I finished my quilt for Japan on Saturday night. I am so pleased with it. I think it might be one of my very favorite things I've ever made, and it will be a privilege to donate it.
As I mentioned last week, I made this quilt for the Quilts for Quake Survivors benefit being organized by Susan and Daniela. They have been hard at work continuing to organize this huge undertaking to help anyone interested make, donate, and auction off quilts to benefit the people of Japan. The Quilts for Quake Survivors blog has a ton of information about what is involved right now and how anyone can help so please check it out.
This is my first log cabin quilt. Turns out, I love this technique. If you've never done it before, you have to try it. Whenever I saw log cabin quilts in the past, I always thought that all of the "logs" were cut into short pieces. But that's not what's happening. You can watch this video of Susan making a block to see how it really works (her video shows it better than I can explain it). How easy is that!
The finished size of my quilt is about 40" x 55". I didn't actually follow a specific pattern, but used Susan's lovely new book, Modern Log Cabin Quilting: 25 Simple Quilts and Patchwork Projects, to help me understand how the blocks are created and how to put them together. This book covers all of the basics for you, and it contains specific patterns for many inspiring quilts, bags, pillows, and other projects. For the QfQ quilts, the girls asked that we use 3" center pieces and 2" strips to make blocks that are about 11 1/2" square. I put strips of 2" wide sashing between all of the blocks, piecing the lengthwise strips with 2" squares. For the back, I joined two widths together with a patched strip:
The strip is hand-embroidered with the words "Made with love and prayers for the people of Japan by Alicia Paulson on April 1, 2011, in Portland, Oregon, USA."
I tied the quilt with pearl cotton, then bound it by machine and hand (machine stitch the folded binding to the top, then flip it over and attach it to the back by hand with invisible stitches). That's my favorite way to do it.
You tend to think about things a lot when you are working on a quilt. Even a small quilt like this is a lot of work, and as it tends to be quiet, contemplative hand-work toward the end (several hours to tie it, six hours to do the binding on this one), your mind can wander. I thought a lot about who will get this quilt and I hoped it would help them in any small way. I thought about what I was going for in the quilt's design: sort of a blossoms-blooming-out-of-the-dark effect. A metaphor, maybe. Purple and peach are totally not my normal colors but I liked them together and they felt hopeful and springy. I thought about what I like about quilts and what I don't like about quilts in general these were all just personal preferences I hadn't really defined before but which occured to me here. What I like is randomness. I like quilts that feel like you threw a bunch of little pieces of fabric up in the air and then stitched them together sort of where they fell. I don't like quilts that follow a super-dedicated color scheme or pattern or make a picture of something else. I like it when things are more sort of controlled-chaos. My favorite blocks in this quilt are the ones in the very center, with seven kinds of fabric instead of just the four "picture-frame" blocks. I never plan which fabrics will go where — I had a big pile of strips on the table next to me as I sewed and I just kept picking up random strips and adding them to the blocks in a more-or-less auto-balanced way. I don't count how many strips to cut or how much fabric I will need — I just sort of start going. (These fabrics were all from my stash, so that kind of makes it easy.) When I laid all of the blocks out to put the top together, I didn't fuss too much with the arrangement, either. I just wanted to make sure it was fairly balanced with the lightest colors spread out a bit. I don't belabor this; I sort of slap it together and keep going. Organizing anything more than that kind of gives me fits, and anyway, I like the way random looks and feels a lot better. I am also one of those people who doesn't pre-wash any fabrics (unless they already happen to have been pre-washed to make clothes or something and are already in my stash). I make the quilt, tie it, and bind it, and then I recklessly throw it into the washing machine, wash it in warm, and dry it hot. It comes out soft and wrinkled and puckered and that's how I like it. I don't like quilts that look like pieces of art. I like quilts that look like you just rolled out from under them in a nice warm bed.
Apparently, I have opinions. Who knew. That said, I can't deny that quilts look pretty cool hanging on the wall. Better make some more. This one's going off to a good home across the ocean. I truly hope it brings peace, hope, and comfort to someone in need.