I’ve never really been one for scrappy quilts, which is surprising really and a little unimpressive when you look at my scrap basket which is overflowing with fabric bits just perfect for such projects. It’s laziness and perhaps a lack of discipline on my part for sure. However, when I first saw this quilt on Instagram, I knew it was a ‘make’ for me. One of my favourite designers, Camille Roskelley of ‘Thimbleblossoms’ made this tiny ohio star quilt using her scraps and it looked amazing. It helped that the solid blocks were from a 5” square charm pack and I had a couple of this languishing in a drawer, that I had bought in a sale and then had no idea what to do with them and this was just the starter I needed to get me going.
Making the tiny stars was a little fiddly, I have to admit. There are two key things to consider. First of all it is essential in my opinion to have a rotating cutting mat. There are 9 squares in a patch and the squares are tiny - and all have to be trimmed once they are sewn to 2” and being able to turn as you trim makes the whole process much quicker.
The other thing is that it I found it hard to keep a continuous rhythm with this project and instead decided that it was a background thing. I kept a box at the side of my sewing machine with all the bits in and would just make up a couple of squares at the end of the day and let them pile up and then every now and then, add a few rows … with Basil supervising of course.
Once you get a few rows together, it is pretty to have around your sewing room anyways so it doesn’t matter that there is no rush to finish. It took me about a year to get to the stage where I thought it is enough. It was always going to be a lap quilt and this size seemed about right.
In fact the size is almost irrelevant with this sort of busy design - it looks totally gorgeous whatever the size because it is so busy and cheerful and colourful. I think it would make a lovely baby quilt.
For the backing fabric on this quilt I had a piece of Bonnie and Camille paisley. I was a little worried that the print might be too busy, but I love this pattern because it reminds me of the old fashioned eiderdowns that we had at home as a kid. In fact once it was in place it was just a joy.
The free motion quilting was relaxing on this project as the grid is clearly defined and I just wanted to fill each row at a time. I know some people don’t like this part of quilt making but with my new Juki machine it is quick and enjoyable. On a busy quilt like this as well, it doesn’t matter that it is not perfect - I know some of the pics you see on social media have precision and detailed quilting done by pro long armers, but it’s not such a thing here and I like to try myself. In this instance, it goes with the flow….scrappy, handmade, a little bit wonky here and there…. I actually didn’t complete the quilting until I had added the binding and then I felt that it needed some extra body and a framing finish so I added a squiggle stitch band within in the plain white border.
Personally for me you can’t beat hand sewn binding and a striped one at that…. how delicious.
Having done this quilt, I think my attitude to the idea of a mish mash quilt might have changed….in fact I know it has, because I bought a fab plastic box with all sorts of compartments in from ‘The Range’ and have started cutting my scraps into various sized squares so they will be ready to use on future projects.
I actually finished it on the same day that I got a picture back from the framers and some how they seem to go together, so I named my quilt ‘Northern Stars’. The painting is of ‘Archangelskoye’ the Moscow home of Felix Yusspov (murderer of Rasputin). Even though it had been neglected for decades and was falling to bits, I loved going here during our posting in Moscow and wander around the once grand and now abandoned gardens was thrilled when I got the chance to buy this little oil painting as a souvenir. It had a crappy frame on it and a month or so ago when I was having a bit of a reorganisation upstairs, I decided it needed a new lease of life and so it has….
Recently I have been reading some articles about the green creditials (or lack of them) in the fabric industry. I am an advocate of slow and sustainable fashion, but confess that I can be blind sighted when it comes to quilting fabrics. There are so many disturbing arguments out there about textile production and cotton is one of the worst offenders. While cotton is a natural product and biodegradable, the toxic chemicals and fertilisers used in the irrigation of cotton crops seep into our ground water supply world wide. As a passionate quilter there is no easy way to order your feelings about these things, but I suppose I feel that scrappy quilts are a small contribution to the problem - they are durable, warm, useful and long lasting and if you can use up every last scrap - it’s a positive thing.
And besides…. when the stars collide… a little magic happens……