Editor’s Note: Today, I am handing my blog over to my husband. He is making his first quilt. This is actually his WIP Wednesday!
Ever since my wife retired, I’ve been really enjoying watching her quilting. She has always been enormously talented in her work, in her garden, and with our children. The truth is, she seems to succeed at everything to which she sets her mind! Quilting was new for her, and it has been such fun for me to see her put herself into the role of a beginner, and watch her improve and flourish.
Until now, I’ve been mostly a spectator. I helped with some design advice, and, in some quilts, I’ve been more of a collaborator than in others. With the long holiday weekend, here in the US, I thought it might be fun to work on a project together.
Two images sparked my interest. They couldn’t have been more different, but it was the serendipity of the two images that started us on this quilt. The first image was a very pretty block by L.A Paylor, at Not Afraid of Color, that we saw on Sew Fresh Quilt’s Let’s Bee Social:
I loved how the image was both abstract, and representational. The vibrant colors, and the cute cow face were enhanced by the witty use of color.
The second image was a photograph of Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) in an advertisement for Cigar Aficionado Magazine, in the travel section of the New York Times.
I suppose that this is where I should mention that I am Cuban-American. Both of my parents came from Cuba in 1960. Although I was born in the United States, I have heard about Cuba my entire life, and for me, it has something of a mythical status. I have never travelled to Cuba, but I am optimistic that recent moves by both the US and Cuban governments might thaw the freeze between the two countries, and allow increased contact and travel.
I wanted to capture some of the same whimsy that I saw in the cows, and do it with a tropical color palette. I pieced the pineapple, followed closely by the mango, the lime, and the banana. Although most of the design ideas were mine, the whole construction process was every bit a collaborative effort. For example, rather than try to piece the fruit within the block, my wife thought that we should piece the fruit, then iron them on a fuseable interfacing, and later appliqué them onto the block. Her expertise was essential! (Editor’s note: He thinks I’m an expert. I suggested the appliqué because it was easier! Now, the blocks at Not Afraid of Color? Those are expert blocks!)
I drew the fruit designs on supermarket brown bags, and selected the fabrics. For this, we raided my wife’s scraps and fabric stash.
At this point, the fruit was the only thing I had. I didn’t know whether this was going to be a twin, a lap quilt, a queen, or a king! I wasn’t sure whether the fruit was going to be the centerpiece, or a side element. I honestly had not thought through the whole project. I still kind of haven’t! But I was optimistic that we would end up with something that was, at worst, interesting!
I loved the arches in the photograph, and, especially, I loved the stained glass. This is apparently a feature of many of the old buildings in Old Havana. I thought that one of those balcony windows might make a nice centerpiece, with the fruit around the outside. This was the original drawing for the centerpiece. We talked about whether we should try to make one arch or two, but, wisely, my wife suggested I keep it to one. I also opted to simplify the stained glass.
I started with the windows. If I am the creative, free spirit of our marriage, my wife is every bit the math, science and engineering half of the equation! She did virtually all of the math, which, it came as some surprise to me, is integral (get it?) to the success of a quilt.
From there, we set out to do the stained glass arches. Keep in mind that this is my first quilt. I have never so much as touched a sewing machine before this weekend! So, I plead naiveté. It looks so easy when she does it! I had no idea how complicated sewing curves can be. I drew the template on shopping bags again, cut the pieces out, and used this to cut out the fabrics.
It took a few stops and starts, but I was pretty pleased by how it turned out. If you look again at the newspaper photograph, there are two buildings, a yellow one and a green one. We decided to go with the green building. It seemed more interesting than the yellow, and matched better with the backing fabric.
I decided to use bias tape to simulate the lead piping between the panes of glass, and I’m planning to use the same bias tape to create the wrought iron detail. We pieced the balustrade with a nice fabric from the stash.
At some point I dropped my scissors. Apparently you are not supposed to quilt barefoot? Blood on the fabric is unattractive. The trick to its removal is peroxide. My wife worked, and I still work, in health care, so this is a trick that we have known for a long time!
I had to decide the size, and we really used the design wall to get an idea of how many panels we wanted to use, and what sorts of colors we wanted the quilt to be. Here, I felt for the first time, that the quilt was taking shape, and was beginning to think ahead to the quilting. I’m humbled by my wife’s ability to make her Juki sing with FMQ, and trust that she will do the fancier quilting that I have envisioned!
As the holiday weekend ends, this is how far I’ve gotten. The top is almost done. I am going to add the iron work using bias tape when we do the actual quilting. I’m feeling pretty pleased and have really enjoyed the process. The quilt is finally going to be a small king, or generous queen size, and may take another few WIPs before we get to a Finish It Up Friday!