Thursday, July 21, 2016

Illuminate: A Finished Star Light, Star Dark Quilt

I can finally share the details behind the original Star Light, Star Dark quilt, which is currently a free quilt-a-long right here through October 4! This quilt was designed and sewn especially for my oldest friend (of 15 years!). I named it "Illuminate" because the focus is the stars, and the intent was to brighten up my friend's room and life just a little bit more.

Ever since I started quilting 6 years ago, I've had a running list of people in my life that I want to make quilts for. Some have ideas written by them. Kara's name has been on the list since the beginning, and I've always known I wanted to make her a star quilt (she's loved stars as long as I can remember). But what kind of star?

Something symmetrical for sure (aka no wonky stars); she loves order and neatness. Something bright and unusual - she's a modern gal. If she was a quilter, she'd be all over modern fabrics and subtle alternate gridwork.

The moment came when she moved into a new apartment and had a birthday. I excitedly visited her apartment for the first time but quickly noticed she didn't have any blankets in her living room! That needed to be rectified quickly.

That night, I started sketching large star blocks (traditional Sawtooth Stars), surrounded by strips like a log cabin. I eventually decided to make it even easier by using just 2 large strips in each section instead of many little ones. Let the fabric and the color scheme be the star (no pun intended). To change the scale up, I added 1 or 2 small Friendship Stars to each block.

Kara loves green and cool colors, so that part came together easily. I dug into my stash and started sorting. I wanted lots of value contrast (lights and darks of the same color) so that the stars would show up within a color section. I delved deeper into contrast in this post. Another important focus: using small prints and solids with a minimal amount of white.

I quilted Illuminate with large spirals, which have become one of my signature quilting designs (at least in my mind - I love a good spiral). I felt like the quilt itself is very linear (all straight lines and angles, clear color blocking), so curves and echoes would really bring out the movement. So, I purposefully quilted one big spiral in each row. I used my free motion quilting foot for this particular quilt. It was not the easiest to quilt a 51" x 70" lap quilt in this manner, but I made it happen.

 I used Aurifil threads #2870 (Green), #5005 (Medium Turquoise), and #4225 (Eggplant) to quilt each section accordingly. It was fun to watch how the light or dark threads interacted with their respective colors (for example, light blue/turquoise shined on the light blue section and popped on dark blue). Have I mentioned how much I love color? Because I do, quite ardently.

I fell in love with the results, but I'll attempt a different quilting design for my second Star Light, Star Dark quilt (which I'm making using warm colors from my Fat Quarter Shop bundle). You can really see the spirals on the backing:

I chose all the backing fabrics specifically for Kara; they are all from Cotton and Steel. The cute cat fabric below was my favorite (and when she saw the quilt, she said she loved that one!). I used cats because she had a beloved cat during all time time I've known her and longer. While I was making the quilt, her cat sadly passed away. I had already bought the fabric and thought it would be even more fitting to include it.

I finally had the opportunity to present Kara with the quilt last week after a fun day out together. She was thrilled, and immediately commented that it would add so much color and comfort to her new space. Mission accomplished! I hope this quilt serves as a visual reminder of how much I care about her and value her friendship, even when we only meet every few months.

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, TGIFF, Crazy Mom Quilts


  1. How awesome to know the backstory behind the QAL design! I love how it came together so quickly when it was clear it was time to make something for her. And I love seeing the spirals on the back of the quilt, they really stand out beautifully. :)

  2. A stunning quilt for a special friend. x

  3. You've done a beautiful job, put so much thought into every decision to make it truly personal and meaningful to both of you - I really like the flow of the quilting that you've used - great work!

  4. What a wonderful gift... both to Kara AND to all of us working on the QAL!!!

  5. That is so beautiful, Jess. Your friend must have been so touched. Well Done!!

  6. What a lucky girl to have such a wonderful friend and now a quilt that apparently is perfect for her. Her smile really says it all, doesn't it? Your quilting is very interesting. I really like the swirls and sweeps of stitches.

  7. Really beautiful design! I love the saturated colors.

  8. I loved to read to the story behind this beautiful quilt. Truly special! Thanks for sharing.

  9. What a gorgeous quilt! Possibly my fave star quilt ever!!!

  10. I can't decide what I love more - the stars, the colour palette, or the quilting! Absolutely lovely! Thanks for linking up with TGIFF @ A Quarter Inch from the Edge!


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