One of the first real-life impressions I had of Kathleen Loomis was when we were both attending a Master Class at Nancy Crow’s barn in Ohio and Kathy was showing one of her mind-boggling postage stamp quilts to some people in the room. I don’t remember whether it was “Spaghetti Sauce” or “The Great Lawn” but I certainly remember what I thought when I saw her unrolling the meticulously packaged quilt of a zillion (or so it seemed) small pieces held together by thread lines: it was a mixture of sincere awe and asking myself whether she was out of her mind. (I like people who are slightly off the beaten track!)
Meanwhile Kathy and I have become good friends, and even before I met her I did what she had done that eventually started her off on the postage stamp quilts: I used small pieces of fabric as sewing-on-sewing-off pieces to stabilize thread tension in between seams on a current project. But for a while I was getting to the point where they were accumulating and I did not know what to do with them, really. I used some on small quilts:
I used some on a T-shirt I had to mend at the side seam. I had cut out the washing instructions label and cut into the jersey fabric and did not want to throw away the new shirt, so I simply sewed two of the pieces on the side seam, a little later I also added some more on the edge of the neckline. And I have put some on certain spots of jeans that needed mending.
But overall I was at a loss – no way could I start making larger pieces similar to Kathy’s, it is so much her style that I would never have made a piece out of any number of these. On the other hand, having them at the sewing machine throat was just so handy, because it was so much easier to start and finish off a seam when using them. So when I saw a post on Instagram by Maryline Collioud-Robert / @mary_and_patch where she showed a ‘quilt that had sewed itself’ and checked up on the respective blog entry and realized that she was basically doing that same thing with scraps that she then put together into a scrap quilt, I knew that this phrase filled a need of mine.
But I took a slightly different approach. Last year I had started yet another piece with which I was going to commemorate more refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean – but with my increasing frustration about the whole situation I was growing more desperate, and at some point that quilt stalled. What use counting dead refugees by creating blue four-patch blocks…? The precuts and pieces that had been sewn already were left sitting there in a basket, another one amongst my too many unfinished pieces. And I had seen another post on Instagram, by DianaVandeyar /@dianavandeyar, whom I had met in South Africa last year. She was revisiting her many years of digital pattern designs and it included a design with four-patch blocks that set me on a track of thinking about what I could do with those blue four-patches.
Here is where it all comes together, just in case you are wondering: I needed something to sew on and sew off, I wanted to do something with the four-patches and I liked the phrase ‘a quilt that sewed itself’. So while I was working on my lockdown-pieces, I also worked on the blue four-patches, finishing them, putting them into double-four-patches, and the whole thing grew into a large blanket.
The process took off at a point where a number of four-patches had been finished, but it also included sewing a few last strips together, cut-offs into four-patches, and then four-patches into double four-patches with the oranges, and then double-doubles. So there were a few phases where a bit of planning ahead and preparing was needed, but I kept the planning to a minimum in order to be able to concentrate on the main quilt(s) for which this one was only the sew-on-sew-off .
Here are photos of the back in the making. I had so many double-four-patches left over once I decided I was going to eliminate the ones with yellow and stick to only basically orange for the front. Yet I did not want any leftover blocks, and I did not want to have to come up with another idea for them. So the yellow ones ended up on the back.
It has been quilted, and I do like how it turned out. Not sure yet whether it will also be entered somewhere but we will see. Now I need to get the binding on. And I have already started on my next quilt that sews itself as I sew on and off. This one is going to be a lot more scrappy, meaning there will at least for a while be even less planning needed.
Thank you, Kathy, Marie and Diana – so much fun when inspiration is fed from different sources and it all comes together somehow!