Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Color Story Community Quilt

Let me tell you the story of a small town nestled in the valley next to the Delaware River and Pennsylvania called Lopatcong (part of Phillipsburg, NJ). I moved here in 3rd grade and still live here. My husband grew up here, too. I went through a period of time (college to a couple years ago) where all I wanted to do was move elsewhere. But it's home (for now at least) and there are lots of things I love about it. Country views, less traffic than pretty much anywhere else in NJ (thank you, Warren County), a good school system, amazing local tacos and pizza, and closeness to Pennsylvania (so much to do and see there), family, and old friends.

For several years, I've had the honor of organizing and jump-starting community quilt projects here, thanks to the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. I set up camp for one day at the annual Day of the Arts celebration in March, armed with fabric, a sewing machine, and a plan.

This year, I wanted to create a quilt project that relied on the color preferences of all who walked in (kids preschool age to middle school, plus parents and teachers). Think bright, bold, beautiful rainbows. I hoped that the quilt would contain many signatures and serve as a special piece in time for the town. Now that it's done and being exhibited around town, I'm thrilled to share it online as well!

Community quilts are extremely special, time-consuming projects. They take a lot of planning and effort, but the ultimate final product is worth it all. First, I bought a rainbow of fabric in person at Pennington Quilt Works (my LQS - had to get juuuuuust the right tones!) and cut a million or so squares by hand (which was actually pretty therapeutic - I usually have no need for something like a die-cutter, so I don't have one anymore).

On the day of, we were open for business for about five hours. Anytime someone entered the room, they were instructed to pick 3 solid squares and 1 print, and arrange them in a four patch on a piece of batting. Then, they carried their creation over to one of the sewing machines. My teenage sewing student and I teamed up for the day to sew the blocks (90 total!!). I definitely could NOT have made this quilt without her. Sometimes the room was packed with people waiting to get their squares sewn, and it went twice as fast with her!

As we sewed the seams, we showed each person how our sewing machines work. Kids are always so interested in watching the pedal and needle move. I had several really interesting and exciting conversations with parents about sewing and teaching their kids!

Yes, I surrounded my name with orange peels on purpose. What did you expect? :) That's the fun of being the quilter!

After we finger pressed, participants signed their name with fabric markers and placed them on one of the design walls. After the event, I sewed all the squares together randomly (making sure names were right side up as much as possible). It's fun to see where patterns emerge (like down the left side - pink and blue kept repeating).

This quilt was asking for randomized quilting around the names. I used Aurifil 2605 (gray) so that the quilting would blend with the rainbow of color.

Now, the quilt is currently hanging at the newest branch of the Warren County Public Library (in Stewartsville, right around the corner from Lopatcong). It's supposed to travel to a few other locations afterwards. What a thrill to see the quilt out there! If you're local, make sure to visit it soon before it moves! I'm already planning a tentative 2019 project with the hope of making for local veterans.

This quilt was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. Thank you!


  1. What a cool community project and a beautiful quilt! Kudos to you for doing this and spreading an awareness and appreciation for sewing and quilting.

  2. What a very cool idea and excellent execution, Jess. I think it is fantastic that the quilt is on display in the town and will travel around, too!

  3. Awesome - the project, the participation, and the results!!

  4. This is very inspirational and I think it should be repeated all over the place. It looks like a lot of fun.

  5. What a wonderful idea and it sounds like you had a lot of fun....enough to start planning a project for next year!! It's great that it is on tour so that those who participated will see the results and be able to show their friends and family their block! Congratulations on a wonderful project!

  6. Magnificent! Like everything else that you do! Your fabric picks to give them to choose, and the complimentary quilting turned out stunning. What a lucky town! (ps, i'm from PA and miss it like crazy even after 40+ years out west!)

  7. It's lovely and such a great idea to get kids excited about sewing and art! Well done!


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