It’s been more than 6 years since I last took a commission to make a quilt, but when the opportunity came to have one of my quilts in a production of Quilters, I didn’t even pause to think about it. YES! That was the only answer possible.
Now, this musical refers to a lot of quilt blocks, and you can see different variations of quilts that have been used in performances. The idea that I had for this quilt was to create a “frame” for all the different blocks, and the performers would attach their blocks to the frame at the end of each scene. After designing the layout of the quilt and getting it approved, I began work, using the Little House on the Prairie line from Andover Fabrics as the main fabric. (There are other small snippets of RJR and moda thrown in, when I needed a color that I couldn’t find in the Little House line.)
I had a lot of scraps left over from my Dear Laura Quilt Along, but I still had to order fabric online for the prints I didn’t have. Isn’t that typical? Thousands of yards of fabric in the stash, and I still needed more fabric. 🙂
In the end, the company decided they didn’t want the name of the production on the quilt, so I did some shifting around and got it quilted up. I used a Baptist Fan pattern and quilted it on my new long arm, Fitzwilliam:
There are 18 blocks total in the quilt, and each one of them required me to dust off some skills and learn some new ones! I love when a quilt challenges me and I have to figure out how to get it done. For the most part, this quilt was die cut, but there were a few places where I had to use templates. One block was paper-pieced.
Each block was finished by using a knife-edge treatment – I backed them with muslin and top-stitched around the edges to keep them nice and square. Some of the larger blocks needed a little more, so I did stitch-in-the-ditch quilting around major areas to keep the blocks from flopping around.
The next challenge was how to get the blocks attached to the quilt frame without it being obvious or time consuming. Velcro comes to mind, but I didn’t just want white Velcro as I felt pretty sure it would show on the quilt. So off I went to a chain store to find something suitable.
What I found was CLEAR Velcro! Who would have thought? It’s not meant for fabric, but I bought it anyway. Can you see it stitched on? Look closely!
I will tell you, it was a major PITA to stitch on. It has a really sticky adhesive that works great on the surfaces it was meant for, but for sewing – it was extremely gummy. Not only did the adhesive coat the needle, but it also stuck to the thread and caused a lot of jams and breaks. It didn’t get solved until I moved up to a 110 needle. I wish I’d had that insight sooner; I spent hours struggling with Goo Gone and changing needles and rethreading the machine. I know I need to take my machine in for a much-deserved spa day!
The struggle was more than worth it though, for a nearly-invisible attachment. I chose to use the hook side of the Velcro on the quilt; if I used the hook side on the blocks, there’s a chance it could catch on a costume or some set piece while the performer was handling it, and I didn’t want that to happen.
For the blocks, instead of using the loop side of this really sticky stuff, I used the loop tape from a heat-activated n0-sew Velcro instead. That way, I didn’t need to stitch on the blocks and have that stitching show through the front.
Here’s the very first block I did to test the method. It looks really good!
As you can imagine, making a quilt like this involved a lot of feet changes and different machine settings. The best way for me to think through this process is to make it an assembly line. First, get all the piecing done. Next, stitch on the muslin backs. Turn them inside out, press them, and do the top stitching. Finally, apply the Velcro and stick the block on the quilt. Here you can see that work in progress.
I unhooked a couple of the blocks so you could see how they are attached.
For the back, I attached a label, but I also didn’t want the label to be super-obvious if at any time the back side of the quilt faced the audience. So I devised a little flap to cover it.
So much work and love went into this quilt, and I wish all the best to the San Fransisco Conservatory performers as they debut this production tonight! If you’re in the Bay area, go and check them out. The performance is free, and they also have another performance on Sunday. Have fun!