Friday, January 18, 2013

A Big Reveal: Aunt Kathy's Bella Quilt!

hand drawn paper piecing
Bella Quilt for Kathy
Some time ago I posted a poll on my facebook page. This poll was for my family and close friends, asking them if I were to make them a quilt, how involved in the process they would like to be. My aunt Kathy asked to be surprised. So surprised she was!

hand drawn paper piecing
"bricks" border, close up.

To give you a little bit of back story, when I was about 10 years old my Aunt Kathy went through a phase of quilting - yes a phase (she used to hop from one craft to another before settling down to polymer clay). During the year that that phase lasted she made quilts for her kids, as well as all the nieces and nephews. I still have the beautiful rail fence quilt she made me that year! When the quilting phase passed Aunt Kathy gifted me her sewing machine, I was about 10 or 11 years old, and that was my first sewing machine. 

hand drawn paper piecing
Delicious binding!
Anyone who knows my story knows that I fell for sewing right away, starting by sewing faux fur stuffed animals, then self designed purses, and a few random articles of clothing. I used Aunt Kathy's old White machine for several years (I still have it and it's still working). 

Much more than giving me a sewing machine Aunt Kathy gave me a desire for creativity. She was always crafting, and selling her creations at craft shows. It was at her house that I really saw that creating is a way of life and not just a hobby. Beyond that, Aunt Kathy gave so much of herself to us that I don't really have words to explain it. I hope that I can be that kind of aunt to my nieces  We always knew she was there, and she took care of us in a special "aunt" kind of way. 

hand drawn paper piecing

So obviously she needed a quilt. :)

I've been working on this quilt for about a year, under the tag "Bella Quilt." It was originally inspired by my obsession with these giant paper pieced patterns. The book and paper patterns there were inspired by the intricate tile and mosaic floors in Italy. I did in fact purchase the Bella Bella Quilts paper patterns, but I was not very excited about how cookie cutter the quilt would be (I don't like to follow patterns, I like to make the decisions). 

By March of last year I'd created the NY Beauty block for the center (the only piecing in this quilt that was not hand drawn by me), and I'd decided to stray from the Bella Bella style but didn't completely know how I was going to do it. I had hand drawn the paper patterns for that first round of flying geese and pieced it up to that point. I was fortunate enough to be at the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild's spring retreat with Robbi Eklow -- and in chatting with her (late late at night), and looking at her quilts I decided that I should have some of the round borders flowing off the edge of the quilt. Robbi explained that it would make the borders come together a bit easier since they wouldn't have to be perfectly circular. Thanks for the inspiration Robbi! 

hand drawn paper piecing
Close up!
I gradually pieced the remainder of the round borders. Each one designed and drawn by hand by me (using sheets of freezer paper). It was a bit challenging, and fear of screwing up all that complex work that kept me from finishing it up right away. 

From the center out, here is a description of the round borders:

  • NY Beauty (paper pieced, pattern found online)
  • Circular Flying Geese (paper pieced, hand drawn)
  • Pebble raw edge applique (segments of the arc drawn out by hand, the circle fabrics were fused with Wonder Under, then die cut using an Accuquilt Studio cutter, then the circles were fused down and free motion quilted into place)
  • Teal and white bricks (strip pieced units which were then cut with a template, then paper pieced into arcs)
  • Large black and white border (paper pattern pieces drawn by hand, cut from yardage)
  • Large flying geese (paper pieced, hand drawn, then appliqued into place using feather weight fusible interfacing to enclose the edges, then top stitched into place on the last border)
hand drawn paper piecing
The crazy backing!
I used all the leftover scraps for the backing, and stippled the entire quilt with a few random hearts included.

prayers in the quilt binding
Prayers in binding.
The final step in making this quilt was writing the prayers in the binding. I inscribe my quilts with prayers to the recipient in the seam allowance of the binding. The prayers aren't visible once the binding is finished, but Aunt Kathy will always know that she's wrapped in love and prayers. 

hand drawn paper piecing
Pretty binding, pretty backing!
As I mentioned above, Aunt Kathy requested that this quilt be a surprise. So she didn't have any part in the decision making process. I asked my uncle, her husband for suggestions of what colors to use (without skipping a beat he said "black and white" because of Aunt Kathy's favorite signature jewelry pieces she makes). I also drew a lot of inspiration from her pinterest boards. I even had my own sneaky board where I'd hoard all these ideas. 

hand drawn paper piecing
Crazy paper pieced curved borders!
Last weekend we went back home to visit family, and I was able to give Aunt Kathy her quilt in person.  It was a pretty awesome experience since she was surprised! I feel really lucky to have an aunt like Aunt Kathy, and it was a lot of fun making this quilt for her!

26 comments:

  1. Wow! Wow! Wow! This quilt is extraordinarily beautiful & the story behind it is even more beautiful. So lovely!

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  2. A work of Art, Emily! Amazing job.

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  3. that is such an amazing quilt - I am in awe! Your creativity and talent are incredible, and your aunt is a lucky woman!

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  4. WOW! This is amazing! I just love the colors. The offset from center.... everything. Great job!

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  5. Beautiful quilt and such a lovely story about your Aunt and how important she has been in your life. Thank you for sharing it!

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  6. One, what a beautiful quilt. Two, what a beautiful story. You and your family are so lucky to have such a wonderful person in your lives; one, your Aunt Kathy who has touched all of you, and two, YOU for recognizing her!

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  7. Sooo beautiful! I'm a huge fan of quilts that aren't just one pattern repeating over and over.

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  8. What a beautiful quilt, amazing creation, lovely story!

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  9. This is an incredible quilt and an awesome tribute to your aunt!!!

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  10. Gorgeous quilt and fantastic story. I love that you write prayers for the recipient in the seam allowance.

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  11. Gorgeous quilt and fantastic story. I love that you write prayers for the recipient in the seam allowance.

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  12. So wonderful and I must remember to write inside my binding; it's just lovely and extra special.

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  13. Wow! I'm blown away! What a beauty and what a wonderful feat of technical quilting! I'm not worthy!! And, more than anything, the love that went into it and with which it's been giving is so very moving. You have a very deserving but also very lucky aunt!

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  14. Holy smokes!!!! This is a stunning creation! I LOVE IT!!!! I also love your idea of a prayer in the binding... how clever!

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  15. That's "surprisingly" beautiful quilt!

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  16. this is my third comment on this quilt... it is so incredibly amazing! i think i saw the start of it, and wow, has it just become more gorgeous with each round. i can't believe you were able to put this in the mail-- i'd be so nervous!

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  17. Wow! So fun to read this story, amazing, simply amazing quilt!

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  18. I really love this quilt! It's so awesome! I just wish I would have been able to check it out in person before it went to live with its owner!

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  19. Wow! It's amazing & stunning!

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  20. Wow doesn't seem like enough, but... wow! This quilt is amazing!

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  21. Absolutely stunning quilt - and beautiful sentiments behind it! I am not at all religious, so I wouldn't put prayers on a quilt, but I really like the idea of writing good wishes and hopeful thoughts inside the binding, out of sight but always there. Great job :-)

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  22. Amazing quilt, really lovely!

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  23. Quite seriously one of the awesomest quilts I've ever laid eyes on! I don't get the paper piecing thing yet, but might try it to make circles. Your aunt is one lucky lady!

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  24. This quilt is incredible. Your Aunt Kathy must be amazing to be the recipient of something so beautiful.

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  25. What a lovely lovely quilt and a neat idea - it makes me want to make one too!

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