The big blue quilt

I finished a quilt top on Sunday. Once again, I seem to be at my most productive during a summer heatwave, when it is too hot to go outside or even move, and sitting still and sewing, inside in the air-conditioning, seems like a good plan.

Blue quilt top using many Philip Jacobs floral fabrics

It is big! About a third of it does not show here as it is hanging on the other side of the washing line.

This quilt started when my husband bought me a copy of Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Quilt-Making for my birthday in September. I have to confess that her book, as lovely as it is, is not one I would have bought for myself. I buy quilting books mostly for difficult-to-master techniques or unusual block designs, and Jane really uses only the most basic of techniques and nothing but squares and triangles. However, what she really does well is play with colour. Lots of colour. Bright colour. Beautiful colour.

I was particularly drawn to Jane’s ‘swimming pool quilt’ so I too started to collect blue fabrics, many similar to those she used in her quilt. A disproportionate number are blue Philip Jacobs prints.

I have to say a particular thank you to Gail at Gail’s Patchwork Emporium in Ballarat for helping me with my fabric collection. A friend (coincidentally also called Gail) travelled to Ballarat and at Gail’s shop she bought some gorgeous fabrics, just what I wanted, including the Philip Jacobs brassica (cabbage) print. When I contacted Gail and explained what I was trying to do, she dug around her shop finding other blues to suggest. She was so very helpful. I love that I was able to buy fabric and receive personal service from a shop more than 3000 kilometres away.

Earlier this month, I began cutting up my fabric collection into squares, a bit at a time to see what they looked like.

I started with a plan similar to Jane’s: lighter blues on the inside with a darker blue border.

Blue quilt top using many Philip Jacobs floral fabrics

When I started laying out fabrics on my design wall, the plan was to use lighter fabrics on the inside with a darker border.

Then I had an idea: what if I used the light and dark tones to create a pixelated design?

I used Photoshop to pixelate a picture of a flower and separate it into light and dark pixels. I then arranged some of my squares on my design wall.

Blue quilt top using many Philip Jacobs floral fabrics

Then I started to play with pixelated flower designs, with little success.

It just looked blobby and no one could see any sort of pattern, flower or otherwise, in the chaos.

I forced a lot of people to check.

‘Can you see a pattern emerging?’
‘No. What am I supposed to be looking for?’
‘Never mind.’

I then tried using a simple two-colour cross-stitch flower design.

Blue quilt top using many Philip Jacobs floral fabrics

My second attempt at a pixelated flower was not much better. It shows up in this photograph far better than it did in real life.

I forced the same people to check again. Still blobby.

The only way the pattern would have shown is if I had stood a hundred metres away and squinted a bit. It would have been great for a quilt hanging on a wall in an exhibition space, but I wanted the quilt for a bed, in a room no bigger than 4 metres in any direction.

So, I went back to plan A.

Blue quilt top using many Philip Jacobs floral fabrics

Spots, stripes and florals – lots of florals – but not a plain fabric in sight.

This is the sort of quilt you do not need a pattern to create. You just find fabrics you like, cut out squares and sew them back together. Easy!

My squares are 5 inches finished (5½ inches cut size). I have 400 squares: 144 dark and 256 light, I think I used about 30 fabrics, but I have not bothered to count properly. I found buying 30 centimetres (12 inches) of each fabric gave me about 14 squares and was a good amount. From a fat quarter, I could cut only nine squares and had a lot of waste.

The quilt top is a very generous 100 inches square. Again, this is a calculation that assumes I have used a perfect ¼-inch seam as I have not bothered to measure the finished quilt top properly either.

I like the flashes of pink and other warm colours that pop out. Some fabrics I used were really more green or purple than blue, but you would never know unless you look closely. This quilt has almost every colour in it – red, pink, purple, green, white, grey, yellow – but it reads as a sea of blue.

I could not find a backing fabric I liked locally, so I have ordered a large blue floral print online. I hope it looks nice when it arrives; I have ordered a lot of it. I will keep you updated.

36 thoughts on “The big blue quilt

  1. You said I’d like this quilt, and you were right! I LOVE this quilt. For so many reasons: it uses my favourite colours, the prints are gorgeous, it’s simple so the construction doesn’t distract you from the colour and prints. I like it even more than the Swimming Pool quilt you used as a start point. And I also love your pixellated flower idea, but I think you’ll need to used much smaller squares to make it work – say 1″ or 1/5″. I’d be interested to see if you have another go at that.

    • Ah, so you have seen the quilt I was talking about! I agree that the pixel idea was hampered by the large size of the squares. I felt that too, but I had already cut some squares and didn’t want to cut them smaller. This was supposed to be an easy project; tiny squares would have been far more time-consuming to sew back together. Also, I would have lost the fun effect of some of the large prints in small squares. I have been toying with the idea of a cross-stitch or pixel quilt (knowing me, it will be a flower) … one day.

  2. Lovely. Something along the lines of the big flower print you used on the Noodlehead basket for your mother? It would be a lot of work, true, but a gorgeous effect. I used to own the Jane Brocket book myself, but gave it to my sister when she fell in love with a couple of the quilts in it. She knows nothing about quilting, so it’s slightly wasted on her, but I know I’m going to get a request to make something out of it one day…

  3. Just love the colours and fabrics, have the book (because of you) the quilt is on my ever expanding list of quilts to make,

  4. I absolutely adore this! It has everything that could make a quilt perfect – it’s blue, it’s KFC fabrics, it’s a lovely design, it’s enormous. What more could you want. Definitely going on my list of must-do (one day when I finish the other 3 I have lined up…)

  5. I have to tell you, I love the picture of it on the grass so much that I’ve set it as my desktop background to provide inspiration!

    • That’s lovely. Thank you. Now I don’t feel quite so daft for going outside in the blistering 38 degree heat while my husband muttered something about my being crazy and waiting for it to cool down. It is only cooling down a little at night and I cannot take photos in the dark! The grass is the roadside verge in front of my house (people driving along my street also thought I was crazy) and I had to take the photo from upstairs. At least when it is this hot you know the grass is dry. The silly things we quilters do, eh!

    • I didn’t have this much blue before, but I have been on a bit of a naughty stash-building shopping spree. Is blue for you like purple for me? Even after my spree, I have precisely three purple fabrics. That’s it.

    • We must form a blue-quilt-mutual-admiration society, as I thought yours was pretty fabulous too. I like how we took almost opposite approaches in our fabric choices: plain but elegant vs very, very busy.

  6. Hi – having seen this last week (is it only 5 days ago??) I decided that I needed to make THIS as my wedding present to my daughter. So Friday afternoon I chose and bought the fabric, Friday night I washed, dried and ironed the fabric, Saturday morning was cutting. Saturday afternoon was spent arranging squares then sewing squares into rows, until Very Late. Sunday morning I sewed rows into a quilt top, and by lunchtime Sunday, I had this completed quilt top!. Today (Tuesday) I bought batting and backing, and I have washed the backing and hung it out to dry. Since my quilt topis nearly 2m square, I am opting to ahve this one quilted by someone with more patience than I havae! Many thanks for a wonderful idea, and I hope you love seeing my interpretation of it! Yevette

  7. I bought a stack of Kaffe Fasset 2.5″ squares in cool colours thinking I would do a simple piecing, but you’re right the small size of the square compared to the scale of the print really doesn’t allow the fabric to shine and ends up being a bit of a blur – and really I’m not sure what possessed me to think I’d have the patience to piece enough 2.5″ squares to have enough for anything larger than a slipper. . .p.s. your quilt is really lovely 🙂

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