The whirligig quilt

In December, I was flicking through Creative Stash and Scrap Quilts, published by Universal Magazines, and I realised that I could make one of the pretty patterns from stash, so I did.

When I started, I had no other goal than to use up some of my stash in making a happy quilt in fabrics I liked.

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

A passer-by complimented the quilt as I photographed it on the tree.

I made a sample block after dinner and discovered that my sewing superpower is the ability to sew Y-seams while tipsy after wine. Honestly, I have never figured out what is so frightening about Y-seams!

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

This was my test block, made with wine.

Later, when sober, I chain pieced my first big batch of diamonds together the wrong way and had to unpick almost 40 seams. Sobriety obviously does not work for me.

The top of this quilt was sewn in December when I was a bit tipsy from Christmas parties, so all my points are marvellously pointy.

When I saw the pattern, I knew I wanted to use my carefully hoarded Bonnie and Camille bundles as they had pretty flowers I could fussy cut, but I deliberately added in as many other fabrics from my stash as I could. I wanted it not to be too coordinated or matchy-matchy and, by adding in other fabrics I liked, I hoped to make it a little bit more personal. I also left out a lot of my Bonnie and Camille prints when they were too pale to adequately contrast against the background.

Hexagons and diamonds ready for patchwork

My cutting board was a very bright and cheerful place for a while.

I am really pleased with the background fabric. I had about half a metre in my stash, but I was able to dash back to the shop for enough to finish the quilt top as they had not sold the rest of the bolt. The spots are exactly the right colours.

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

The dot in the background is Gelati Owl Multi Spot by Sugar and Spice Textiles. I bought it locally from Textile Traders.

I started this quilt with a clean slate. I sucked the fluff out of my sewing machine with the hoover and put in a new needle. I had a new spool of thread, a newly wound bobbin and a new rotary cutter blade.

After the first sets of four diamonds were sewn and pressed, I could turn my iron off, so this was a great project for hot summer days. We have had a fiendishly hot summer this year.

Brigitte Giblin’s pattern says to hand sew the small triangles in the sashing, but I sewed everything by machine with really neat results. I found it easiest to sew the triangles to the end of each sashing piece before sewing the sashing onto each block. The only other thing I varied was that I made the borders to avoid incomplete coloured diamonds in the corners. It is such a minor change that few would even notice it.

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

Not a bad view, eh? This jetty is on my regular dog-walking route.

In February, while the quilt top was away with Donna being long-arm quilted, my aunt died of breast cancer. The best way I can describe what I feel about cancer at the moment is to point you to Renée’s blog. Renée says it better than I can.

During my aunt’s illness, I wished there was more I could do to help, so I decided to donate this quilt to the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research. Last weekend, they auctioned it at their Purple Hearts fundraising ball, which raises money specifically to fund research into women’s cancers.

Because hand-made things can be hard to price and to help buyers understand they would be getting a good deal, I had it properly valued by the West Australian Quilters’ Association’s capable valuation team. They were marvellous. They met on the same day as the ball, but they assessed mine first so it could get to the ball on time (a bit like Cinderella).

Luckily, I had the binding all finished in February so it was finished in time. If February was not bad enough, I have had a disaster of a time so far in March. Among other things, a computer glitch meant I had to redo two weeks’ work (my back-up back-up now has a back-up), my sewing machine needed repair and my dentist told me I need all four of my wisdom teeth out. Not much sewing or social media happened as I spent all hours catching up on work! I really do hope I am through the worst now, even though I have postponed the teeth extraction until April.

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

It was windy, but you get the idea.

My family has lost my father and his sister to cancer in less than a year.  Weirdly, donating this has been a helpful part of the grieving process for me. I feel slightly less powerless in the face of cancer. Slightly.

My dad’s ashes and my aunt are now buried beside each other, with their parents, who also died from cancer, and my dad’s brother, who was killed by a falling tree. I do not hate trees.

Whirligig quilt pattern by Brigitte Giblin made by Granny Maud's Girl

The backing fabric is a red polka dot because you can never have too many spots (or flowers or pink or …).

The quilt is cheerful and feminine. I am absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. It is one of the prettiest I have made, I think. Pretty and bright is good: I want whoever has it to feel happy. Cancer itself brings enough gloom into the world.


52 thoughts on “The whirligig quilt

  1. It’s very beautiful, happy, cheerful and uplifting. Some lucky person is going to love owning and using it. I do feel for you, and I’m glad your sadness and perhaps anger have been channelled into creating this beautiful thing. The other stuff is just sheer misery, and I hope you’re now fully recovered and things are moving along smoothly. I’ve missed seeing you in blogland…

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your aunt and father’s passing, especially by such a terrible thing as cancer. This quilt is amazing and gorgeous tribute to your aunt and father. I hope it raised a lot of money for the foundation!

  3. So beautifully written and so beautifully made Carla! I am sure both your words and your lovely, lovely quilt will bring sunshine into others’ lives!

  4. I am a survivor of bowel cancer, after a cruling operation I can say I am cancer free. It has left it’s mark but I can say I am very happy. Thank you for such a lovely donation, your quilt is sensational.XX

  5. I was just thinking about you this morning Carla, and wondering how you were getting on catching up on your work – and also whether you still had had your wisdom teeth out yet. The quilt is beautiful, and you did a great thing by donating it to the auction. I hope it raised lots of money and that someone can find a cure for cancer some day soon.

    • I sensibly postponed the teeth extraction. The date they wanted to do it, 16 March, would have been a disaster for my work deadline. Expect me to feel sorry for myself again in mid-April!

      I have been thinking of you this week. I have been looking after a friend’s 15-year-old son. As the mother of teenaged boys, you can reassure me that, yes, they always do need to eat this much! 🙂

  6. Hi Carla
    A beautiful quilt.. It made me smile. Although you gave this quilt away as a gift, as you say you received something in return.. Maybe it was a little bit of power.

  7. Lovely quilt and good call on the border treatment. Sorry to hear about the bereavements in your family. You’ve had a number of challenges to deal with and I hope you will now get a chance to rest and regroup.

  8. What a lovely blog post, and a gorgeous quilt. It looks so light and pretty, but it has a lot of meaning, love and strength behind it. Hopefully by donating it to the auction it will bring a cure one step closer. There’s power of all kinds in those stitches!

  9. Beautiful bright quilt. It’s funny that you sewed better with some wine. I might need to give that a try. LOL My condolences to you and your family. Good luck with the wisdom teeth next month.

  10. A really beautiful quilt and the new owner is going to love it. Isn’t it funny how scrap quilts can look as if you bought the fabrics especially for the pattern? I hope that making the quilt and it’s sale has helped your grieving process.

  11. The quilt is lovely, I definitely noticed the final border right away and am not surprised you tweaked it ever so slightly to make it so pristine. I have been sewing YSeams on a TShirt quilt this week, and I have to admit that YSeams and cotton t-shirts are not as forgiving. It’ll get there, though.

    I am so sorry to hear about your aunt and all the cancer that runs in your family. Renee does say it well in her quilt / post, but your lovely altruistic donation of this quilt says it from your heart, too. I hope that April is a much better month, even with those pesky wisdom teeth.


    • Thanks, Yvonne,

      I am sure April will be better. I am a tad nervous as this will be my first operation of any type and my first anaesthetic, but I have a very capable and friendly dentist.

      I can imagine that stretch fabric would add an extra degree of difficulty to Y-seams!

      I am not sure whether cancer runs in the family or it is simply bad luck. No two people have had the same type of cancer!

  12. Beautiful Quilt. I hope they got a lot of money for it at the auction. So sorry to hear of all of your troubles in the last two months. Hope things get better for you now. My son recently had his wisdom teeth out and he was absolutely fine the next day! It’s not as traumatic now as it used to be 30 years ago when I had mine removed.

    • That is exactly the story I want to hear, Gina! I am glad your son’s teeth were without problems. Mine should be too as there are no complicating factors.

      It raised a respectable sum, I think, given that silent auctions are not always the best market places.

  13. Very sorry to hear you lost your father and aunt to cancer. It is a terrible illness. But you made a beautiful quilt and I hope it helps you get through it.
    I’ll have to try a glass of wine next time I attempt Y seams, sounds like a good idea!

  14. I am so sorry for the loss of your aunt, Carla. It’s a wonderful thing that you have done with this quilt. Taking your fabric treasures, your time, and your talent to fight women’s cancers. Well done, my quilty friend, well done indeed. I’ve missed you in blogland!

  15. Always a sad time. Cancer takes way too many of our loved ones. We just lost a lovely lady this morning. You certainly are talented to be able to sew Y seams while tipsy. Perhaps that’s the secret….

    • I am so sorry to hear that cancer is affecting you too, Carla. So sad to hear of your friend.

      Few of us are safe from it these days, but I try to remember that it is because medical science is staving off so many other nasty diseases and infections.

  16. So sorry to hear about your loss. you have had a time of it and I’m glad making the quilt and donating it has helped work through some of it. It is a really beautiful finish and a lovely thing to put out in the world and do some good.

    I’ve not tried wine as a way of making me sew better though I could be tempted to try it. I’ve heard it is great from free motion quilting too.

  17. Oh Carla, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It really has been a tough time for you lately. This quilt is just stunning and it makes me want to dig out my own hoarded Bonnie & Camille fabrics. I love that you have a quilting superpower that only comes out with wine. 🙂

    • There is only so long we can hoard these things, right? My neatly folded and tied B&C bundle has now been cut into and made its way into ordinary stash, so I will not be hesitant to use any of its pretty colours again.

  18. That is a gorgeous quilt, Carla. I wish I could make fabric choices like yours. I am sorry you have lost family to cancer; I have too, and it’s not easy to watch their decline. It was a generous donation you made; we can all just hope the key to thwarting this dreadful disease is found soon. God bless.

  19. Carla, Blessings to you for your loss. Making a lovely and sweet quilt and donating it for such a worthy cause gives a poignant chapter to your story. Your quilt is so sew wonderful, and amazingly well done! I heart the blocks, the back, the colors, just everything. You found one of your super powers, the other is your giant heart. Hugs to you, my inspiring friend.

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  22. Dear Carla,
    First I wanted to say how sorry I am to read about the passing of your family members to cancer. I have had it myself and had a mastectomy and our son also has had a bout of thyroid cancer. I hate even HEARING the word cancer and like you l always wish that I could do something. I have donated quilts for silent auctions and have made them for chemo patients as well at the local hospital. You are correct, it does help to do that sort of thing, helps with healing of the heart.
    Your quilt is so lovely and I too am a hoarder of Bonnie & Camille’s fabrics. lol I love how you used yours. Thank you for sharing with us, and I am sending prayers and good thoughts for peaace & comfort for your heart.
    Best wishes,
    maggie from the coast of Maine.

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  24. Hi! I love your quilt! I made a practice block the other day but got a little stuck on the sashing rectangles and triangle part. Did you put one triangle on the end of the sashing and attach it that way? I have the Feathering the Nest book, but she didn’t really cover how to attempt that part. I do not want to handpiece…
    Thank you for any tips!!

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