This exhibit, which will open in Stuttgart in July, is a very special one. Nancy invited people to make quilts, which had to be square, HUGE and spectacular. We submitted photos of the tops, and Nancy chose which ones made it to the next stage. Then we quilted them, and submitted images again for Nancy’s approval. She graciously gave us a couple of months for the final finishing details, and now everything is on its way to Europe.
Nancy is particularly interested in the quality of machine quilting, and told us to make the backs as beautiful as the fronts. We expect that some if not all of the quilts will be hung away from the wall, which if you think about it means you’re actually making two works of art, not one.
We had to swear not to show images of the quilts until the show opens, and I will honor that promise. But I don’t think I’m giving anything away if I show you what the backs of my quilts look like.
This one is called Fault Lines 3, and it’s about 74 inches square. (The part you see in the photo is about 10 inches wide.) The front of the quilt has many little areas demarcated by very narrow piecing lines. I didn’t want the quilting thread (which almost matched the background fabric) to cross the pieced lines (which were much lighter), so I decided I needed to quilt each area separately. Having decided this, I figured what the heck, I’d do each area in a different pattern. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as I know I would have been bored silly quilting the same thing for four weeks.
This may be the best quilting job I’ve ever done, and it shows up nicely with dark thread on a pale backing fabric. Considering how large the piece is, I found it surprisingly easy to quilt, even with the challenge of wadding up a huge package under the short arm of a home sewing machine.
By contrast, the second quilt, Crazed 8: Incarceration, about 86 inches square, was certainly the most difficult job of quilting I’ve ever done. I am happy with the result (I guess) but there were many weeks in there when I was ready to set the whole thing on fire. I wish it had not been so physically trying – don’t know if my back and shoulders would have held up better twenty years ago, or if this is just a daunting task no matter what your age and fitness. I also had many skipped stitches, had to rip out a couple of areas because of pleats in the backing, and other problems that I have repressed the memories of. (The photo above is about actual size.)
On the plus side, I love the pattern of the quilting, which ironically is almost invisible on the front, because of the busyness of the design. I would like to do it again sometime on a whole-cloth quilt so you could see the wonderful pattern without having to go to the back.
I like to finish every art project with a formal evaluation of what I did. Bottom line on these two quilts is that I love the artistic effect of working huge, but quilting them just about killed me. I have resolved that the next time I work huge, it’s going to be in two or three panels, which I will quilt separately and sew together at the very end.