How this modern quilter ended up with a Civil War quilt,
boy this quilt has a few stories to tell!
I only know a little bit of the background on it before she came into my life.
The top is a Barbara Brackman Civil War Sampler quilt made by a lovely friend and member of my Handi Quiler Group, Sheila. The top was made many years ago and it has been sitting…waiting…longing to be finished. When I was asked to quilt this quilt my first thought was “seriously?” knowing full well Sheila would be able to quilt this herself on her Sweet Sixteen. But there were many reasons why this quilt had not been finished -the shear size would be enough to put some quilters off! plus not knowing how to quilt it, a disliked of the border fabric and over the years it had lost a little of its sparkle and attachment. Let’s face it, we all have quilt tops like this.
Now this story jumps around a little, like a good Tarantino film, so I hope you can keep up!
It all started back in mid 2015 when I set my Handi Quilter Group members a “Big Block Quilt Challenge”, you’re thinking what has this got to do with the civil war quilt, right? stay with me…
I love set my HQ ladies regular challenges to push them to try techniques & styles of quilting they wouldn’t normally do to build their skills. Now Sheila was resisting my big block challenge (like really resisitng, not even contemplating giving it a go, ever) trying to convince her it would be a great exercise for her she came back to me with “I will do your challenge if you quilt my Civil War quilt” – she was giving me a challenge, what?
I don’t do traditional, but what could I do? I can’t give out challenges with out accepting one myself, so challenge accepted!!
Sheila had completed her big block challenge with in the month, clearly she was very serious about this and I was given her Civil War quilt to quilt.
My instructions for this quilt were simple:
No time requirement (best rule ever!)
Free to custom it how I saw fit but NO computer assistance (ProStitcher) – darn this would have saved me a lot of time! It was to be all hand guided, basically Sheila wanted to see what I would do to it.
Mid January 2016 she finally made it onto the frame. The quilt had a lot of movement with the wool batting that was supplied paired with her slightly wavy borders I decided to go through and square her up by ditch quilting the entire quilt before starting the blocks. This gave it stability but it also allowed me to remove the quilt from the frame. She was on and off the frame more times than I would like to count. Being big, beautiful & very time consuming I would have to whip her off the frame to teach my longarm classes and when the E2E customer quilts were piling up I would clear them and then put her back on.
This was my quilting cycle for 6 months, yep I had her for 6 months!
After 2 days of ditch quilting I rolled her back to the top to start the blocks but I hit a wall, the colours of the fabric & the style of the blocks really threw me. I haven’t ever freehand custom quilted a quilt like this before, it reminded me of wallpaper in my Grandmas old house. This style is completely opposite to the types of modern quilts I like to “fancy” quilt, I was missing my bright bold colours and glorious negative spaces.
I pondered the quilting for a couple of days – shall I do the blocks all the same, a cable design through the sashing, big plumed feathers in the border?? ( This is a great example of why you should always pre-plan your quilting before you start!)
All my ideas seemed to “traditional” and this didn’t sit well with me, not that I couldn’t do it more that I didn’t want to quilt her in a traditional style.
The quilt was a sampler quilt so I decided on quilting each block like a sampler, 58 of them! To get over the wall I hit I looked at each block individually, some were heavily pieced and some were simple. I looked at the shapes that I could find beyond the patchwork and just went with it. I used a mixture of different quilting rulers to create shape then filled in with various fill designs. Each block ended up quite unique, some blocks even took on a completely different look.
The sashing’s and border were my last challenge. I decided to go with a repeated design through the sashing using an oval ruler. Knowing Sheila didn’t like her choice in border fabric I tried not to make it a big feature by adding flowing feathers, I chose to break it up with some arcs & fill designs.
The quilt looks just as good on the back (if not better) to the front as it really highlights all the textures.
A lot goes on in life when you are working on such a big time consuming project and those thoughts, feelings & circumstances are quilted into this quilt so it is special to me.It went home with Sheila last week ready for its binding, she loved it (phew!).
I really did enjoyed working on it once I over came my “Quilters Block”.
There was a fear that I would be cursed by not quilting it traditionally but I am glad I chose to quilt more modern designs over the traditional because it does make it stand out and be unique but also gave it so much more texture and character.
I am looking forward to seeing her all bound and beautiful.