Getting it together

I finished the scraps quilt that I started about this time last year.

‘Together’ – scraps quilt, hand-pieced, hand-quilted

Its working title was ‘All Together Now’ but I found that gave me a constant earworm of the song with the same name, which became distracting, so it had to go. I dropped the outer words and have named it simply ‘Together’. I like the etymology – it comes from an Old English word meaning ‘to gather’ – and that’s exactly what this quilt is. It’s a gathering: of fabrics, of textures, of colours, and of time.

‘Together’ 66″ square (121 x 6″ blocks)

I have a perennial problem with making large quilts. I like working on a large scale, as a rule, but when the thing is finished I have no way of taking a decent photograph of it. I don’t have a wall big enough to hang it on (in any case, there is no hanging sleeve on this one). Usually what happens is we have to move the furniture out of the dining room, lay the quilt out on the floor, and then climb up a stepladder, hold a camera out at arms length over it and hope for the best. Textiles are very difficult to photograph at the best of times and always look so much better in real life.

Seed stitching across the central panel

The quilt is made entirely of scraps and leftovers, hand-pieced over paper using the traditional English paper-piecing method. I assembled the blocks as 6″ squares, using patches in multiples of 1″ (so for example, 1 x 1, 1 x 2, 2 x 2, etc). I then arranged the blocks by colour group, with the whites and neutrals in the centre. The fabrics are an immensely eclectic mix of very modern and very old, plain and patterned, textured and plain-weave. The oldest pieces in it are from the eighteenth century, and they sit happily next to very modern scraps and samples. Most of the fabrics are hand-dyed vintage cotton and linen, with some over-dyed modern quilting cottons. There are a few synthetics and satins in there as well. I don’t normally like shiny fabrics much but I do like the way these little squares catch the light.

The blue corner
The red corner

The seeding stitches in the central panel create circles of negative space. Initially this was just a design decision to disrupt the straight lines created by the square blocks, but now I can see that the circles create little oases floating like bubbles across the surface. I like the way the circles are distinct but at the same time visibly still a part of their foundation.

Lots of seeding
spots of time among seeding stitches

The middle layer of the quilt is cotton flannel rather than traditional quilt batting, only because that’s what I had. I didn’t want to have to buy anything for this one. The backing is pieced together from a vintage silk sari. The quilt is thin but quite heavy.

Quilt back, pieced from patterned silk sari

I am a little nervous about the longevity of the quilt. It’s designed to be decorative rather than functional, but not to hang on a wall. I imagine it displayed on a bed, ideally. I don’t know the remaining life span of the silk backing: silk tends to tear very easily as it ages, and I’m not sure how old this sari is. The quilt isn’t washable, due to all the different kinds of fibre – the very elderly patches will shred, and the hand-dyed fabrics might not be entirely colour-fast. The seeding stitches on the surface would be quite easy to pull and distort accidentally. Its new owner (when I find them) is going to have to be very careful with it. But then, very few things last for ever.

Quilt label made from embroidered vintage linen, hand-dyed. I really like the way those two embroidered arms reach out to each other.

I did think about whether it needed some sort of additional circular pattern in the outer borders, but in the end I think there’s probably enough going on in it. I’m looking forward to being able to start something a little more manageable.

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

18 thoughts on “Getting it together”

  1. thank you yet again for the time and care with which you documented “Together/To Gather” … although I do now have “All Together Now” stuck in my head and will likely be listening to it loop through for the rest of the day (wink)

    kudos on putting together such a large piece … I confess I’m now thinking I might use Jude Hill’s paperless piecing technique to do my own pillow-sized gatherings of analogous cloth bits …

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    1. Ha, that was the problem with the original title, that darn song over and over… I usually use the quilt-as-you-go thing with patchwork this size, but it wouldn’t have worked on this occasion. I do like piecing, all those precious little fragments of time and experience coming together.

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  2. Lovely quilt–I like the bubbles of light–maybe light is in our future–instead of war, Covid and darkness. Something to look forward to. Great way to use your scraps.

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  3. Oh goodness, yes, the challenges of photographing textiles. Especially if you like working on a larger scale. I seem to seesaw wildly between work that needs two magnifiers and big chunky pieces, and no camera can keep up.
    I can’t imagine how long it took to get a photo you were happy with, but it was worth the effort. This is looking really splendid!

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    1. Ha, thank you, yes, it did take a while. Very hit and miss, more miss than hit really. This is about as good as it’s going to get! So much nicer in real life.

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    1. Thank you 😊 I much prefer sewing by hand and find it doesn’t take that much longer than by machine.

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      1. I wish comments weren’t closed on your old posts — I am blown away by your work. It’s exquisite. That sample book is over the top amazing!

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        1. Thank you so much, that’s very kind. Old posts tend to attract spam comments more readily so I close them after a couple of weeks. Glad you’re enjoying a good rummage around in the archives though 🙂

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