So about two years ago, I went to the Fresh Arts gala. It was at the Winter Street studios, and there was a bridal theme to the event. I wore a bridesmaid's dress that I'd spattered in all sorts of fun colors, and it was all and all an excellent time.
My sister Claudia was there, and after the party was over, she asked me for a ride to the next event. Since Graham was dealing with his DJing equipment, I said sure thing, hop in! Claudia and a guy named Matthew started walking with me to the car. I'd met Matthew several years before at a New Year's Eve party at Claudia's house, and we'd been facebook friends for years. But I didn't know him well. After I dropped them off at a bar, Matthew thanked me profusely, and I smiled at Claudia
Fast forward 18 months, and Claudia and Matthew eloped in Nicaragua. I'd known, of course, and I'd even suggested that country as a possible place when Matthew started looking. And I was over the moon. In the intervening time, Claudia and Matthew became Claudia and Matthew. Everyone who saw them together said "wow, this makes so much sense." They'd known each other for years, but 2013 seemed to be the right time for them to connect. By the time they got married, they had been living together for awhile, and D'arcy was as much Claudia's dog as he was Matthew's. My family adored Matthew, and he got along with every single one of us individually. I'd never in my life seen Claudia so comfortable, and I was overjoyed that she'd found Matthew.
So I wanted to make them something special for their wedding. Given their elopement, I didn't have any real time constraints, though I wanted to get it to them within the year. I thought about it for awhile, and then I decided that I was going to have a ton of time to myself in Taos over a week in the summer, and I could make them a quilt. I'd had so much fun the previous year making a quilt there that I could do the same this year.
In 2013, I'd gone to the quilt show with Olivia and my mom, and I found some lovely fabrics from Africa at a store called Akonye Kena. These fabrics were from Uganda and they were hand dyed. They had these lovely, rich colors, and I just fell in love with them. The fabrics came in four tone families: Sunrise - Spring light tones; Rainy - Summer bright tones; Dry - Autumn/Fall earthy tones; and Sunset - Winter rich tones. I ended up buying two jelly rolls, which had one strip of each of the 40 fabrics, and two yards of the sunset purple fabric. This fabric felt more like linen than the quilting fabric you usually find in stores, and when I bought it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.
It was solid instead of printed, but I thought that it was perfect for Claudia and Matthew. In part because Claudia is a very solid person, with few prints in her wardrobe or home. And that it was from Africa had another nice connection for them. Claudia minored in African studies in college, and Matthew spent part of his childhood in Liberia. They went to Morrocco their first Christmas together. While neither had a particular connection to Uganda, I thought they'd like the reference.
As for the pattern, I fell in love with this Simply Woven pattern at the Moda Bake shop. I liked how busy and intricate it was, and I thought it was something that I could do. It was also scalable, and I could make a slightly bigger quilt for two people to get under. Also, there's a running joke in the family that Matthew likes shapes. He is an engineering professor and spends a vast amount of time studying the shape of things. I thought that all of the shapes in this particular quilt would make him pretty happy.
My only real issue was that I didn't have enough fabric. I needed at least two more jelly rolls, and I thought I needed more of the purple. I got in touch with Akonye Kena to order the fabric, but they were out of the purple. I sent pictures of what I had and a description of what I wanted to do, and they sent me an amazing blue instead. The blue was kismet. One of the highlights of Claudia and Matthew's trip to Morocco was to Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh, which is owned by Yves St. Laurent. This particular color blue is very prominent throughout the garden, and it's a striking, memorable color. That I was able to reference the same color in the quilt was awesome, AND it turned out that the Akoyne Kena fabrics are on a 58" bolt, so I had enough purple. I could use the blue on the back.
I set off to Taos ready to make my quilt. This one was much, much more ambitious than the one I made before. I had tons of cutting and ironing and arranging to do before I could even start. And I also had to think through how much of each color I wanted to highlight.
I spent most of my time in Taos working on the quilt. I did read a little, and I cooked. I went to the farmer's market. The puppies and I took long walks every day. We went to the mountain one day. I took a spa day another. But most of the time was spent working on the quilt. While I was working on it, I used a playlist that Claudia had made for some party or another, and it was very random, but very Claudia: Lots of Leonard Cohen. Lots of Nina Simone. Lots of Los Super Seven. Some Tina Turner. Some Pixies. Some Springsteen. The Faint. Cafe Tacuva.
I also thought a lot about my Tia Ana. A lot of my sewing notions had come from her: after she'd died, her family gave most of her sewing stuff to Olivia. It was way too much for one person, so Olivia gave half of it to me. Ana was the reason we have Taos. She'd lived there from 1986 to 1999, and we spent most of the 90s coming up to visit her.
And so I sewed.
If you go to the quilt's album on Flickr, you'll get a better step-by-step rendering of how it was put together. Suffice to say, I had to sew, then press, then cut, then repeat. Over and over and over again, until I had 56 12.5" squares. It was challenging in that I hadn't done this in a year, and some of the strips were not quite 2.5" wide. But I made due and remembered that the quilt should be like their marriage, beautiful as a whole but with imperfections and flaws and wrinkles throughout. I'm so happy to report that I was able to do all of that in the week that I was in Taos.
When I got back to Houston, I went straight to my parents' house, because I knew there was a big surface I could use to assemble the pieces like a puzzle.
I put them all together, and my quilt top was done less than a month after I started it.
I took some time off to think about how to do the back. I love, love, loved the blue, but I also wanted something more interesting than the solid color. I did a search on pinterest for "pieced quilt backs" for inspriation, and thought abut it for a long while. I had a whole jelly roll left over, and I had some of the purple and a few assorted strips. Ultimately, I decided to sew all of the jelly roll strips together side by side in ascending tone of color from darker to lighter, and then I cut those into an 8 inch wide, long long strip. I sewed all of this over a few episodes of Outlander, and it turned out pretty good.
Finally, I figured out how I wanted to attach the jelly roll stripe to the blue, and I got to sewing the very last bit together. I ended up loving the back as much as I love the front.
I have a bottom-of-the line Singer sewing machine. If I could quilt a project this big on my machine (which I think is doubtful), it would take me YEARS to get it done. I spent a few weeks looking at the various maker spaces around town to see if anyone had a long arm machine. No luck. I called around, and I found out that the closest quilt shop to me, Tea Time Quilting, has a person who will do long arm quilting for a reasonable fee. In early December, I took the quilt and the back to her, and I asked her to quilt the project for me.
Last week, she called to tell me that it was done, and Saturday, January 24, I picked it up. I spent Friday and Saturday and Sunday working on binding the quilt, the very last step, and on Sunday, right before the Superbowl, I gave it to Claudia and Matthew. They both cried. And they lived happily ever after.