This past weekend I finished a quilt that forms a Shafts of Light Diptych with a quilt created ten years ago, in the year 2000. The original quilt was done as a challenge for the Greater Hartford Quilt Guild retreat that year. The challenge was to interpret the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, Voices of the Night/Prelude, in the form of a quilted object. This theme manifested itself to me as a visualization of abstract beams of light penetrating through the forest. I drew my design on an 18″x24″ newsprint pad (I probably sketched thumbnails first but don’t remember after 10 years) and when satisfied with the angles and layout made a paper pattern using drawing paper. The design or layout of the second quilt is a mirror image of the first quilt but with different fabric choices. It is a rare occasion for me to make a second version of anything as all my work is one of a kind.
The fabrics in both cases were chosen intuitively which is how I usually work. The only plan I did have before choosing colors was the placement of darks, mediums, and lights. Value changes have more of an impact than color because it is differences in value or shading that give a piece contrast and definition. I tend to buy fat quarters (18″x22″ or half a yard cut in half) as that gives me a lot more variety and depth in my pieces. To make a piece like this I drag out all of my fabric and go through it and choose the ones that interest me and that might work until I have a pile of fabric. This is my palette. When I shop for fabric, which isn’t often these days as I have enough on hand, I do that intuitively too, and not with a specific project in mind but with the feeling that I am adding to my palette.
These two quilts are paper pieced which is a method where the pieces of fabric are pinned or held to the wrong side of the paper pattern sections and then you flip it over and sew on the lines on the top of the paper with the fabric underneath the paper. I love to design my own paper piecing patterns and have a collection of those. The only tricky part is that everything is reversed or mirror imaged which can lead to some interesting mistakes. You can find good information about paper piecing on the Carol Doak web site if you are interested. Both pieces are free motion machine quilted and the first quilt (on the right) has beads sewn onto the surface which was done after the quilting was completed. I learned to free motion quilt in several workshops a long while ago and I have taught free motion quilting. There are some excellent books out now that describe the process and the best advice I can give you is to loosely hand baste (so the pins don’t get in the way) a small whole cloth sampler (18″x18″ to 24″x24″) using cotton batting the first time (it doesn’t slip around), drop your feed dogs, put your free motion foot on your sewing machine, relax, and just doodle and play with it until you feel comfortable doing it on a real quilt.
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