Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Having a whale of a time...

Working on the butterflies quilt reawaked my interest in quilting.  At this point, I turned to a couple of UFOs I had stored away in a closet.  I had started these several years earlier after I had made a quilt with horses for my then 8-year old Godchild Azureen.  While shopping for supplies for that quilt, I had found 5 different fabrics featuring either whale or dolphin themes.  I have loved whales and dolphins for years, and have a pretty good collection of whale and dolphin artwork, so this seemed like a natural for me to make.  My friend Janet (the originator of the "Quilt Nerd" label) is also nuts about dolphins, so I set out to make a pair of quilts.  The quilt for Janet was queen sized, and I was making a king size one for myself.
These quilts were again a fairly simple design, essentially the same layout I used for Butterflies.  The purpose here was to feature the whales and dolphins in the panels.  I think I must have spent 2 hours in the fabric shop trying to find the perfect fabrics to use as the sashing strips and snowball corners.  I was absolutely obsessed with finding something that worked perfectly with 5 very different panel fabrics.  I actually got both tops pieced together, and wasn't really happy with how they came out...as a result, they had been sitting in the closet for 3 years waiting for me to get enough inspiration to finally finish them.
Well, in those days, I naively believed one needed to finish one quilt project before starting on the next one.   So I dragged these out of the closet and set off to finish these.  I worked on Janet's quilt first, since I had foolished mentioned once I was going to make her one.  It had been a running joke for Janet to ask when I was going to finish her "birthday present" or "Christmas present".  I actually resolved to have it finished by Christmas of that year. 
I actually made that goal, and presented the quilt to Janet at their Christmas party that year.  She was thrilled, and many people of commented and admired that quilt over year...except for me.  To my eyes, it just wasn't working, and I really wasn't sure why.  I still had the king size one there begging to be finished, and I really wanted to finish it.
     And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
     Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
     It came without ribbons! It came without tags!"
     It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
     And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.

And I puzzled, and puzzled just a little bit more.  Eventually, I realized that my problem was with my carefully selected sashing and snowball pieces.  There was no oomph, or zing.  They just sat there and did nothing.  They were so accommodating to all of the panels that they added nothing to the quilt at all. 
Well, there was only one thing to do...I embarked on the mother of all reverse sewing jobs.  I took my seam ripper and completely dissassembled this king sized-top!  If you think it takes a long time to sew a king size quilt, try unsewing one some time .
During this process, I also spent some time shopping for more whale and dolphin fabrics, deciding I wanted to expand on the possibilities a bit.  I shopped everywhere, and around this time discovered online fabric shopping, since the one good fabric store in Boston had closed.  Particular favorites were eQuilter.com, Bighorn Quilts, and Craft Connection.  I also discovered eBay as a good source of fabrics.  I was buying fabrics, and still had no idea what kind of quilt I was going to make!
At about this time, I also took my first steps toward "Quilt Nerd".  I purchased QuiltPro 3 and started playing around with quilt designs.  I scanned in each of the whale and dolphin fabrics, and started playing around with different layouts.  I finally had one of those "aha" moments when I realized that didn't need to use the same colors around every block.  At that point, I really started to have fun, playing around with many different layouts for the blocks in Quilt Pro. 
The final piece of the puzzle was my discovery of Moda Marble fabrics.  These were a revelation to me.  Fabrics with pure vivid colors rather than the greyed tones used in many traditional quilting fabrics.  The entire rainbow of color opened up in front of me.  The use of rainbow colors has almost become one of my trademarks...I really like using "all of the colors" when I work on a quilt.  This quilt also was my first use of black as a background fabrics, another thing that finds its way into lots of my quilts. 
So here is the result, which occupies a proud space on my bed.  This quilt had a deadline of its own, as my nephew Alex was getting married, and I had plans to make a quilt for his wedding...remember my earlier statement about needing to finish one thing before starting the next one!  Notice that a couple of elements of the whale quilt have made their way into this quilt...the use of the rainbow and the black background in the border.  The Whale Quilt certainly represents the beginnings of my personal quilting style.


At 10:03 PM, Blogger Ed Forteau said...

this is gorgeous! thanks for the inspiration. :) jessie


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