What a journey this quilt has taken me on. So many little stories come to mind when I look at this quilt. It's actually called Bloomin Steps by Joan Ford. But it's also a classic twist on the traditional "Jewel Box" Block.
Here's some of her stories: This was my very first scrap quilt. The first funny part of this quilt is that I didn't HAVE any scraps when I started it! I had yardage! Lots and lots of yardage. I started cutting for this quilt in the Winter of 2012, when my Vicki was still alive. Even now, I pause as I write that, because it still startles me from time to time that she is gone. We were like two peas in a pod and so many of our quilting projects had each other in them somehow...someway. This one was so us....from the very first cut.
Part 2 posted here
We decided somewhere in the fall of 2012 that we (Vicki and I) wanted to make the same quilt. Neither of us had ever done a scrap quilt. Our friend Charlotte Hawkes is the scrap QUEEN of our guild and just kept showing up with scrap quilt after scrap quilt for show and tell. Each one more beautiful than the next. Vicki and I were OCD when it came to color....balance. Some colors didn't belong ANYWHERE together. When we asked Charlotte how she chose her fabrics, she always came back with... "Choose?? They are scraps! There's no color, just VALUE". We still didn't buy it. I had a VAST collection of floral fabrics (Never used a single one, just bought them) and Vicki was going through a Bright Batik phase. So I cut into every floral fabric I had to make my scraps and Vicki picked 4 colors - Hot pink, purple, navy and dark green. I cut into 30 different white on white's...Vicki cut into ONE White on White. (Baby Steps!) Her finished quilt top is actually sitting on my "Quilt Me" page that I recently added to my blog.
Anywho, we both had them neatly piled into towers after we cut what felt like 10,000 squares and had no idea how to begin. I called Charlotte at 10:00 at night and said "Now what??? I have them all sorted into piles and have at least 20-30 squares in each tower of that particular fabric"....
"You WHAT?" she asks.
"I said....I have them all sorte..." I stammered.
"Stop..... take the box and throw it up in the air".
Now I'm silent. "Throw? Wait....what??"
"Like a tossed salad", she says. "Mix them all up!"
"Charlotte, I can't do this!"
"Yes you can! Mix them all up!"
"....I gotta go, I need wine"
It was February 2013 at a Valentine's Day weekend retreat that we planned to start this quilt together. Vicki, Sandy H, Lori and I whisked off into a Winter Wonderland and found a cozy corner of the retreat center to hunker down to sew and chit-chat. As I recall now, I wish I had taken more pictures of our shenanigans that weekend. But I can still see Vicki and I across from each other, gently lining up our blocks and sewing. I got really bold with what went together by the end of the weekend. Vicki still had graph paper and color charts. (grin)
By July - we were still working on the borders.... (forgot to cut for those....) And I felt so FREE of color limitations, I wanted to get REALLY bold and piece the back with MORE of the floral fabrics. I cut up several hundred 6" squares and pieced them all together for the back. I had this crazy notion that I wanted to line up the scrappy back with the blocks so when I woke up one day with the most AMAZING free-motion quilting skills... the quilting pattern would look amazing on the back too. HA! Vicki called me inspirational. Ray, her husband, said I was nuts. Vicki called a family member and got her gigantic quilt frame that had been loaned out for years picked up and set back up in the family room. Her thought was that we could hand baste it on the frame to make sure all the squares lined up. I watched with awe at how she handled that frame and loaded it all up. She gave my shoulder a squeeze and said "this will be yours one day". I chortled some quip about slipping immortality pills into her ice cream and never gave it another thought. Until she so suddenly passed away a few months later in January of 2014. We sat at that frame a few days a week for a month basting that quilt. Sometimes we gossiped, sometimes we laughed, sometimes we made fun of Ray and the Dog (neither one of them could hear us) and sometimes we quietly went into our "zone". We always enjoyed each other's company no matter what we were doing. We brought a sense of peace to each other whenever we were together. Nothing in the world could keep us from smiling and laughing. We squeeled like school girls when the quilt was done and came off the frame. Ray wanted to know what we were going to do with the empty frame.... Vicki draped some quilt tops over the bars and called it a day.
|Jan & Vicki Hand-Basting Jewel Box - Fall of 2013|
That quilt hung, only hand basted, on a quilt stand in my living room for over a year. I didn't have amazing free-motion skills to make my inspiring ideas come alive. But it was basted, by our hands, and that was enough for me.
It was a tough year for me. But I felt comfort keeping in close touch with Ray. Helping him sort through all of her things and helping him make some sort of purpose to a life without his bride. I did inherit that quilting frame, but I didn't have much desire to do any quilting.
Time passed, and a new kind of normal slowly started to form. I went on a retreat with a large group of besties and found some healing in a pile of Halloween fabric. Halloween Frenzy was born. I impulsively decided to make it reversible so that I could use Vicki's frame again. Then I changed gears and spent the summer\fall focused on the Autumn Victoria Quilt that Vicki started. I wanted it to hang at her guild's quilt show and wanted Ray and her Mom to see it completed. 3 months later, less than 2 days before the anniversary of Vicki's death....Ray passed away, from what I believe, was a broken heart. There was a sense of finality when Ray was gone, but also a sense of healing. He was so very sad to be without her. He couldn't make sense of his life or what he was supposed to do without her.
I was only finding peace with quilting. It was the only place my mind could settle down. And since I got so used to sewing every single day to make that deadline, I didn't know what to do with myself when it went off to Kim to be quilted. Kim is infectious and is a long arm quilter. At that point, I never even saw her sit at a sewing machine, I only saw her stand at her long arm. Idle hands, something something.....I picked up the Jewel box quilt and figured.... I know how to stitch-in-the-ditch, at least SOME progress would happen.
|Sew Day with the Hamlin Girls|
Kim was VERY excited that I was "Quilting". Not piecing...but "Quilting". She convinced me to go out and buy a piece of plexiglass and some dry erase markers and start auditioning quilt designs for the rest of the quilt. Let me say, that blue tape around the edges is PERFECTLY mitered. :-) But my mind was completely blank with ideas. Kim comes over and starts drawing the most beautiful designs. I'm taking pictures the whole time and discounting everything because "I" can't do it.
|Kim dumbing it down to something I can accomplish|
Now at this point, she's pretty sick of my "can't do" attitude and demands that I go buy a sketch book and a new pack of colored sharpies. She calls daily... "did you buy a sketchbook? did you buy a sketchbook?" Finally I buy one and show up on her doorstep with it. No idea what to do next.
|A "Kim Werth" tutorial Page|
She draws out a meander with instructions and says.....fill the next 5 pages just like that.
She turns several blank pages and does something fancy. I try.....and fail. If I were sewing this design, I would have bird's nests on the back from starting and stopping and oh man..... This sucks.
|How about a feather?|
I told her that I had originally envisioned a feather around the open part so she draws out the square - to size... meaning the actual size of the quilt block and whips up this gorgeous feathery thing. I tried to TRACE what she did, and I had no idea how she did it. So then I made HER trace it, and I followed behind with a pencil and arrows to figure out how she did it. I need direction...
|My first attempt|
More "I can't do this" from me. Everything I drew looked like a 4 year old did it. She tells me to photo-copy the block 30 times and keep trying....
|Just keep sketching, just keep sketching....|
I must've drawn those feathers 100 times. They actually started to look pretty good! So then I got cheeky and started googling "free motion fillers" and filtering by images. I'd find something and try to draw it....in EXCESS. I needed a bigger Sketch Book.
|I did it - I don't like it, but I filled a page....|
|McTavishing or something...|
|What if I draw a grid similar to my border?|
|Oooh, this is kinda cool..|
|Those flowers are totally cute|
|Ooooh, combining designs...|
Before I knew it....weeks had gone by and I had done nothing but sketch and doodle
|Hey - I might be getting good at this!|
|Pat on the back...this is looking cool!|
|If you can draw it, you can quilt it!|
|Wow....wonder if I can actually sew these?|
|I'm doing it!!!|
|First Feather...not bad!!|
|Oh yeah....I got this!!|
|The pride of doing this myself is so awesome.|
|Grids in the middle|
|Scout - Mister Meow|
|Mom....take a break|
|Mister Meow Cuddles|
|Marked lines to follow|
|Hanging at Patricia's Quilt Show|
The final piece of this journey....was the binding. In April of this year, me and 5 besties took a trip to Paducah in a camper. There was one leg of that trip that 4 of us sat with this quilt sprawled across the camper working on hand basting the binding. Soooo many friendships and stories with this quilt. I will FOREVER cherish it.