St. Louis 16-Patch Quilt
At the start of this year, I decided to finally do something about the fact that we don't have a quilt that's big enough to cover a sofa's-worth of people in our living room. Until now we've invariably snuggled under a patchwork of smaller quilts or more often the beautiful cashmere blanket that my mother gave me for my thirtieth birthday as it's amazingly warm. But after eight years of snuggling, it's starting to show its age and I don't want it to reach a level of wear where I have to part with it, so I'd rather just minimise its use and allow it to go into semi-retirement over the arm of a sofa where I can still see it everyday.
I decided that I wanted something in bright, saturated colours, which automatically makes me think of prints by Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and Kaffe Fassett. Amy Butler fabrics seem a lot harder to find at many online quilt shops nowadays - I still really love her designs though and really like the more painterly, less geometric prints that feature in her last few collections, Violette and Bright Heart - only Stitch, Craft, Create and Cotton Patch seem to stock a wide selection in the UK. When my fabrics arrived, they really did make me feel completely joyful - I absolutely love these prints and instantly texted photos of them to both my sister and mother as it felt like a great ball of warmth and sunshine worth sharing.
The repetitiveness of the piecing allowed me to become really obsessive and geeky about the way that I was working (that's a good thing in my eyes!). Building in strict seam matching standards and economies of time in the production line became a really fun part of making up the blocks! I realised that normally whenever I reach for a pin, there's a pause in work flow as I try to avoid being stabbed while finding one that's both straight and is actually a pin (my needles tend to end up in with the pins and because I hand-sew a lot, there are about fifty of them mixed in there!), so I put only the exact number of pins that I needed to sew each seam onto my magnetic pin cushion and loved how much this simple change sped up the sewing!
Although it may look random, I also had a strict fabric pairing criteria for each block: there had to be one lead print and one filler print; the filler print had to contain at least one of the colours contained in the lead print; but the filler print could not have the same background colour as the lead print. I don't think the results of this are obvious, but I always think that details like this make something feel right, even if only in my head.
I loved seeing these mushroom and fill up my design wall. My daughter made the blue and black one at the top left of the wall (and in the photo below) and it's my favourite block so I put it in the centre section of the quilt when I came to laying them out later. I really loved teaching her the clever way that these blocks are made up (as per the tutorial I linked to earlier) so that you don't have to piece 16 individual squares and so that the seams all nest nicely.
I've now completed 36 blocks and I'm at the point of sewing them all together. This quilt is huge and the only room where I could lay it all out was the living room. When I put the blocks down, I realised that it just looked like a giant mess, so I went down the root of trying to give it some order that, again, may not be instantly apparent, but which hopefully helps the whole thing to hang together and look right. I decided that every other block should have either some orange, pink or red in it and that the ones in between would be cooler colours. I felt much happier with this layout even though Nell looks to have grave doubts about it. Please excuse the rumpus of cushions; there is no time for beautifying a room when arranging quilt blocks.
And goodness, did I ever think I could get to the point of arranging a whole quilt top on the floor and Nell just instinctively knowing that she shouldn't trample over it? At three years old she is becoming an incredibly thoughtful little creature who tries really, really hard to control her impulse to bound around willy-nilly and now just bounds when it looks like she won't knock things over or destroy them. Just after this photo was taken she lay down with her chin on the corner block, quietly watching me place the rest of them (I've noticed she will often do this: following my eyes the whole time, she will place just a paw or her nose gently on something that she knows isn't really hers, as if trying to strike a compromise and trying to ascertain that I do love her dearly and so am willing to share a little with her, while simultaneously doing this testing-of-the-waters so carefully that she is reassuring me that if it's permitted then she knows to take care!). Sometimes it really amazes me that we've invited this creature (who at first seemed like a wild animal) to share our home with us and that it's all actually okay and that we all live happily alongside one another and that two entirely different species have formed a family. Do you ever get hit by this sense of how odd it is that there are animals in your house*, but how weirdly fine and normal that feels?
Anyway, back to the quilt. I did quite a lot of batting research and I'll let you know the results of that once I've quilted it, but I'm hoping for super puffiness and softness!
* Only applicable if you have pets. If there are uninvited animals in your house then I have everything crossed for you that they leave quickly!