I began with a request from Jessie Aller for some improv blocks for a DC Modern Quilt Guild charity project she was putting together in 2014 for a member named Angela. It was simple rectangles of mixed fabrics building a block using a scrappy theme. After I made several I decided it might be fun to try and make a bunch of these blocks to use as fabric in my own quilt.
My new blocks would be in the colors of the rainbow because our apartment is flooded with these spectrum every sunny morning and lots of quilters are really into "rainbow" as their color theme, I wanted to try my own version but I wanted to do it with black as my background like the Amish quilts I like. It was in part a reaction to all the gray and white used by many modern quilters. They rarely choose black to work into a quilt design. The bold colors of Amish and Mennonite quilts really appeal to my eye and they are usually dark and have black or dark blue as a ground.
gratuitous chicken shot taken at the Zenzendorf Hermitage Pitman PA.
Back in 2006/2007 I went to a retreat and for an artist residency to a magical place in the mountains of Pennsylvania called the Hermitage founded and run and created entirely by the Zenzendorf Brothers who have a huge collection of early American log buildings filled with all sorts of tools, furniture and implements of farm life circa 1800's from the many farms around their Pennsylvania Dutch valley. In the oldest house there was a sort of loft room with beds piled high with antique quilts. At the Hermitage they used no electricity and candles or oil lanterns (flashlights) under the stars. A shower house with water from the well and a propane gas tank to heat the water and run a refrigerator were the only modern comfort luxuries. It was such fun to be there and In the 1747 reconstructed Moravian house (see image below) I discovered this antique fan quilt. I got a snapshot of it on the bed in the loft where I slept under it one chilly autumn night. The bed was antique too with no box spring just ropes holding the lumpy mattress off the floor.
When I began I wasn't sure how I would use my rainbow blocks this row of colors with black edge and solid strips was an early sketch and it helped to keep count of how many improv squares of each color I had completed and how they looked as a group.
This shows one idea I played with before I moved on to add a magenta to this spectrum and then came to the conclusion I wanted to do a 2015 year of curved piecing in my quilts. I looked around for design ideas and realized that I would like to try a fan quilt like this antique crazy pieced fan quilt from The Zenzendorf Hermitage which I slept under years ago. I took the fan idea and built my blocks to be my color fabric in a curved pieced design using the black as background.
Rainbow lighting on the White house to celebrate Marriage Equality decision by Supreme Court last summer was just one of the many reminders about rainbows last year.
I made this rope bowl for a charity auction early on in the year which pushed me to create more blocks in more colors of the rainbow after the orange and blue ones I did for the guild quilt.
It was challenging to cut and piece so many small curves my fan block size is 8" finished with the colored fabric having so many seams to sew over in danger of being chewed by the feed dog... By the time eight fans of each color were pieced I ran out of steam and decided it was big enough to be a nice nap sized quilt and laid them on the wall and pieced them together in a diagonal design that shows off the rainbow effect. 66" square is the finished size.
I used pins to make each fan, that helped keep the colored improv seams under control as I rounded the curves. Then I got a number made and began experimenting with how to assemble the fan blocks.
Lots of ways to put them together with the black background were considered but in the end I chose to do the diagonal layout and save the stars for another quilt top design.
The view across the 2012-13 English Paper Pieced Rose-Star quilt to the wall that holds my quilts in progress. You see on my design wall an early layout of the shapes. I had two shapes from my curved cuts pieced with matching curved black grounds.
Once I got the fan top together I wanted to use the traditional fan quilting pattern to do my quilting on this project and I chose rainbow pearl cotton size 8 thread in colors as close to the row as possible.
I don't have a great source for pearl cotton threads anywhere locally and I don't like to buy by mail order due to the high cost of shipping. I did it once and at $13 for a single spool it is just too high a cost so I continue to hunt for shops that sell pearl cotton #8 in a wide range of colors.
|finished quilt on the wall 66 x 66"|
Another antique crazy quilted fan quilt I saw last summer done by a lady Esther in 1896 which reenforced my creative process to building my own. She did a nice hand embroidered label that puts mine to shame but it's not a new idea to embroider a makers label.
That is all. Carry on, quilting whenever possible.