Sisterhood Mini Quilts

A few years ago some friends and I made some Sisterhood quilt blocks to celebrate our friendship.  The clever pattern by Berene of HappySewLucky is paper pieced and so much fun.  That round of Sisterhood blocks prompted me to return to the same pattern in 2020 when I wanted to make a mini friendship quilt for my friend Pantera.  So, at last, I’m sharing a few photos of my Sisterhood mini quilts.

This first one is the most colorful one I’ve made, and it’s also my favorite.  I definitely used “louder” low volume prints in the background, as well as a better range of skin tones for the arms and heads.  Some of my favorite scraps went into this one.

Recently I shared the Courthouse Steps quilt that I made using Pantera’s gorgeous hand printed fabric.  This first Sisterhood mini quilt was made for her, and I included a few scraps of her work in it.  I wanted to send something tangible to tell her I was thinking of her in the pandemic.  This is such a great quilt block for sharing with women.  

I quilted it with a small crosshatch design that looks amazing on this block.  The backing is a fun house print I’ve had for years, and I included tabs for hanging in the top corners.  Two different black and white prints won the audition for binding.

And I made a quilt label!  This is one of my worst faults as a quilter.  I rarely label my quilts, and it’s something I need to fix.  I always feel like a simple label written in sharpie is insufficient and would rather embroider one.  But the time difference between the two approaches is huge.  And that’s a discussion for another day.  Still, this one was essential.

And there you have it, my favorite of my Sisterhood mini quilts.

For record keeping, here are a few photos of my own Sisterhood mini quilt.  I love it too, for different reasons.  I love the Liberty lawn in it, and you can read the story behind it here.  

For this version, I quilted in crosshatch lines once again and still love it.

I backed it in a Liberty cotton, and bound it with one of my favorite Liberty designs:  wiltshire.  That little red strip in there is my favorite.  It hangs in my laundry room with most of my other mini quilts.

And finally, here is my original test block, still just a block.  I think I’ll save this one to include in a quilt.

Happy Sewing!

Jennifer

A Courthouse Steps Quilt: Potential in Constraints

Life since early 2020 has been a time of constraints.  We think of constraints as limitations or restrictions, which is how most dictionaries define it.  But I have this funny habit of checking old dictionaries – the 1828 Noah Webster, to be specific – to see how words were defined and used 200 years ago, as well.  (It’s the historian in me; she shows up all the time in funny ways.)  When I settled on the name of this courthouse steps quilt, Potential in Constraints, I looked a little deeper into the word. 

The 1828 dictionary defines a constraint as “irresistible force, or its effect; any force, or power, physical or moral, which compels to act or to forbear action, or which urges so strongly as to produce its effect upon the body or mind.”  Aaah.  That’s a lot bigger than just limitations or restrictions.  And it fits this experience well.  So, here is my finished courthouse steps quilt, a quilt I could/would ONLY have made in 2020.

Back in February 2020, just days before the first coronavirus case in the U.S. was identified, I was at QuiltCon with dear friends.  While there, I met the lovely Pantera Saint-Montaigne, owner of Brooklyn Mojo.  Her hand screenprinted fabric panels instantly drew me in, but her friendly demeanor kept me coming back to introduce more friends… and buy more of her beautiful scrap packs.  We agreed to keep in touch. In many ways, we could not be more opposite, but we’ve found common ground to build on.   In fact, she has become a friend.  I wanted to make a quilt to showcase her designs.

Now for my constraints:  I only had scraps of her fabrics, plus a few panels.  When I started this quilt, fabric was difficult to find and even slower to arrive.  None of the solids I would have bought were in stock.  It became a from stash only project.  I grouped Pantera’s fabrics by color and chose four main colorways to focus on:  yellow, blue, pink, and neutrals (gray, white, black).

Log cabins have been my favorite block, by far, for the last couple of years.  I don’t know why, but sewing them is like comfort food to me.  As I watched social unrest sweep across the US in response to acts of racism in the summer of 2020, I found myself thinking a lot about justice, and mercy.  I remembered times I have literally climbed courthouse steps in search of justice and mercy both, and the weight of it all.  Thinking of Pantera, it felt appropriate to use her fabrics to make a courthouse steps quilt.

This quilt is just four large blocks, and each block measures 32″ x 37.5″.  The overall quilt is 64 x 75″. Since the quilt is already so striking, I chose simple straight line quilting to finish it.  No need for the quilting to compete for attention!

I backed the quilt in a favorite black and white print from Cotton + Steel that I stashed.  I love this fabric, and it’s the perfect fit for the graphic designs in Pantera’s fabrics.  A pink binding felt like the perfect finishing touch.

Many thanks to Pantera for designing such unique prints to sew with, and for being the beautiful person she is.  This quilt is a reminder of her friendship, and therefore one of the good things that came out of 2020 for me.  

Through Tears She Saw More Clearly – A Finished Quilt

If I’ve a quilt that sums up my life experiences in the last decade or so, Through Tears She Saw More Clearly is probably it.  It tells the story of life’s tension between pain/heartache and the learning/growth that follow if we stay engaged in the journey.  This quilt was inspired by the early challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s come to mean much more to me in the last two years.  

Red-hot pain, teardrop shapes, a waterfall of flowers.   Sadness, emotional turmoil, fresh perspective after the tears.  Letting go and holding on.  So many things.  And so many life experiences can feel like this.  But the ultimate message of this quilt is that growth and clarity are on the other side of struggle.  We can’t get them any other way.  I feel like I experience this lesson repeatedly.  Hence the title:  Through Tears She Saw More Clearly.  It always works that way, doesn’t it?  They blur our vision, and give us new focus at the same time.

So many favorite prints are included in this quilt.  It’s a scrapbook of tempting florals and I’m so glad I cut into precious pieces for it.  

This quilt is the first one where my husband collaborated with me on the quilting design.  I had a deadline and was telling him my plan to quilt it quickly, when he stopped me and said “no, that’s not what this one needs.”  And then he proceeded to draw the design he pictured.  To my surprise, it was much better than my plan. It was also more consistent with the quilt’s message.  So I did my best to mimic his sketch.  (I wish I had kept that little drawing!  I think it was on a napkin or the back of an envelope or something.  Why didn’t I at least photograph it?!?)

I quilted Through Tears She Saw More Clearly with gold thread.  And teardrops.  Fewer and smaller at the top of the quilt, larger and more of them at the bottom.  Each teardrop connects to a gold string that starts at the top.  It’s hard to see because the prints are so busy, but I’m glad I did it.  I wish I’d added more dense quilting to make it stand out better.  But I learned a lesson, and the best part was collaborating with my husband on an idea.

I am grateful for the experience of making this quilt.  Grateful that I’m still learning.  It’s a gift to be alive, to struggle and try again.  To see more clearly through our tears.

Jennifer

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