Wednesday, 29 June 2011

V & A checkerboard quilt - revisited

This afternoon, I got the corner triangle sections added to this contemporary fabric remake of the V & A checkerboard squares patchwork I did over Christmas (more info on the first version here), as shown above. The fabrics are all from Moda's Sultry range, by Basic Grey. The first version I made over the Christmas holiday is shown below, when I was attempting to capture the mood of the original quilt. The blocks in my version are smaller (4in finished squares rather than 6in), so I ditched the small scale (1/2in squares) mini checkerboard blocks from the design and substituted them with sixteen patches with 1in squares - there's still quite a lot of those.

I found this quilt intriguing because, on the face of it, it looks like the squares were arranged and then the patchwork assembled in strips, at least that's how most quilters would approach it today. As I wrote in earlier blog posts (go back to December 2010), the original quilt clearly wasn't made this way and is really a medallion or 'frame' quilt, even though the border progression is camouflaged by the checkerboard squares. It has a lot of complex rotational and reflective symmetry going on in what, at first glance, looks like very little organisation of the fabrics (there are a few deliberate oddities in there though). I love quilts like this, were there is so much to look at and retain interest in the prints, even in simple matchy matchy fabric games.

The pink version was made the same way, working from the centre outwards. There were fewer fabrics in this, although I used (probably) the whole Sultry range. The dark browns give the central arrangement more weight and drama than in the original, although the darker patches don't extend throughout the piece quite as much.

The pink takes on the role of the red and the lime green, to a certain extent, the yellow. The increasingly busy prints in the patchwork's corners and the low value contrast between the colours merges one patch into another far more than the original maker did. Including some of the lime greens in the checkerboards at random makes the blocks pop.

Why do something like this? It has been a learning curve of a different kind but, as well as the obvious desire to have those museum quilts for myself (remade to look close to the originals), the activity of selecting the fabrics and going through the same stages of construction (even if by machine, not hand) is one way of getting inside the head of the original maker - if that doesn't seem a peculiar thing to say! We have so little infomation about the people who made these quilts in museum collections, this is one way of making a connection, at least for me.

Why choose a very obviously modern range like Sultry for the second patchwork? Largely for a ultilitarian reason - it really was what I had on hand. I used the range for the Log Cabin chapter in '130 Little Quilt Blocks' ('130 Mini Quilt Blocks' in USA & Australia) because I wanted a very bright, contemporary look for the traditional Log Cabin blocks. Starting out with a Layer Cake (10in square stack) and a Honey Bun (1 1/2in strip cut, like a Jelly Roll), I still had most of the cake left over and the strips hadn't been used at all. Being a 2009 range, I couldn't find any more in the shops, but spotted two fat quarter bundles up for grabs on eBay, plus some yardage in the dark brown houndstooth (I will also use that for binding, while the repro version will have the edges turned in and butted, English style). Bringing the patchwork bang up to date in the fabric selection also shows just how timeless many of these antique quilt designs can be.

Here are some of the 'mix & match' computer generated quilts created for '130 Little Quilt Blocks', just the ones done from my reference photos - they look much better in the book.

Quilting ideas - I will use Mountain Mist 100% cotton wadding (batting) for the repro version as it is very thin and excellent for handquilting and 80/20 cotton/poly for the Sultry one for alittle more 3-D to the quilting (I will preshrink the wadding though). The repro to be handquilted, with a grid and concentric squares similar to the original, while the pink will be machine quilted - I acquired a stunning lime green thread shading through to white while at Quilts UK, and will use that. Not quite sure of how I'll quilt it, but it will probably be something similar to the original, just using the harder lines of the machine quilting to make it look different.

Next? Sewing a border onto my repro patchwork based on the Sarah Wyatt quilt (also in the V & A) . Big tacking (basting) session coming up!

Oh yes, and I don't 'do' pink... usually...

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