Friday, June 22, 2018

Improv Quilt Finish That Took Forever

This past week, I finally finished a long neglected project that I started back in 2014.  You can read about its beginnings HERE

I had been given some corduroy and other fabric by a friend who was cleaning out her scraps.  After making a little corduroy and flannel quilt, I took the left over corduroy scraps, along with some other scraps from deconstructed clothing, and started playing, improv style.  I even made a video about it (see above link).

I had in mind a Gee's Bend style quilt, something like this one:
(Image source)
My quilt top was completed in late 2014.  In 2015, I started quilting it (see HERE and HERE).  First, ditch quilting to hold the layers together, then hand quilting in a few places with pearl cotton. 

What bothered me a little was that I wasn't able to bury my knots in the quilt.  I tried hiding them in a seam where I could, but it seemed that more often than not, they were going to be visible on the back. 
- - -
Let me digress for a minute here and tell you a funny/interesting story.  It'll relate back to this quilt, I promise.

This past winter, February 2018, I went to a presentation by Heidi Parkes at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.  I didn't know anything about her, just that she was a quilter, and that was enough for me.  I did know that I had a serious case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house.  The weather was cooperative that day, so I hopped in the car and drove a couple counties over to where she was speaking.

(Heidi Parkes at MOWA)
She talked about her process, how she came to quilting from not a sewing background, but from an art background.  She used repurposed clothing, linens, etc. in her work, and she often hand quilted with pearl cotton across the entire quilt in lovely, long parallel lines.

During the Q and A, I asked her how she hid her knots.

She said she didn't.

She explained that she just started with a long, long thread (however long she needed) and quilted in one continuous line until she reached the other end of the quilt.  That blew my mind!

I realized she didn't have any particular rules ingrained in her (like I did) about not using a super long thread when hand sewing or quilting, because...I don't know, it might knot or otherwise be too unwieldy? 

For Heidi, having a long distance to quilt meant using a long thread.  Simple as that!
- - -
Back to my improv quilt, my intention for finishing the quilt had initially been that I would free motion quilt the rest of it...somehow, some way, some day, no real clue as to a specific plan.

Having no real direction, and a varying sense of indifference bordering on disappointment, it was easy to let myself get distracted by shinier things. 

Fast forward to last week.  I picked up the quilt to move it (AGAIN), but then stopped to look at it more closely.  Then, I can't say "I decided to finish it," but I decided to thread a needle and take another stab at it, literally. 

I made it up as I went along. Moving around the quilt, looking at what it needed where.

Starting with some vertical lines through the center portion, which had always seemed so starkly divided looking to me.  

Some cross-hatching stitches, too.

Hand quilting some single lines here, and parallel lines there.

More cross-hatching stitches.  

I thought of Heidi Parkes as I stitched long parallel lines in the borders of the quilt, with several feet of thread in my needle, sufficient to make it from one end to the other without stopping.  It worked just fine.

Finally, in the tan corduroy spaces inside the border, I didn't have a coordinating colored thread, so tried simply tying the quilt there in a contrasting thread.  That didn't look right by itself.  Anchored with buttons, though, it was better and added a little something.

And soon enough, that was that.

It measures about 40 inches square(ish).  The back is a vintage thrifted piece.

It's currently on the wall in the living room.  No more moving it around the sewing room, neglected and unfinished.  It's officially done!

Linking to:  Can I Get a Whoop-Whoop?


  1. I love it! Your freehand stitching really holds everything together and adds lots of character. In some recent work Heidi has used knots but left them on the outside instead of trying to bury them.

  2. Great story of your wonderful quilt! A long time ago on one of their tv episodes Marianne Fons talked about she and her daughter quilted a utility quilt by cutting the thread to go across the width of quilt, then starting in the middle leaving half the thread as a long tail and quilting across one half, then turning the quilt and finishing the other half of the row. Quilters always find a way!

  3. So much good stuff in this post - and how beneficial that you made that cabin-fever trip on that particular day! Wonderful finish ❤️

  4. This is why I love bloggers, I learn so much from the generous sharing of projects, setbacks and successes......thank you!
    The quilt is a mini triumph and more so from knowing how it came to be.

  5. Fantastic finish! Why not break the rules and do some improv quilting on an improv quilt? Pretty sure the ladies of Gee's Bend would agree. Well done!

  6. Super Improv quilt! Love all the different quilting techniques that add texture and interest.

  7. Love the addition of those buttons. Well who knew, but Heidi is too smart! I seem to recall hearing that somewhere along the way but I'd forgotten. Must remember!

  8. Congrats on your outstanding finish!!


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