This quilt was a learning experience, or–rather–a series of fortunate experiments.
It all started with a charm pack of Kate Spain’s Good Fortune line for Moda. It seemed like a good way to study the anatomy of a fabric collection, since it contained every print in the line. However, I hadn’t ever made something using such small pieces and so many different prints, and so once I had purchased it, I had no idea whether I would actually make something from it.
Inspiration struck one night when I was reading about garden history, in the form of Japanese kare sansui, minimalist dry gardens of stones and raked gravel. The raked lines seemed like the perfect basis for quilting, and the sakura, or cherry blossom, theme for the appliqué just fell into place from there. I’m still excited about organizing the colors in my quilts according to spectra, so I used that idea for arranging the various prints on the quilt top.
The cherry blossom and petal shapes were simple enough to appliqué quickly, and their simplicity lent itself to experimenting with machine applique as well as handwork. I did try using my machine for this one, but I was unhappy with the results (my machine only has a zig-zag stitch, and I’m not fond of the wide borders it leaves around the appliquéd shapes). So I ripped that out and hand stitched the petals using a blanket stitch. In this quilt, I finished the appliquéd edges with an embroidered chain stitch, in the hope that it would prevent or disguise fraying. I was curious what would happen if I skipped the chain stitching, so I left these edges raw. They did fray a bit after two washes, and they may fray some more in the future, so that experiment gave me some useful results.
I pieced the back from a large-scale print from Good Fortune and Robert Kaufman’s Essex Linen, which I had been wanting to try and which came in a color that matched the Good Fortune line perfectly. Although I’m getting away from prewashing my fabrics, I did prewash the backings this time so that the linen and cotton wouldn’t shrink unevenly in the future. I do love the texture and hand of the linen–I wish it cam in a wider array of colors. The two yards I purchased didn’t quite span the width of the quilt top, so I added an improv-pieced strip along one side. This was my first time piecing anything improvisationally, and I see myself returning to this technique in the future. It was a great way to use up the tiny scraps from the charm pack.
As mentioned above, I based the quilting on the patterns of Japanese rock gardens. I quilted concentric circles around some of the appliqués, then filled in the open spaces with evenly-spaced vertical lines. It’s a bit difficult to see in the photos, but the play of light and shadow along the quilting lines produces an effect that is pleasingly similar to the textural quality of the gardens themselves. It’s also fun to think about how the impression of rippling water, which kare sansui were meant to convey, carries over into the quilt top ( /meta analysis)
Thanks to the generous encouragement and advice of some of the ladies from the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild, I’m thinking of developing this into a pattern for sale. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!! What would you appreciate in a pattern for an applique quilt top? Any types of information that you’d find particularly useful?