For those of you who haven’t been reading my posts for long, this journey styarted in February last year. Pat Sloan is a quilt and fabric designer and a fantastic teacher, she has a brilliant website and facebook page, she organised the Splendid Sampler quilt with Jane Davidson as a quilt-a-long. Over 80 designers from around the world each designed a 6″ block and every Sunday and Thursday a new pattern would be released, 100 blocks in total.
There were all sorts of designs and new techniques to learn. I didn’t know anything about foundation paper piecing before, the first time I did it I couldn’t get my head round it at all, without the support of the facebook group and the designers, I would have struggled at times, but there was always someone there with a bit of advice and encouragement. There are applique blocks, pieced blocks, embroidered blocks, foundation paper piecing and English paper piecing, big squares, tiny squares, folded squares.
One thing I think I got better at was choosing my fabrics, there are some blocks that just don’t work, too busy or not enough contrast, other blocks positively sing! The advantage of 6″ blocks is that it does encourage you to just have a go, what’s the worst that can happen! You’re not committing lots of fabric and time to a design or technique you might not like, on the other hand you might find you love a new technique, like I did (eventually!) with foundation paper piecing.
The facebook page was great, lots of support and tips, for example I’d never heard of furling seams before, but it makes a much neater block. Everyone posted photos of their blocks and it was amazing seeing how different the blocks looked in different colourways. There were some amazingly creative quilters too who kept to the design whilst making it their own, one lady incorporated beautiful appliqued geese onto the blocks, another was making it a Christmas quilt, so blocks became Santas and snowmen etc. There were a few very talented embroiderers who just put a little bit of exquisite embroidery on each block. There were a few who you looked forward to seeing their blocks each week as they were so beautiful. The camaraderie was (and still is) great! Many people are just starting their quilts so if anyone fancy’s making their own Splendid Sampler quilt, Pat and Jane are publishing a book with all the designs in, so you can do it in your own time.
I decided fairly early on to use quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) which was another new technique to me, as I wanted to quilt each block according to the design, rather than a random allover pattern. It would also have been rather a big quilt for me to have managed on my machine. I started sashing the blocks in early summer and started quilting soon after. Half the blocks have an ivory pattern fabric backing and the other half have a variety of pretty fabrics. I was hot and cold on this idea pretty much as soon as I had started it, but once committed I had to continue, it caused a few headaches when I was arranging the blocks, but I love the chequerboard back now.
I still had quite a few unquilted in February when I finished the last block but at least I was nearly there. Some blocks are quilted in the ditch, others with free-motion quilting, I did notice that there was definitely a correlation between how much I liked the block and how adventurous I was with the quilting – I think the blocks I really like I was scared of spoiling them with the quilting, when I wasn’t too bothered about them I tried all sorts of different quilting patterns! It’s taken me about a month to finish all the quilting and stitch it all together. I had a few disagreements with my sewing machine whilst I worked out which bit it didn’t like, but we made friends in the end!
I didn’t spend too much time trying to arrange the blocks, mainly as it was a bit too overwhelming having 100 to choose from. In the end I chose 16, half with ivory backs and half with a variety of patterns, I tried to have a selection of types, embroidered, appliqued etc as I didn’t want say, all the appliqued blocks to end up in the same area. I stitched those together and then moved on to the next 16. The only two blocks I placed in a specific place was my label block in the bottom right hand corner and the selvage block just above it as I thought that one made a nice record of a lot of the fabrics I used.
Once the blocks were together I just had to bind it, I like hand-stitching binding, it took me a couple of evenings but I find it pretty relaxing.
It’s been an amazing quilt to work on, it’s been a pretty intensive year trying to keep up with the block releases and it has seemed to take over a bit. However much they say work at your own speed it’s not a race, I did try and more or less keep up, mainly because I desperately didn’t want it to end up as a UFO! At the beginning I thought the name Splendid Sampler was a bit odd, but I can see now that the quilt is a sampler in the true sense of the word as it showcases so many different techniques. I loved making it but I’m glad I’ve finished it as I’m ready to move on to something else now, there’s a few clothes I need to make…oh and two quilts by the end of May!