Quilt Backs

Yesterday, Melanie McNeil (Catbird Quilt Studio) posted a piece on pieced quilt backs.

That got me thinking about the piecing I do for quilt backs. She says she prefers a solid back (here quilts are bed size) – I prefer the adventure of piecing (I generally make lap quilts). The challenge for me is to get away with a single length of quilt backing fabric and filling in the width with leftovers from the top, retaining something from the character of the top but at the same time creating a new piecing. Most of my back piecing involves a wide strip, although occasionally I’ll do a block of some sort surrounded by backing fabric – it depends on just how much backing fabric I actually have to work with!

Here are some quilt backs:

#1 – This is the latest quilt (Improv Quilt) – a strip/block because my strip wasn’t long enough and I fortunately had just enough backing fabric to border the strip converting it to a block.

Improv Quilt – Back

#2 –  An opportunity to try some flying geese. The original blocks were all in shades of indigo but I decided to insert one gold triangle in each and it made a huge difference to the strip.

#3 – From the red/black/white strips quilt. The quilt top looks like three Venetian blinds with a red background. The grey backing reflects the fabrics used in the piecing from the top, with the red accents.

#4 – This back was for the Starburst Quilt: I had no fabric leftover from the quilt top so I decided to use  other indigo fabrics highlighted with the turquoise and green elements.

#5 – The inspiration for this quilt back came from a quilt by Weeks Ringle – it backs the Pick-Up-Sticks Quilt:

#6 – This is the back of the Medallion Quilt: I had just enough of the border fabric leftover to create these four mitred blocks. I decided to rotate them rather than keep them all facing the same direction. Spaced them out, offset top to bottom, with backing fabric because I had a lot of it.

Quilt Back

#7 – This back is from the Grey-Yellow Quilt: I had a lot of half-square triangles left over from the front. I decided to array them as a spiral. The panel is offset top/bottom, and left/right. My quilts are all modern quilts – they need asymmetry to look “right”.

#8 – This back is from Improvisation #6 – Asian fabrics, drunkard’s path quilt. I had several slightly smaller blocks left over. I decided to do a more conventional drunkard’s path layout with single complete circle near the top of the strip.

#9 – The back of the Asian Strips Quilt: I did the piecing of the on-point squares, added the filler and realized I still needed border/sashing to offset the insert strip from the backing fabric.


Obviously I have many more quilt backs I could showcase here, but these are enough to illustrate how I see a quilt back. All of my quilts are “double” quilts – they can be used either side – for me, that’s part of the challenge/adventure of improvisational quilt making.

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Sailboats In The Morning Fog

I was on a walk along the Halifax Harbourfront at 10am on a July morning in 2010. There were a couple of sailboats moored alongside the Acadia (a WW1 warship, now part of the Museum of the Atlantic collection) with the fog lifting in the harbour and the Dartmouth shore a pale form in the distance.

Moored Sailboats

I captured the moment – recently I added the photo to my collection of potential landscape/art quilts.

Partially Done

With the Art/Landscape class underway for a second time, I thought I’d give the sailboats a try. Sky with a bit more cloudy texture (because I had the perfect fabric), the opposite shore (heavily stitched), the water in a very soft blue-grey. I did some preliminary thread painting and texture building in the water on the left, then positioned the sailboats (printed on fabric, backed with fusible web, fussy cut) and pressed them in place. Now I have to add the reflections in the water to tied the image together. I elected to eliminate the small dock next to the Acadia and the just visible stern of the ship. I preferred just the two lone sailboats for my wall art piece. Although barely visible, I’ve used silk organza on the left of the image to represent the fog, added after the initial thread painting to blur the textile and stitching beneath.

I will work on the piece tomorrow in class so I can show the gals how I solve various technical issues – including creating an inner mat, making piping, and selecting fabric for the framing. They’ll also get to see how I go about thread painting with my feed dogs in the engaged position (I can’t free motion and obtain an even stitch length at all well, but I’ve figured out how to keep my feed dogs in position and do a “free-motion like” sewing). I want them to see how I do that.

I am probably also going to add a bit more movement to the water on the right, but not  until I’ve finished the reflections of the masts, the mooring lines, and rigging on the boats.

More after tomorrow – our second class (one more after that on framing and finishing an art piece).

Medallion Quilt – Completed!

Completed Quilt

Here, finally, is the completed, bound quilt. Just finished stitching the curlicues in the center of the medallion. In the end I straight stitched them on the machine, a couple of stitches at a time, in order to stay on the edge of the curlicue. I had set up a single run design to stitch them out as embroideries, but each of the four corners was slightly different, and I couldn’t align the first embroidery to stitch precisely where I wanted it, so I switched to plan “b”. It took lots of twisting and turning of the quilt (thank goodness it wasn’t any larger) to get each curlicue done.

Quilt Back

I used leftovers from the outer border strips to create blocks for the back. Their off center placement is intentional. I could have placed them somewhat closer to one another, but once the back was pinned in place I decided not to bother taking the whole thing apart to make that small adjustment.

Close-up detail of one corner – showing the embroidery in some of the “empty” blocks.

Corner, Showing Detail

The embroideries worked out well – I did seventeen in all (one a test run to make sure the design stitched out correctly). Doing the embroidery proved challenging, not because they were particularly complex designs, but because my embroidery machine decided, at that moment, to be temperamental – the touch screen stopped working properly and precisely positioning each embroidery took patience. (The embroidery machine is now in hospital being repaired and I’m working on a borrowed machine.)

The quilt still needs a label but that can wait until I get my machine back.

Improvising A Quilt

Yesterday, I dropped into Sew With Vision (my local Pfaff/Husqvarna dealer) to check on stuff in preparation for two classes I’m offering this fall. I also needed some variegated thread for quilting the Medallion Quilt. Sitting on the checkout counter was a 2m piece of Benartex fabric for sale at such a ridiculously low price it screamed “take me home”. So I did. Next step: go through the stash to see what might go with it – lots of dark and lighter greys, but nothing in the right shade/print style of the turquoise.

Benartex Cosmopolitan + Stash

So I checked the selvage – found out I had fabric by Benartex: Cosmopolitan. I checked online: Turns out there were I think three colour ways: turquoise, yellow, and lime. There appears to still be some of the lime prints available but almost none of the turquoise.

Benartex Cosmopolitan – Fabric Online

I did find a turquoise from the original collection at Fabric.com – 2 yds for $4.71/yard – it was the shipping that was horrendous! I walked away. But after shopping this afternoon for something that could possibly work (I found a Kona in almost the exact shade of turquoise as well as the turquoise with gold leaves at a local shop, both in the top photo) I came home and ordered 2 yds. To hell with the expense. That fabric is going to let me pull all the others together.

BTW, this is definitely NOT going to be a medallion quilt! Something simple and modern – an improvisation for the Improvise A Quilt class in a couple of weeks.

Medallion Quilt – Top Done!

Medallion Quilt Top Complete With Border

I adjusted the final corner within the block so that it was better balanced without affecting the outer dimensions. Then I added the outer border, complete with mitred corners. Quilt still square, Yeah! I’ve intended the quilt to be a lap quilt. However, while the finished size (63″ x 63″) is not a full double/queen size it could certainly be used as a colourful spread to focus attention on a bed.

Now I have to think about the back of the quilt. I have a complementary fabric double width so I could just cut the size I need and be done with it, but before I do that I will go through the scraps and other leftover fabric to see if there is some kind of strip I can cobble together to add interest to the back of the quilt. But that’s for another day – likely tomorrow.

Melanie McNeil asked if I was pleased with my efforts – now I can definitely say I am.

Medallion Quilt – Three Corners Completed

Three Corners Completed

Just finished the third corner – one to go; however, I’m thinking I may have to redo the first corner (upper left) because when I’ve finished the fourth I think I’m going to be short on the first side and the panel isn’t going to be square – I might be off as much as 3/4″! Here’s hoping I’m not. 3/8″ – 1/2″ I can fudge when adding the outside border, but more than that will want a redo.