The Hatbox Quilt: from start to finish

It’s done. At last…

I’d have liked an outside shot, in the sunshine, but wouldn’t you know it? We’re grey, dull and overcast. Good job the quilt’s cheerful!

I first saw the original design for this quilt in 2008, when I bought Kaffe Fassett’s book Passionate Patchwork. At that point, my piecing and quilting skills were minimal, to say the least. I’d made exactly two quilts, badly, one by hand, one by machine. But that quilt, that quilt. I kept coming back to it. I had the page bookmarked for years. About 5 years – and several increasingly competent quilts – later, I realised that soon, I’d be up to the job. So I started collecting fabrics. I had a special box into which I stashed fabrics I thought would make good hatboxes. The collection evolved considerably over the years, having started rather traditionally, in the same spirit as the original, chintz-based design. Well, you can see for yourself that didn’t last.

Finally, in 2016, I was ready. To the extent, in fact, that I felt able to make some changes to suit my own ideas. So the blocks are a different size from the original, I’ve assembled them slightly differently, my fabric selections are very different, and I haven’t used the wide sashing, cornerstones and border which are a feature of the original design. This is partly because I wanted to be able to quilt each block individually and because this quilt is smaller, and the wide border and heavier sashing don’t work so well in this context, to my eye.

I liked the slightly mid-century vintage feel of this collection of hatboxes and the fabrics they’re made from. So I decided to hand quilt each one, to give each block the soft and crinkly feel of vintage hand quilting. For extra softness, I backed each block with fine cotton lawn, in a pretty cherry blossom floral, pink blossoms on a grey background. Both front and back feel gorgeous, incredibly snuggly and soft.

I’ve created a sort of ‘hidden label’ on the back; the information is there if you know where to look but it’s disguised behind a piece of the backing fabric, with the details on the inside. I know what it’s all about, I’m keeping it, so the label’s just for tradition’s sake.

Spot the hidden label…

This quilt has seen me through several homes and life stages from first intention to completion. I’ll never part with it, and it was worth every second, minute and hour of the considerable time I’ve taken to finish it. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, and this time, I’d move a little faster for the sheer pleasure of seeing it finished. So there we are. But in case you were wondering what’s next on the agenda for Bee, Myself and I, my ‘selfish sewing’ project, wonder no longer. The blocks for Parterre will be taking its place.

More months and years of pleasurable stitching ahead!

The Hatbox Quilt: two seams to go

The three large strips are completed.

I’ve been stitching away at it quietly while I posted about other stuff. Now I just have to join those three sections together. They’re the two longest seams (lines 2 and 4), but it has to be done. And then the next stop is the binding.

I looked at an option where I added a narrow darker blue flange inside the blue binding to give a sort of piped effect, but I didn’t like how it looked. A flange can be a great way to give detail to a quilt binding, but in this case it fought a bit with the the hatboxes. I think it works best where there’s a plainer border around the quilt. So, normal binding it is. And I must come up with a label with some dates and so on.

It’s been a long time coming, but the end is in sight.

Silent, but not still

Me, that is.

I haven’t posted for a few days, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything. It’s just that repeated posting about the same project with only small increments of change can cause reader-enjoyment fatigue, I think, unless there’s real, visible progress. Today, I thought there was something for you to look at 🙂

Although I do have progress to show on the Hatbox quilt, I’m going to break it up with some pretties from my back yard. There’s still beauty happening out there, despite the total absence of rain, the hot, dry winds and the unseasonal heat.

So, nearly two-thirds of the quilt joined up. One modest seam to do and it will be two-thirds. It’s going well and easily, and I don’t want to rush through it.

In the back yard, the three baby pineapples are growing. This one’s nearly twice the size it was last time I showed it two weeks ago.

The bananas are getting bigger and bigger, and I’m keeping an eye on them to make sure the fruit bats and possums don’t start paying them too much attention.

They have a ‘banana bag’ over them to protect them from animals and from getting too scorched by the sun.

And in the orchid house, this lovely is flowering. It has at least 10 more buds, so when more of them are out, I’ll show it again. So pretty…

Sadly, the grass is all brown and when Mouse does his daily zoomie up and down, he’s kicking up clouds of dust. The amaryllis, or hippeastrums, all bright scarlet, are flowering like it’s going out of fashion – which it may indeed be, if we don’t get some rain soon.

It’s a thing with plants, isn’t it?  If they’re stressed, they flower like crazy to get in one final try at reproducing themselves.

I think I may have to bring that orchid inside, out of the orchid house, so I can give it some personal attention and admiration. Flowers that pretty shouldn’t bloom unseen.

Right, back to the hand stitching. Before I know where I am, it’ll be time to bind!

The Hatbox Quilt: homage to hand-sewing

I’m taking it slowly.

You know what it is? I don’t want this quilt to finish, I’ve loved the process so much. But all good things must come to an end, so I’m taking my time but gradually getting it done. Which means the sashing on the back panels will be stitched down by hand. Sorry if this stretches out the anticipated finish a bit, but I wanted to stay in the vintage-y, soft, contemplative spirit of the thing. I grant you, I wasn’t in that groove quite enough to do all the blanket stitching by hand (in which case you’d still be watching me assemble block 5, probably), but let’s take it slowly and pleasurably.

I’m also not going to hand-stitch the internal seams that attach the front sashing. That would be slightly deranged; going through all those layers of fabric and batting with hand-stitching? I don’t think so, not to mention the fact that it would be much less durable. But that final folded edge on the back? Yes, perfect for hand stitching with nearly invisible results, since I even have thread exactly the right colour 🙂

So, the blocks are all trimmed out, the sashing strips for front and back are all cut. I’ve got the first corner joined.

Let’s keep it moving. But slowly….

Sew…. what next?

It’s a tricky question.

Most of the time, I have a deadline, or something’s screaming louder than the rest to be worked on. Now that Scinteallate is done and dusted and F2F isn’t going to restart for a few months more, I have the luxury of picking and choosing. These are the choices:

The Hatbox Quilt
F2F3: Amethyst and Slate
The Pastel Scrappy Quilt
Anemone (hand sewing; properly speaking, a ScrapHappy item)

Actually, when it came down to it, the choice wasn’t so tricky. It’s going to be the Hatbox Quilt. It’s the furthest along, fully quilted, and all I need to do is assemble it. The others all need lots more work before they’re near that point, especially Anemone.

So, here’s the thing. I was thinking I might like the idea of a wider sashing, to look like shelves. I have a pretty blue chambray style soft shot cotton with a hint of lilac in the colour for the sashing, and it works well against all the fabrics. But using wider sashing would make it trickier to line things up, and will definitely involve lots of fiddling about beforehand, to ensure the blocks finish at the same size, without cutting off the backing and batting I’d need to fill the sashing space. On the other side of the coin, I can do the narrow sashing in my sleep. So, in the interests of finally finishing this project, which has now been running since the beginning April 2016 (gasp!), I’m going with my normal sashing width.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed I’ve swapped a fair number of blocks around since the last time I showed them all together in the photo on the left, which was before I started the hand quilting in August 2017. I did the squinting thing, and it looked OK, but when I turned the wrong end of the binoculars on it, several dark and light patches leaped out and needed to be sorted out. Then I discovered things had the same edging on the lid of the hatbox or there was a clump of the same backgrounds, so further tweaking was needed. I think we’re OK now, but if you spot something, let me know.

So, I’m off to the ironing board and cutting table to get the sashing strips ready.

BM&I #37: The last block is quilted!

I can’t quite believe it!

This is the last hand-quilted block of the Hatbox Quilt. I’ve been making this quilt since February 2016, three years and one month. And it isn’t even finished yet! First I had all the hatboxes to appliqué, and then each one had to be hand-quilted. It’s been a slow, meditative process, and a pleasurable one; this quilt is just for me, and I had only myself to please with the colours, fabrics, layout and quilting. The slowest part of the process is done now. The next step is to start assembling it.

However, as most of you know, my new sewing room is not yet up and running (although I have made some progress today in starting to unpack and position my sewing stuff), so it’ll have to wait a little longer before I can start putting this lovely together. I hope to have something to show you next month for my Bee, Myself and I post, but there’s a strong possibility I’ll have to miss a month (again). Maybe I can show them to you all trimmed out and assembled in the correct order on the design wall 🙂

Bee, Myself and I is a forum for ‘selfish sewing’; any stitchery which is purely for pleasure and not to a deadline or for anyone else. The original concept belongs to Carla of Granny Maud’s Girl. To find out more, you can click through on either her blog link, or using the button a fair way down in the left hand column of this blog.

Till next month… Probably!

Bee, Myself and I # 36

Just one more to go 🙂

This is Block 29. Another gorgeous fabric from Philip Jacobs for Westminster Fabrics. One of my most favourite fabric designers. I got this one done during my Melbourne trip and after – I took two with me but that was overly hopeful, I was having waaaay too much fun to get both done. I’ve got this done and scheduled well in advance because I know that right now I’ll be in the middle of demolishing things, making lists, deciding where power points should go, etc.

Anyway, to return to the subject…. Bee, Myself and I is a forum for ‘selfish sewing’; any stitchery which is purely for pleasure and not to a deadline or for anyone else. The original concept belongs to Carla of Granny Maud’s Girl. To find out more, you can click through on either her blog link, or using the button a fair way down in the left hand column of this blog.

Till next time.