For me, starting a quilt is always a bit of an adventure. I don’t purchase kits because I like the challenge of picking a pattern, then a color scheme (blues, reds, batiks, 2 color, black and white?) and seeing what happens. Sometimes, however, what I have pictured in my mind doesn’t always translate into the finished project (ESPECIALLY if I don’t read the directions!).
Case in point - one of my current projects is/was a pattern called a Chinese Lantern. This is a Log Cabin variation called Courthouse Steps and it’s pretty simple – cut strips, take 2 of the same color, sew to opposite sides of a center block. Take 2 more colors, sew to the other sides of the center block. Alternate light and dark colors and keep going until you have the block size you want.
Now in order to get the secondary pattern that forms the lantern, you need to make half of the blocks in one set of alternations and the second set in the opposite. Sounds confusing, but I posted a picture of a Chinese Lantern so you can see what I mean. This way when you sew the blocks together, you do NOT have 2 of the same colors butting up against each other.
Well I didn’t do that – BUT as I sat in despair, realizing my mistake (and no, I wasn’t going to start all over – with fabric at $8.00/yard, quilting is EXPENSIVE), I took the blocks and started to play with them. Sure enough, the quilt promptly took on a life of its own and while it may not be what I intended, I think it’s pretty cool. I posted the WIP, although I need to do more piecing.
Moral of this little story – if you make a mistake, don’t worry about it. The finished piece may be even better than what you started with!
It is somewhat flattering when people tell me or ask if I sell my quilts. I don’t and for a good reason. The minute I say, "Sure, a 60” x 60” will cost about $500,” people are astounded. Why? Apparently that’s too expensive when they can go to a department store and buy one for $200.
That’s true, but let’s see. That 60” x 60” quilt in materials will cost me about $100. Then I will put in around 40 hours to make the thing and I figure my labor is about $10/hour. So bottom line – go buy one at the store. However, be warned – many of those quilts use greige goods which is a not very sturdy cotton, weak thread and large stitches. The quilt may hold up for a time, but if you wash it, they can fall apart. You also do not get a piece of one of a kind art – my quilts are ones you do not see in everyone’s house, for sure.
Fun Facts About Quilts
I talked about the Courthouse Steps as a Log Cabin variation. So what’s a Log Cabin? The following is a good explanation from eHow.com:
Some folklore meanings to the log cabin quilt relate to the center piece and how the quilt block is pieced together. The center piece was traditionally a red square and was believed to stand for the hearth of the house, as told by the quilters to others in the late 1800s. The strips of material surrounding the center square alternate light and dark sides representing the sunny side of a house and the side in the shade. Another meaning to the light and dark stripes is that the light side relates to happiness and the dark side to sorrow, of which life is filled.
Log cabin quilts have been sewn in the United States since the 1860s. They became very popular during the Civil War as they were sewed and auctioned to raise money for troops. One of the more popular named log cabin designs was the Barn Raising, which alternates light and dark material in a diagonal pattern.
Other common patterns are the Court House Steps and Sunshine and Shadows. Traditionally, the center piece is a square, but almost any geometric shape can be used. Today the log cabin pattern may be considered an American design, but there are many instances throughout history of this pattern and it goes beyond quilts.
When early British explorers opened Egyptian tombs, the pattern of wrapping and colors on some of the funeral objects and animal mummies clearly showed a log cabin design. The log cabin pattern was also found in the floor tiling in temples and other Egyptian buildings. The French picked up on this pattern from the British and used it as well. Even land cultivation techniques have been cited as sources for the log cabin pattern, relating to the crop rows around the house.