(click on any image for a closer look)
I usually like to show a new quilt for BQF, and fortunately I finished Portholes only a few days ago, so it's fresh and ready to blog. Portholes is the seventh in my series of foundation-pieced beach-scene quilts, each with a different design. Three of the six have been for the nieces on my husband's side of the family, and this one is for a newly arrived (5-day-old) nephew.
We live in Adelaide, and Simon's sister lives near Perth - a 3-hour flight followed by a 3-hour drive away. By chance, Simon had a few days' work in Perth this week, and has extended his stay to visit the newest member of the family, and delivered the quilt to Kynan today.
To make these quilts, I sketch a rough design layout, then draw it out properly full-size. Then I divide the areas of reef, water (and for many quilts also beach and sky etc.) into sections, and build them up with fabric, one piece at a time. Each piece is fussy-cut. Above shows each foundation section pinned to the full-size pattern sheet. I've completed selecting the fabrics for the bottom pieces at this point, and they're all roughly pinned in place to the foundations, ready to sew.
My work area (in this case, it was my in-laws' lovely holiday house, where we stayed with them a few weekends ago) becomes a real mess while I'm selecting and cutting the fabrics, even though I only work with one 'set' of fabrics at a time (e.g. reef, plain water or sky...). It's actually pretty tidy in this photo, because I was only just starting to work with the next set of fabrics (The reef was done, and I was moving onto the plain water). As I cut a piece from each fabric, I don't waste time folding it neatly until the whole area is done, since I use most fabrics multiple times in the process, so instead of neat rows of folded fabrics, imagine a tossed-pile of loosely gathered fabrics strewn over every surface! (Simon's parents are wonderfully understanding of my obsession!)
Once the fabric selection and cutting is done, the acutal piecing is quick. The challenge in this quilt was joining all the sections together so they'd lie flat, while leaving gaps to add the portholes later, but despite (or perhaps because of!) the time I spent thinking about it, it really came together easily.
For the portholes, I used two suitably-sized plates to draw the cream outer circle and the feature-print circle at the centre, and cut the circle with enough seam allowance that I could use a sewline glue pen to hold the cream circle in place over it. The blue and red circles were made from bias-cut strips 1/4in and 3/8in wide respectively, which cover both the inner and outer raw-edges of the cream circles. Then I used the glue pen again on the bias strips and eased them into place and held them down with glue until I could machine applique them, using matching rayon thread and a small blanket stitch. I did the same to join the completed circles to the holey quilt top.
Unusually, I don't have many photos showing detail of the quilting on this quilt - although it's quite detailed, it's really designed to blend in and make the pieced top look more cohesive. I used a large freehand swirl in matching threads over the open areas of water, quilted closely around many of the sea creatures with thread to match the water behind them, and in the ditch around the blue and red circles on the portholes. Then I swapped to a variegated thread for the reef. I love Rainbows by Superior for this, and have used several rainbow-y colourways, such as Pinata (842) and Carnival (821). I follow the fabrics, stitching around coral formations, adding extra seaweed and generally blending the fabrics together better as I work my way along the reef.
Some of the posts about my other quilts in this series show the reef quilting better: Seaside, Breakfast on the Beach, Footsteps, Through the Arched Window and Morning Swim. Beach (a slightly different, queen-size quilt, was made before I started blogging, and though there's a photo in my gallery, I've never done a full post about it. But it's the quilt which started this whole series - partly because I couldn't stop collecting water, reef, sand and sky fabrics!) It was a wedding gift for Simon's brother and his wife who, like most of Simon's family, love sailing. Then when they had their first daughter a few years later, I wanted to make something that matched theirs.
I actually turned Through the Arched Window into a pattern, available in both paper and PDF formats. the pattern also includes a lot more information about the design process, so you can design your own!
While I love these quilts, it's rather ironic that I don't like going to the beach myself! I hate the heat, the stickiness and the sand - even the beautiful fine sand we have in Australia. I much prefer the snow and the cold, and have always collected snowflake fabrics - but have recently started collecting snowy scene prints, with the aim of making some snow-scene quilts along the same lines as the beach ones.
Thank you for coming by and reading through the whole saga. I'd love for you to browse around or say hello before you go and check out all the other wonderful BQF entries - just as I'm about to do!