Here is my new quilt, “Floral Impressions”, designed for a Block of the Month series with Michael Oakshott’s gorgeous fabrics. Just finished, fingers still calloused from rapid hand quilting throughout Wimbledon, it had its unveiling at Quilt Festival, UK, last week. There has been lots of interest so I thought perhaps it was time for its unveiling here too.
Earlier this year Michael launched his new Impressions range. (http://www.oakshottfabrics.com/) and he kindly sent me some samples. I love the bright clarity of the 16 pastels in the impressions range. Each colour is shot through with white giving them a freshness that was especially appealing when they dropped through my letter box after the dark backgrounds I was working on in the middle of summer. I bit the bullet and asked Michael if he liked the idea of a Block Of the Month quilt to start this fall. He was as enthusiastic as I was by the idea so I set about designing a traditionally set quilt (individual blocks plus border) and Floral Impressions is the result. It measures 52 ” x 52″
I loved designing this quilt. It took me out of my comfort zone, working with these new pastel shades on a white background, a change from my usual dark jewel toned palette. I wanted to see if it would be possible to create a quilt using only one fat quarter pack of Impressions (plus background) and this limitation forced me to be more creative with my use of colour. Had I confined my leaves to two greens I would have run out of fabric pretty quickly so I found myself alternating stem colours in the blocks, using both green and beige stems and several colours for the leaves too. The black dictated the central olive wreath. I had been playing around with incorporating more fruits and veggies in my designs over the summer and had recently been happy with the addition of olives, garlic and chilli peppers to my usual floral repertoire. So of course black olives were a given. I found the black worked well for the leaves too, probably the greatest surprise of the quilt. All in all I think this equal use, or almost equal use of the sixteen colours that make up the Impressions range give this quilt a real charm – no single colour dominates.
As a block of the month quilt I had already decided that I would make the quilt up of 12 inch blocks and border and I knew that I would use wreaths and hearts for the central blocks. Apart from that I had no real idea of the final design. This made it both exciting and vaguely terrifying to make. Exciting because I could just go with whatever I felt like on the day. Terrifying because at the end I seemed to have nine blocks totally unconnected to each other. Some blocks used large flowers, some flowers were obviously designs from real flowers, some were complete fantasy. And there was the problem of the completely unrelated olive block too (one of my favourites so it had to stay). I love this kind of mess my unorthodox design methods get me into because I love the challenge of then having to make the quilt make sense when it seems doomed to fail. By using all of the flowers in the sweeping borders and confining the olives to olive trees in the corners suddenly the whole quilt came to life. It was obvious that my favourite olive wreath should go slap bang in the centre and the hearts and wreaths all fell into place. I feel it has resulted in a quilt that has great charm and vivacity and I’m very happy with it. By alternating the background white with the colours for the prairie point edging the multicoloured scrappiness of the quilt is sustained right to the edges.
I hand quilted it in record time, like a mad whirling dervish, stitching along, rapid fire to the incredibly exciting Wimbledon tennis tournament. I had a deadline, not just to get it to Michael in time for Quilt Festival, but to complete before my husband and I went on our dream of a lifetime holiday to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, a 300 km cycle ride around The Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia all by ourselves (no kids invited!). I met the deadline and our holiday was everything we wanted it to be and a whole load more.