Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Summer Rain' my Modern Dresden Plate Quilt

I started making my Dresden Quilt late last year and I soon became obsessed with Dresden Plates...
I never thought I would make a Dresden as I didn't think they were very versatile and felt most looked the same as the next so when I discovered the Westalee Dresden Rulers and Toppers I started to experiment.
The Milton Show was getting close and I decided to get busy and try and finish my Quilt to enter, I got there and this was the result of many many hours spent in my Sewing room.

 I had made a quilt full of Dresdens and then I decided I didn't like any of them and so I started again ;)

This quilt became very experimental for me, I love modern quilts, but I also like complex quilts that are technically difficult with more to see than what first appears.
 I began playing around with the background and decided that it needed some grass, so being a big fan of Sheena Chapman and Sarah Fielke's work I decided to try some improvisational piecing. The grass actually became one of my most favourite elements of the quilt.
 As you know I work in a very modern quilt shop and there tends to be 2 very distinct groups of Quilters, those who love 'matchy matchy' quilts (every shade of pink must be the same and never mix white and cream) and those that don't.

Not that I think either is right or wrong, but I decided that I really wanted to prove that you can in fact blend White, Cream and even Grey and have it 'work'! So I created the background first and used many different fabrics and every single one was very different to the next, both in tone, and value... Print size and shade....
 I'm a strong believer that we have a very unique style in Modern Australian Quilting. I think it began with the Material Obsession Books and the work of Sarah Fielke in particular. I feel that we live in such a young country (in relation to everyone else) with only just over 200 years of european settlement we have no real history of quilting thats not soley influenced by other countrys.

I think one of the best ways to describe our newly emerging unique style is to say that where others use value to create contrast (ie. Light, medium, and dark values), we are using warm and cool tones to create that contrast and visual interest.
 The beauty of this way of quilting is that we can put 2 of the new big bold prints next to each other when others have been very nervous to try... and it CAN work!

Anyway back to the Dresdens, I used many different techniques in this quilt, all of the Dresdens were machine pieced and then needleturned onto my background. For the flower stems I made bias strips and then appliqued them into position. I made single dresden wedges to use as leaves and I am very proud of my Butterflys, the antenna are needleturned and are just 1/8" wide with the circles on top being about 3/8". These were made from a single strip of bias fabric.
  Each flower is very different, This large flower with the lady bug on it was actually very different tonally. When looked at on its own, its actually a very bright range, but when I put it on my quilt it took on a slight 'muddy appearance'. It was the only flower that I felt nervous about including in the quilt, but I really wanted to see if I could make it work and I think by including the hit of Red (with the ladybug) it does work.
 I had almost finished the quilt before I decided to add the Ladybugs. I felt that it needed a hit of colour that hadn't already been used. It needed to be a strong colour to draw the eye to it and Red was the first colour I though of. I really love them and although they were incredibly easy to make, they make the quilt.

I trapunto'd a few of the flowers to give some lift to them and another layer of interest. The ladybugs were also given an extra layer of batting. I used that as my stabliser to free motion (thread paint) the antenna with a black Sulky thread. I then cut away the excess batting before sandwiching my quilt.
 The sun was created with the Westalee Spike ruler. I had seen a discussion on Squilters about the 'spiked' Dresden Plate Block and I made a trial version. I sent a picture of my block to Leonie (of Westalee Design) and next thing you know she had created the Spike ruler and 2 other peeper ones as well. Have I mentioned how much I love the Westalee Rulers?
Anyway back to the Show, I entered my quilt in the Milton Show and guess what!
I got a first place!
Yep This is only the 3rd quilt I have ever free motion quilted myself and I got a first place! Even more exciting was that I was also runner up to the Best in Show and my Quilt was honered with being voted as a tied winner for the Peoples Choice on the second day! (I was 2nd overall for the Peoples Choice) I couldn't believe it and was very honoured!
 Ooh I forgot to tell you about the quilting and its significance. The Summer of 2012/2013 in Australia has been one of the wetest in our history. The rain has been unrelenting with many floods and nonstop rain. I decided to quilt my quilt with Superiour Threads Monofilament Thread in a diagonal direction, the angle of the quilting and the sheen of the thread really does look like rain... after all there is nothering like seeing your garden bloom after a storm....

Funnily enough the 2 days I spent quilting the quilt were 2 of the most humid days (as it had just stopped raining) I have ever experienced! It was so humid that the water erasable pen that I used to make my quilting lines was disappearing in the matter of just minutes because there was so much water in the air...
 Ooh and thats why my grass is so long and full of weeds... non stop rain ;)

Hugs Paula

In the interest of full disclosure I was gifted 2 rulers from Westalee Design, but I bought the rest myself after falling in love with them. I will be demonstrating the rulers at the Stitches and Craft Show in Sydney March 7 - 10 and possibly Canberra later this year.

For those who are interested, the majority of the quilt was pieced with Superior threads Bottom Line. I also used this as my bobbin thread for the quilting. I chose this thread (even though its a polyester) because it is so thin that it doesn't affect the accuracy you need to make the dresdens lay flat. Getting the right seam allowance is so very important in a Dresden or it will not press or lay flat... I almost soley use Polyester threads for all my quilt making, I love it!