By Jerri Stroud
By early September this year, I will have had three nieces married within 13 months. Naturally, I offered each of them a quilt as a wedding gift, thinking I could whip one up from a pattern I wanted to try in their preferred color scheme or pull a quilt from the already completed pile in my guest room.
I was so wrong!
Today’s young people don’t want just any quilt: They have very definite ideas about color, style and design. In addition, few of them have any understanding about what’s involved in designing and constructing them.
One niece wanted a very modern quilt – not my style, especially. Another wanted an applique quilt. I don’t do the A-word: I’m primarily a maker of pieced quilts, though I’ve done some collage-style quilts as well. A couple of the nieces wanted something that was almost all gray, and I’m known for very colorful quilts.
When I offered to make the first quilt, more than a year ago, I sent my niece pictures from several books, and she started a Pinterest page of quilt ideas. We exchanged posts there for a while. Then I sent some books home with her mother to see if she could select something from one of them.
When the niece and her fiancé visited for Christmas, I showed them all of the quilts I had and began working in Electric Quilt on a design idea based on their love of the outdoors. I liked the design, a stylized tree, and they seemed intrigued by the use of a computer to design a quilt.
After they returned to San Francisco, they sent me a blog post about a quilt they liked. It had a blank gray-blue background with two columns of triangles arranged to form trapezoids, mostly in yellows, greens, oranges and pinks. No pattern, so I set about translating it to Electric Quilt.
Then, we worked on selecting the background. While I hoped they would choose a subtle print to add interest to the quilt top, I sent them samples of a variety of gray and dark bluish gray fabrics from local fabric stores and included a few from my stash of fabrics. They choose a solid medium gray of which I had less than a quarter yard in my stash. Fortunately, it was a Kona cotton, and the website I had ordered it from still had my order on file. Kona colors are very reliable, so I ordered that.
Within a week, I had made enough triangles for a trial run at an arrangement on my design wall. Guess what? They didn’t like the prints in the triangles. I tried a few arrangements and finally my sister agreed to go to a Bay Area fabric store to pick out some fat quarter yards that they liked.
After she shipped me the fabrics, I made more triangles. We still couldn’t come up with a satisfactory arrangement. At last, the bride-to-be’s sister came to town, and she spent half a day moving them around my design wall and exchanging picture messages with the bride-to-be until they came up with a satisfactory arrangement.
A week later, the quilt top was finished. I took it to Sandi Wagner, a wonderful long-arm quilter in St. Louis County who had taken it on as a challenge. Then, more delays. The backing wasn’t big enough. So I took it back and used some of the rejected triangles to make churn dash blocks stretching across the upper back of the quilt.
Sandi finished quilting the queen-sized quilt in early summer, and I bound it soon thereafter. Her quilting really enhanced the quilt, with two different quilting designs on either side of the triangles and several closely spaced rows of quilting to make the triangles “pop.”
I presented the quilt to my niece and her fiancé the night before the wedding in August. My niece recently told me it was the most personal and meaningful gift they received.
At this point, I have finished the top for a second niece’s quilt, a dramatic arrangement of chevrons and other shapes based on a design she sketched and sent me from her home in Oregon. We went through some of the back-and-forth of negotiation as on the first quilt, but not nearly as much. It will be delivered to the quilter soon, and my niece is enthusiastic so far.
The third niece’s quilt is still in the negotiating stage. She wants something using Japanese fabrics or designs. We made a promising start by visiting a local fabric store over Christmas, but she’s still mulling the options.
All-in-all, making quilts for other people has presented challenges and forced me to move out of my comfort zone. That’s a good thing, right?