The Cloths of Heaven 1: And so it begins

Every so often, a quilt comes along that demands serious process.

CoH, initial fabric pullBy that I don’t mean the normal round of picking blocks, colours, size, fabric and quilting design. What I mean is that it demands to be considered, mulled over at length, sketched, rubbed out, re-sketched and amended. It needs decisions, notes to be made, and usually, a good bit of time to digest the flood of initial ideas and then reissue them as a design that will work. Usually, I can’t make it up or change things as I go along, or it’ll go haywire.

(Click on any of these images to enlarge)

CoH, ConceptKnowing I had no hope of getting a quilt to my niece Claire in time for her wedding last year, I promised her a large and spectacular quilt to celebrate the wedding, and it would be ready when it was ready. She’s fine with that, but I’ve allowed too many other projects to insinuate themselves between that promise and now. So it was time to knuckle down and get everything out of my head and onto paper. I have to say, I’m loving this design. It will be very difficult to let it go when the time comes, but that only means I’ve put a lot of myself into it, and that’s as it should be.

CoH, constructionSo, allow me to introduce The Cloths of Heaven.

The name comes from one of my all-time favourite poems, ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ by W.B.Yeats. If you’d like to hear it read aloud by that wonderful actor Antony Hopkins, click this link. It’s beautiful, romantic, heartfelt, and perfect as inspiration for the celebration of a marriage in fabric.


CoH, quiltingIt all started with the idea of a starry night, the ‘heavens’ embroidered cloths’ of the poem, twinkling above a peaceful night time landscape. But I didn’t want a narrative, pictorial quilt, so there’s more to it. The poem will be calligraphed in gold ink around the outside of the landscape, there will be appliquéd trailing ivy, which she loves, a surround of beautiful, intense colours selected with my niece’s favourites in mind, and finally, a lush, heavy border.

CoH, element detailsI’ve tried hard to think the whole process through, from initial concept through to quilting and finishing, to anticipate the sort of problems which might arise from a project as complicated as this. Undoubtedly there will be curve balls and hiccups, and I will get round them. It’s all part of the journey.

I have two more days of work on something else, and then I will start. Not quite sure where, but probably with cutting 4½” squares for the frame around the central image… I will need more fabrics than those shown above, particularly dark blues, but that’s OK. The finished quilt will be 88″ square, which is why I’ve decided to make it in 9 separate sections, up to and including quilting. I’ll join the sections as almost the last thing, just before binding. It will be far more manageable like that, quilting will be less arduous, and so long as I’m meticulous about keeping to measurements, all should be well.

Lots of potential here for process posting, I think you’ll agree… And I’ll probably be asking for advice or suggestions from time to time, so I hope you don’t get bored of the thing before it’s done. However, you stayed with me all the way through the year of Worldwide Friends, so I can hope!

I have half a year to get it ready – just in time for her first wedding anniversary!


51 thoughts on “The Cloths of Heaven 1: And so it begins

  1. Conor Bofin says:

    Complex stuff Kate my girl. Complex stuff.

  2. That is much more complex than anything I would undertake but it already looks luscious. Love all those colors. Looking forward to seeing the process.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s a whole lot more complex than I’d normally do as well, but it’s a wedding gift, a rite of passage, a gift of love, and it needs to be a significant piece. I’d feel a bit ‘meh’ if I just sent her an everyday quilt!

  3. Nanette says:

    Beautiful colours……some of them would do well in Avis’s blocks!…..interesting to see your process and “hear” your thoughts. You’ll do it just fine, you wouldn’t take it on otherwise 🙂 I’m sure we won’t get bored following along,watching how it’s unfolding and cheering you to the finishing line.

    • katechiconi says:

      You’re right about that, but I’ll have to wait and see if I have any leftovers after cutting my squares! I confess to feeling a bit intimidated right now, but that’ll pass as I get involved and interested.

  4. anne54 says:

    Your planning process will be a strong guide as you make it. As you say, there will be hiccups, but you will be able to deal with them. Your niece and her new husband are very lucky to have an heirloom created for them. Very special

    • katechiconi says:

      Quite aside from the usefulness of solid planning up front, I simply forget ideas unless I write them down, so it’s becoming more and more important to do this sort of thing when I’m working on a big piece with lots of stages.

  5. This looks like a wonderful project. I’ll enjoy watching it unfold. Thanks as always for sharing process with us. My process is often make-it-up-as-I-go-along, which is harder to describe along the way. 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I do that a lot too, but this one is very large, has lots of different elements and techniques, and I’ll stuff it up royally if I try to wing it, so lots of planning in advance will hopefully take care of that. I’ll enjoy sharing progress, and it’ll keep me up to the mark timewise, too.

  6. Wow! I will be waiting to see the finished product!

  7. knitnkwilt says:

    Love the poem you are using for inspiration! It will be fun to watch it grow. I know I sometimes delay starting the really big projects. I have one promised that I’ve been pondering design for a year or so. About time to dig in.

  8. Lynda says:

    Kate, your notes, sketches, and the scope of the project are making my brain melt… I’m just not advanced enough to be able to work in such a broad scope.
    That’s OK. It will gel back together as you begin the process. I look forward to reading about and seeing your results! It is going to be so beautiful. That much I could grasp.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s not that bad! Once I started to break it down, everything became more manageable. There’s a bit of everything, true, but it truly isn’t that complicated once you dig down into the design a bit. I shall start it next week!

  9. You are a quilt geek. (I mean that in a good way)
    It’s going to be incredible, and clearly you are going to enjoy every step 🙂 x

  10. Wow Kate, this will be a real labor of love. I can’t wait to see how you use all those gorgeous fabrics to translate all your ideas into reality.

  11. A wonderful concept, which would make any ordinary quilter quail! But you have proved your staying power and your ability to follow your dream consistently. What would terrify me would be the assembly of the nine already quilted parts. I’m looking forward to the progress reports as an exemplaire I could not begin to reproduce.

    • katechiconi says:

      Funny, everyone has a different thing they find scary. The only part I’m nervous about is making sure the central circle and its border for the poem are an even circular shape. Joining the sections is all straight lines and I don’t think it will prove to be a drama. I don’t mind that other people look at the design and find it intimidating. It means the finished thing will be unique, and I will learn such a lot along the way!

  12. katechiconi says:

    Exactly! I’m getting restive, wanting to make a start, but I have to finish the block pattern testing I’m doing for Esther over at ipatchandquilt. It’s looking lovely so far, but there are dozens of pieces and it’s a bit fiddly.

  13. Jule says:

    I’m looking forward to watching it grow. 🙂

  14. tialys says:

    Ooer Missus! You do like to make work for yourself. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy sitting back and watching all your efforts 😉

  15. Magpie Sue says:

    This will be another ribbon winner when completed, I have no doubt (even if it never goes into a show or exhibit). Heirloom is the right word, an heirloom for the 21st century! This will give you a reason to get out of bed in the mornings, however painful it may be. Best wishes to you my friend. 🙂

  16. Whatever you make with those colours will be FABULOUS! I especially love the blues and purples 🙂

  17. EllaDee says:

    I’m not sure I want to spoil the magic by knowing the how-to details. I’m looking forward to seeing this project unfold, and the pics and details along the way 🙂

  18. Lorij says:

    Kate you’ll do just fine. The quilt I’m quilting now is 88×104. When I made the top it wasn’t for my daughter but when she saw it completed, she commented that’s really nice Mommy, I like that. So, this is her Christmas present and I’m really trying to do a good job of it. It is a sort of generation quilt and I’m hoping she will be really pleased with it. I’ll send you some pictures of it once I’m done.

    • katechiconi says:

      That will be lovely! I think with this quilt it’s the amount of detail I find daunting, and my arthritis is now making it difficult for me to haul large items through the sewing machine, hence the plan to assemble it in pieces.

  19. pattisj says:

    Yippee! A new project!

  20. After our chat this morning, I see that you put a lot more thought and planning into your quilts than I do. I grab some fabric and make a block. If that works, I make a second one, and so on!
    I still am impressed that you plan to make this is in only six months. If anyone can, it is you!

  21. rutigt says:

    Wow……I don´t know what to say.I´m impressed and it´s gonna be interesting to follow this quilt!

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m enjoying it a lot so far, and doing all that homework before I started has helped a lot – I don’t feel as intimidated as I would have if I just dived in.

      • rutigt says:

        I must often tell myself to slow down, cause I keep diving into my project all the time. Sometimes it ends up being terrible and I don´t know what to do with it 🙂

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