Jackie & Madeleine’s Clamshell Border Quilt
It all started in April 2016, when I went with two friends to the AQS show in Paducah, Kentucky. We had a great get-away, starting with a visit to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, then the show in Paducah, and finishing off with a show at the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. It also happened to be my birthday week!
But, what I am actually writing about is a quilt that my friend Jackie and I have been working on together. In the vendor mall at the AQS show, I saw a booth with Sue Pelland and her beautiful quilts. I knew right away that Jackie just had to see this, but she had wandered off somewhere, and when I finally rounded her up and brought her back to Sue’s booth, she was just as excited about the quilts as I was. About an hour later, and with I don’t even want to know how much money less, we left the booth fully stocked and prepared to make a quilt using Sue Pelland’s book, “Hearts & More”, and several rulers that she has developed and recommends in the book.
For this project, Jackie is in charge of stitching, which includes all of the piecing and the satin-stitching, which is extensive, to say the least. I am in charge of color placement on the entire quilt top and designing the layout of the vine borders. When the top is finished, I will quilt it. Jackie and I started combing through her stash, which is also extensive, and doing some more shopping, “just in case”. We had decided on a brighter color palette than shown in the book, because Jackie is a bright kind of girl. Then commenced a massive amount of pre-washing and pressing to get all the fabrics ready, and then applying fusible web (we prefer Wonder Under) before cutting the colored fabrics, mostly using Kaffe Fassett prints and batiks. Jackie chose a white background with small white pearl polka-dots. Jackie cut all of the quarter circles, clamshells, and vine stems using Sue Pelland’s rulers. There is a way to use her rulers to cut the leaves, also, but we had some issues trying to do it that way, and decided to use my AccuQuilt Studio die cutter, instead. We literally cut hundreds of leaves in three sizes, and berries out of the scraps, both of us being of the mind that enough is not ever enough!
In early October, Jackie had finished the appliqued 4” square blocks for the body of the quilt. They are not pieced, but instead the quarter circles are fused onto the white squares, then the curved edge of the quarter circles are satin-stitched, using individually chosen coordinating thread colors, of course! (Another extensive collection of Jackie’s!) We put those squares up on the design wall following the layout in the book, but the colors were just all mixed up. We both thought that it was awful, and I rearranged the colors concentrically, which wasn’t easy because the colors had not been originally planned that way, and I just had to make it work with what Jackie had made. But we finally said “good enough”. Jackie likes for her quilts to be bigger than patterns usually work up to, so there was some math to do. She also likes for the center medallion of the quilts to sit in the center of the bed, which is not usually the center of the quilt but lower down, so I adjusted the layout accordingly. Suffice it to say, we were out in the woods on our own at this point!
On October 24th, we started meeting weekly to work on the vine borders. I loved arranging the curves and the flow of colors – it really was almost like painting! We had so many colors, but I didn’t want it to be chaotic, and I think I accomplished a nice progression from color to color. As you can see in the photo below, Jackie did an amazing job with the satin-stitching on the leaves, changing thread colors as needed (and not complaining about it!) Even though we did use Sue Pelland’s technique for the vine stems, and I do like trying new things, I decided that I prefer a narrow bias stem instead which is what I’ve always used in the past. There is just more flexibility in the fabric itself, which means more flexibility in the design. But, this worked fine, anyway.
Every week, when I sent Jackie home with another load of satin-stitching to do, the next week she brought it back completed and ready for the next load. She is so focused and productive – it is amazing! After the main portions of the vines were finished, we made a frame to exactly fit the body of the quilt, but before stitching it on to the quilt, I finished designing the corners, so that Jackie could satin-stitch them without having to maneuver the entire quilt top to get around each little leaf. It made it much easier for her!
After attaching the vine borders to the body of the quilt, I started in on the clamshell borders. I laid out each border separately, pulling the colors of the clamshells from the colors of the leaves directly across the border seam lines, because I wanted to blend the colors as well as possible here, too. I saved the corners for later. Jackie satin-stitched the upper curved edge of each clamshell, and the lower curved edges of the innermost row of clamshells, again changing thread colors to go with the fabrics. Then she attached the borders all the way around. I had waited to do the corners until this point, because we had enlarged the quilt, and I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen at the corners, mathematically.
No worries after all about the corners, with a little massaging and strategic overlapping, they worked out beautifully. One more trip home with Jackie for the last (yay!) round of satin-stitching, and now the quilt top is back in my studio waiting to be quilted. As you can imagine, I’m doing a lot of thinking about that quilting! I’ll show you what I’m doing during the process! And Jackie is off for a cruise in the Far East, on a well-deserved vacation!