Saturday, October 21, 2017


Hi all -

I mentioned in my last post that our friend Marci had my other friend Cathy and myself up to her cabin in Red Feather Lakes, CO for a long quilting retreat weekend. Cathy and I decided to each make her a little thank-you gift. I had just been reading the latest issue of Quilting Arts magazine and they had an article about making an initial quilt where you put a large initial in the center of the quilt and quilt around it with colored threads so that the initial pops up without being actually quilted. I thought that would be a fun, quick project that Marci would like.

I started by looking at fonts to find one that I liked. The article suggested looking at for free fonts, so that's where I went. They have thousands of wonderful, free fonts! I found an "R" that I liked (Marci's last name begins with "R"), downloaded it, drew a large "R" in AdobeIllustrator and printed it out. I wanted the wallhanging to have a woodsy feel, so I chose a brown fabric and traced the "R" onto it. I sandwiched it up and started quilting. I decided to put a layer of heavyweight stabilizer between the batting and the backing to give the quilt some extra structure.

Going against the article's instructions, I went ahead and quilted the "R" and added a 1/4" echo line inside of the letter. That will give the letter more crispness and I think adds some character. I chose a nice, woodsy fabric for the back, too.

I then went to my thread stash and pulled out all of my variegated threads with leaf colors -- from green to yellow to red.

I thought it would be really cool if I could transition the colors across the quilt from the greens of spring through the yellows/reds of fall, so I loosely put the threads in that order.

I was also originally thinking of quilting the background with a bunch of different fills that transition from one to another, but as I thought about it I started to think that it might end up too chaotic with all of those colors and a bunch of background fills, so I decided to instead use a single background fill. My first thought was to use pebbles because I love to do them, they fill up the space well so would really define the "R" and Marci was fascinated with my pebble quilting when we were at the cabin. But pebbles don't always look good in variegated threads because of the large amount of backtracking, so I decided to instead us a background fill of leaves.

For some reason, I have a lot of trouble making consistently nice leaf shapes so some of the individual leaves are really ugly, but I think the overall effect is nice. And I like the way the color transitions from the greens in the lower-left corner to the yellows in the upper-right corner. There's probably too much blue in it (but I absolutely love those threads with the green/blue/yellow combination so I just kept adding them) and there's a section in the center of the lefthand side where a color in the thread blends too much with the background, but I do really like the overall effect!

Now I had to decide  how to finish it. I was originally thinking about couching some interesting threads around the outside in place of binding, but I couldn't come up with good threads/yarns for that. Then I started thinking that this quilt really wanted to be round rather than square. I've never made a round quilt before, but this one really wanted that. And I had put that extra layer of heavyweight stabilizer in the sandwich at the beginning, so it wouldn't have any problems with not laying flat on the wall, even with a simple hanger on the back. So it really seemed like it was meant to be.

Now I had to come up with a way to draw the circle for the quilt border of a quilt that was bigger than any circle templates (or plates, etc) in my house. So, I got a piece of freezer paper bigger than the quilt and folded it very carefully into quarters, making sure to crease the edges well so it would lie flat. I got a ruler and a pencil and drew a bunch of points across the paper that were all 8" from the corner fold.

I then stapled the paper while it was still folded so that nothing would shift. I stapled after drawing the marks because I didn't want the staples to get in the way of the ruler and I needed the dots on the paper so I would know where to put the staples.

Then all I had to do was make a smooth cut along the dots.

When I removed the staples and opened it up, I had a pretty good circle!

I ironed the freezer paper onto the back of the quilt, centering it over the "R". I put it on the back rather than the front just in case there were any problems.

Then I could just cut around the edge of the circle.

And turn it over to see a perfectly round quilt.

Then I just had to add the binding. Since the quilt is round, I had to use bias binding. To cut bias binding, I start by folding my fabric at a 90 degree angle and pressing the fold:

This is a simple way of finding the bias without messing with rulers or anything. I've seen other people who go to great lengths to find the "exact" 45 degree line from the selvage and carefully cut along that line, but I really feel like that is a waste of time and energy because you're not going to get it perfect anyway and being a little bit off from the exact bias really doesn't affect the stretchiness of the strips enough to be noticeable. So why hassle with it?

I press the edge crisply because I find that doing that makes the cutting easier. With the pressed edge, I can fold the fabric in half matching that edge to give me a nice shape for cutting my strips. I square up the edge by cutting off the fold, then I can easily cut my bias strips:

Then I could just sew my strips together and put them on the quilt just like I do for any quilt. Here's how it turned out:

I'm pretty pleased with it and I hope that Marci likes it!



  1. Dang. . .that round R is truly terrific! Good way of solving the challenge of not having a round template and I agree, round is the perfect shape for this quilt! How big is it?

    1. Thanks! It's a small quilt, so that it will be easy for her to find space for it. The circle has an 8" radius.