Sunday, August 26, 2012

Alphabet Soup 2

This is my second go at this. The first version evaporated into the ether...

First -- The Design? I have friends who had a baby last fall, and of course they needed a quilt. Tonya Ricucci's "unruly" alphabet seemed like just the thing. My friends are mathematicians, so I had to include numbers as well. 26 characters and 10 digits are a little awkward, and being new at the liberated quilting thing, I used EQ7 to make a general roadmap and to get a sense of how things would look.

EQ7 Mock-up
As you will see, I took so long doing this, that the baby was born before it was done, and since I knew the name and date, I replaced the words BABY and LOVE with these details.

Next -- What fabrics to use? Tonya makes a strong case, in her book Word Play Quilts, for the importance of high contrast. Otherwise, the words and letters disappear. Similarly, big prints (relative to the size of the letters) do not work well. I decided of two sea-foamy, "read as solid" green batiks for the background -- a light one for the letters, and a shade or two darker for the background of the numbers and the liberated stars, a la Gwen Marston.

For the letters and numbers I bought a Kona Cotton Classic Palette Jelly roll. Starting with 41 colors, after removing white, black, grays, and 1 really light yellow, I had enough to give every letter and number its very own color.

Kona Cotton Jelly Roll

Strips and color guide

Letters in progress
Prepare to Piece -- I unfurled the strips, pinned them up on my design wall like an artist palette of paints. I used a little snippet from each one to arrange on a B&W printout of my roadmap to make sure I didn't end up with all the blues cowering in one corner or all the reds marching across the middle. This was important, because it took me a long time to make all the letters (I think I already mentioned that I'm SLOW), and I did the letters in book order. Tonya's book starts with uppercase and easy letters and works you through to hard and lowercase. "T" was first, "I" was next, "H" after that, etc. Letters with slanty bits (K, R, Z, X, A, W) are the hardest. As I finished each letter, it went back up on the wall in its approximate location. When I finished all the letters and numbers, I measured to work out how much background to add to get things up to a good size, so that every character would have some 'negative space' around it. Then I trimmed to the final size, tipping and shifting some a bit. The final assembly was pretty traditional, and very easy.

The last step in the piecing was making the baby's name and birthdate (date is 11-1-11 -- cool date, but boring to piece). After making the whole alphabet I was starting to "get it", and I really like how the name turned out, but this 'spontaneous stuff is harder than it looks and can take quite a bit of planning.

After adding a piano keyed, striped border, it was time to quilt. Each letter and number got ditched and then I went to 'free motion' town with wiggly borders around each character and loose feathers everywhere else.
Shows quilting around each letter

Right Lower corner showing feathers

Preston's First Letters, @sgh 2012

This was a lot of fun. I love how it turned out, although next time, I'll probably try for 'a little less chunky' and a lot more 'wonky'.
Hope you like it too.


  1. oh, wow, this is fantastic!!!! This quilt is wonderful and I love love how you pieced the baby's name. Fantastic!

    1. Wow, high praise from the queen of 'unruly'. thanks.