2012.

But my when my son-in-law painted a spectacular planetary mural in my grandson’s room, I started to think I could use the fabric for an accompanying quilt.

Just one wall of the amazing mural.

Just one wall of the amazing mural.

However, for some reason I had not bought the companion fabrics that were available, and even though there are 18 colors in the fabric, I really didn’t have anything in those bright color families!  So for once I went out and bought new, not-on-sale fabric, some large batik squares.

I wanted a very simple design that would not call attention away from the mural, so I decided on plain circles on squares, to just suggest planets, suns, and moons.  I thought about making a few with small moons or rings, but I decided to keep it very basic.  After making a few sample blocks, I mocked up the whole top on the computer.

This is the computer mock-up. There were too many colors to go with the background fabric so I limited the colors in the final quilt.

This is the computer mock-up. There were too many colors to go with the backing fabric so I limited the colors in the final quilt.

I wasn’t wild about it, and I did have a few other possibilities in mind.  But I questioned the recipient as to his favorite shape, and without any coaching whatsoever from me, he considered and then said, “Circles.”  So  I decided to go ahead with the top.  If we didn’t like it when it was done, I would use it for some other project and go in a new direction.

I wanted the planets to be poufy and rise above the background, so I cut circles out of the batiks and of wool batting, quilted them to a background square, and then satin-stitched the raw edges.  I had fun trying different textures on the planets — some were pebbled, some were large swirls like the storms on Jupiter, some were angular as if the planet’s inhabitants had engineered canals and roads.

For some of the background squares, I used fabric I dyed this summer.  The color irregularities evoked deep space, but I needed more — I had more plain fabric and more dye available, so I tried to make another batch.  Unfortunately I forgot to add in table salt as I was supposed to, and all I had on hand was some sea salt.  I don’t know if I added it too late, or if there were minerals in the sea salt that interfered with the dye, but the resulting colors were very muted, and just not usable in this quilt.

I wish I had seen this book, Double Vision Quilts by Louisa L. Smith, before I started the top.  The designs in it are basically the same as the one I was using, but with tighter spacing, layers of shapes, and play between positive and negative space and figure-and-ground relationships.  Her quilts have a lot more visual interest than this one.  And I’m sure I would have picked up tips on saving fabric.  Well, now that book is my my library, so I can benefit from her expertise next time.

I finished the top before our family gathered in November.  My husband, knowing as I did not, that a dozen people were about to descend upon the house, was offering to help me clean before my sister’s visit, and I said with exasperation, “NO!  I have set aside this day to finish this top, and I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS TOP TODAY!  My sister has seen this house clean and she will be fine if it isn’t!”  He wisely retired from that battlefield.

So when everybody got here, the house was not that clean, but at least the top was conveniently done and could be shown to all the stakeholders.  🙂  Proceeding further was approved with enthusiasm.

So each planet had its own layer of batting, but in putting the whole sandwich together, I thought I would quilt one circle around each planet, and then flip the quilt over and quilt from the back, following the small circles of the print.  That would give a nice regular effect in the negative space between planets. I tried it and it looked terrible.  I am using those pre-wound bobbins that have 70-weight thread which is very thin, and it just didn’t look right on the front of the quilt.  I ripped it out and started over from the front, with a random spiral and meander.  I didn’t like that much either, and as I went I started to visualize other patterns that would have looked better, but I just wanted to get done.

The borders and binding went on fine, and at long last, the quilt is finished!

Both sides.

Both sides.

One worry I had was that the batting would shift in the lower layer where I had just quilted around the planets instead of through them, but I have run it through the washer and dryer and it still looks fine!