Early last fall, my Grandma called with exciting news: Gramps told her that since they would be celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary, they would be hosting a huge party. I congratulated her, and over the next few months, kept wondering what we'd be making as a family to commemorate the event.
At Christmastime, I was talking to my Mom and said we should make a quilt! She told me that she'd been talking about the same thing to her sister - but they didn't have any ideas what to do yet. Mom (Roxanne) lives in Arthur Ontario, Giselle lives about an hour away from her in Wolverton (outside of Kitchener-Waterloo), and I live 5 hours away outside of Sudbury. Making a quilt together would be challenging!
So I got thinking, and doodling. Wedding quilts often use circular patterns as symbols of unending love. Traditionally, that's wedding ring, double wedding ring or Dresden patterns - so I sent an email saying we should make a quilt based on one of these patterns.
I wanted Dresden plates, Mom wanted pictures, and Giselle wanted diamonds. OK, so we had a plan! It was now February 2015 and the anniversary party was scheduled for April 18th, 2015 - it was time to get sewing!
The plan was to each made scrappy Dresden plates with blades 6.5 inches long, we would then applique them onto background fabric in a weekend quilting bee in March. Above, are the plates and half circle plates Mom and Aunt Giselle had made prior to our bee. I had all my blades cut and the ends pointed, but hadn't sewn any together yet....
It was after 2am when Mom and Giselle arrived for our Quilting Marathon. By the time we had drank a pot of tea and gossiped a bit, it was very late...but by 9am the next morning, we were setting things up.
Giselle started ironing the background fabric, Mom started sewing blades into plates, and I started cutting out the large 18 inch fabric squares for the front, 20 inch squares for the back, and 20 inch squares of batting.
Several hours passed with everyone working at their task. We listened to some great oldies tunes on satellite radio, and took about an hour's break for lunch - chatting about quilt patterns!
After lunch, Mom started pinning the Dresden plates onto the quilt sandwiches. I had the idea that we could applique the Dresdens this way to eliminate the need for quilting the squares (or whole quilt) later. I hoped that if the Dresdens were starched and pinned, that I could free motion around the petals to secure each square.
By 7pm, we had all the blocks ironed, pinned and ready to sew! I really wanted to try my theory for applique, so I sat down at my Janome threaded with gold on top, and a rainbow thread in the bobbin. No pressure - right?
Actually, it went really well! Both Giselle and I have done free motion quilting - but she wasn't as comfortable sewing this way, so she and Mom secured their blocks using a walking foot. That method worked really well too - it was a little slower than fmq, but the stitches are perfectly even - so their top-stitching looked fabulous!
If you wanted to sew Dresdens this way, I would only use the walking foot when working on one block at a time - not a whole quilt top. The petals had about 1 inch of seam from the tip to the adjacent petal, so it requires a LOT of turning!
We only worked until about 9pm, then decided we could wake up early on Sunday and get as much done as possible before Mom and Giselle leave for the drive home.
On Sunday, we laid out all the quilt blocks on the floor. My Number One Quilt Helper assisted by placing the newly ironed photos onto each Dresden block on the layout. We had to move a few around to mix up current and older photos, but we loved the energy he brought to the Bee!
In our original plan, we had 13 large blocks set on point, and 8 half blocks to square up the sides. We had lots more Dresdens made, and lots of photos, so we decided to make the quilt bigger. Instead of 3 diamonds across and down, it would be 4 across and 5 down - which meant we made 31 Dresden plates, 14 half plates and a special centre block.
The centre block is special because it highlights major events in my grandparents' married life. On top is their wedding photo, to the left is a picture from their 25th anniversary, to the right is their 50th anniversary picture, and the bottom is a photo from last Christmas.
I'm sure you're wondering why is the centre block a different colour? The answer is simple: we ran out of fabric! Because we'd originally planned only 13 blocks, I placed a fabric order based on that. During a phone conversation to Mom, I realized she had a lot of pictures and 18 Dresden plates sewn together, so I decided to place a second fabric order.
Confession: I never really calculated how much fabric I'd need to make a block, or the whole quilt. I just guessed. Seriously. I knew that I had the pattern for Irish Stars to order fabric for, and since it called for 9 yards of backing fabric...Thankfully I have a generous selection of fabrics in my stash for such design oversights :)
With all three of us sewing down Dresden plates, it wasn't long before we had a HUGE pile of blocks. Giselle started ironing under a seam allowance on each photo circle. Mom had taken the original photos to her local print shop, and they printed them onto quilting cotton she supplied. This was less expensive than using the packages of inkjet printable paper you can get at fabric/quilt shops and the print quality was better than my current printer will do. On Saturday, she cut all the photos into circles using her scrapbooking acrylic circle template and a rotary cutter. The hearts for the centre block were cut using the Creative Memories large heart.
I'd made a quilt before using the Quilt-As-You-Go method of sewing the back fabric squares together, then binding the front seam. We did this on this project - but the large 18 inch squares were more difficult to keep aligned and some of the "sashing" intersections were noticeably off.
To accommodate this, I added gold diamonds as extra large cornerstones to be appliqued at each intersection. It was more work, but the smoother finish was worth the effort - and as an added bonus the cornerstones reinforce the corner joined seams!!
Mom had bought a new sewing machine this spring, so she spent an afternoon trying to embroider this label. I know it took a lot of fiddling, and I'm sure more tries than she admits to, but it looks great!
Most of the main fabrics in this quilt were from Connecting Threads. The gold swirl and wine mirage are from their basic lines. The main fabric for the back was on clearance called Mum's delight - I knew as soon as I saw it when the line was released it was perfect for Grandma, so I'm glad it was used in this quilt - Kismet!
I had to search through my stash to find the white floral fabric we used on the back. I don't remember where I got it from, but I had 3 yards! The music fabric I bought on last summer's Row by Row shop hop - I only had 1/2 yard, but it was enough to make the centre block and the four setting corners.
All of the thread used was from Superior Threads. For the bobbin, we used a King Tut 100% cotton thread #403 called Autumn Days. It changes from green to red to gold about every inch. For top-stitching, we used King Tut 100% cotton #984 which varies in shades of gold to light brown.
This project truly was a collaborative effort! It took over 200 hours of cutting, sewing and ironing by three very motivated quilters. All of our design ideas were incorporated in some way, we each have personal fabrics in our Dresden blades, and we all have a proprietary interest in this project.
Roxanne entered the quilt into the Grand Quilt Show in Fergus on June 5 and 6, 2015 where it was displayed prominently as the first quilt you saw when you entered the hall. Approximately 800 people admired this quilt over the two days. Grandma had her picture taken with the quilt while on display, and the show organizers sent her a copy of that photo.
All through this project, we have been documenting our efforts, and Grandma now has several pages added to her anniversary scrapbook about the making and displaying of her quilt.
I call her the Quilt Inspector - and she is! Grandma has been judging at Agricultural Fairs in Ontario for many years. She is someone that truly appreciates the work involved in quilt making, and I was a bit nervous to give her a quilt. I knew she'd love whatever we made because we made it, but I wanted her to love it because we did a great job making it too. I'm pretty sure we succeeded :)
We placed the quilt at the entrance to the party hall and had each guest sign a petal during the evening. We had several Pigma fine-tipped markers for attendees to use. What an ingenious idea - using a memory quilt to record current memories!
Here, Dear Reader, is one of the cutest ideas I've seen. Mom made these fitted chair covers from a man's suit, a thrift store wedding dress, and a sheer curtain. I wouldn't have had the patience to figure this out!
Such a long-winded post deserves something special at the end. So here's my favourite picture of the evening - Grandma and Gramps after being introduced to the party!
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