Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stack-n-whack: story of a quilt

Sit back, children, as I tell you the full story of the stack-n-whack quilt for my bed.  (I realized at show and tell that I really wanted to tell more than I was able to--here's my chance.)

Queen-size stack-n-whack

Not sure which came first: the fabric or the pattern.  I have had both for so long.

The pattern is from Bethany Reynolds' book Stack n Whackier Quilts. I had made one other quilt from this book as my first ever stack-n-whack--a low-key throw-over-the-back-of-the-couch-in-the-playroom type of quilt featuring a Hawaiian surfer print.
 I found the pattern called "Sarah's Roses" absolutely stunning, and had bookmarked it.

The fabric is home-dec weight, very large in scale.  I really wasn't sure if the weight of the fabric would work in traditional quilt piecing (can 1/4" seams hold up?) but I just loved the colors.  The creamy yellows and golds perfectly matched both the paint color of my bedroom and the sheets on my bed at the time.  So yummy.

The magic of stack-n-whack, though, comes from slicing up the fabric and seeing what happens.  What kaleidoscope patterns would come into being?

With pattern and fabric ready, this project waited patiently in a closet for several years.  Finally cut into it in the fall of 2010--after I had gotten a divorce, no longer lived in the lovely yellow/cream bedroom or slept under those tan/yellow sheets.  And, most importantly for my creative process: I no longer had to please anyone but me in making this quilt.

Design decisions

I needed to make the pattern queen size, so it had to be wider.  Went from three vertical strips to five.  That part was easy.  I also disliked the pattern's treatment of the space beyond the medallions--I felt like it was too plain.
original pattern - too much undecorated space

Since I can complicate anything, I chose to put more stack-n-whack small hexagons in the space at the end of each column.
my version - more hexagons!

Small triangles of a bold print can actually blend in
Color: what to do with the setting triangles for the small hexagons?  My friend Dwynn helped me think outside the box (she got me started with the red, for one thing), and I kinda went crazy with the options.  Couldn't limit myself to just a few colors, so I ended up buying six fat quarters for this task.  Most surprising to me was the way the large sunflower print (which I thought was too bold to fit in) actually disappeared within the tangle of the design.

Spent so much time contemplating what to do about finishing off the shape of the hexagon edges: 
smooth everything into a rectangular quilt, or leave a bit of a sawtooth edge?  In the end, I put a 3" border around the central pieced hexagons, letting the color contrast emphasize the sawtooth on both top and bottom; but I used a large cut of the main fabric for a second border along the pillow end of things.  

The effect is bold and geometric, but I think it makes a nice frame for things.

I wanted swirls quilted in the small hexagons
 The quilting was custom done by Celeste, and I think it's marvelous!  She asked about my vision, and then both interpreted it and added to it.   Since the back is a very plain fabric (Robert Kaufman quilter's linen), the quilting design shows up best there.
She said she was inspired by Middle Eastern art forms
The backing was pieced with a row of hexagons down its center.  Why?  Because I didn't buy enough backing fabric, and I needed to extend it.

Thanks for going on the tour with me!

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