I am infatuated with traditional cathedral windows quilts. I even made one once (below - "Circus Tent"). Mind you, it was a mini quilt, but it was very precise, took forever and a half, and used a lot of fabric (3 things I usually try to avoid). Plus, I'm always excited about pulling out traditional blocks and modernizing them. So, I took inspiration from a single block and remade the diamond, using pieced curve techniques that I teach in my Waterfall quilt class (not bias tape applique, though I could have done so).
"Circus Tent" mini quilt, made for a Flickr swap back in 2012
It's certainly hard to imagine that the quilt once looked like this! These were simply bricks of solid fabric that the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild swapped last year. I only took out a couple of colors from the stack to arrange them vertically in a visually-pleasing rainbow formation.
One of my most valuable takeaways from this project is the improvised background. I am always mesmerized with improv quilts that are cut into and changed, because the piecing spreads all over the quilt. There are a couple of spots on this quilt where just a tiny shimmer of fabric shows, because that's where an arc was pieced in. I explained the process of how I pieced the background in this post from August.
The "fractures" in the diamond were actually a happy accident. These curves are long and unwieldy, so the quilt top had severe ripples (this is common for curves). I calmed them using a technique from Sherri Lynn Wood's lovely Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, and those "fractures" were the result. I thought about cutting into the quilt more to make it even wonkier and more off balance, but it seemed subtle enough to shine through.
Okay, the quilting. So much to say about this little quilt and I haven't even talked about my favorite part of the process yet! My goal was to emphasize the orange peels that happen as a secondary design on cathedral windows.
I used a healthy mixture of thread colors and weights for machine quilting - Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray, 50 and 28 weight), 2024 (white, 50 and 28 weight), 2520 (light purple), and 2805 (light blue). The purple and blue give the middle of the quilt (below) some extra shine. I also decided to only quilt the middle with my free motion foot and without marking to give those diamonds some extra "wonk" or crookedness. Imperfection is perfect.
The heavier weight threads served a purpose in the orange peels; combined with very thick hand stitching with DMC floss and perle cotton, the outer part of the quilt is very textured. I LOVE it. I could have added even more quilting but this stopping point felt "right."
My fabric stash thanked me for making this quilt (I actually heard it speaking to me - maybe I need to get out more? :) ). Not only did I utilize almost all the solids from that guild swap - I used up my last large piece of this Anna Maria Horner print for the backing (from the Dowry fabric line).
This was only the second time I blocked a quilt. Instead of following 1 tutorial, I took a bunch of tips from several and tried something. I threw the whole thing in the bathtub to start and soaked it in Synthrapol so that the solids wouldn't run on the white (that would have ruined the whole effect, and no, I'm not a prewasher, and no, I don't plan on becoming one). Then, I pinned it flat on my carpet and let it dry out for an entire day. The result was a VERY flat quilt, which is a huge improvement! Plus, the crinkle is lovely. I'm thrilled!
This project is one of my very favorites from 2016. It looks to my past (improv, curves, machine quilting) and to my future (hand and machine quilting combinations). I'm so pleased to finally share it with you today! Lesson learned: make more small projects.