100 Days – Week of Quilting – Featured Quilt #4

Today’s featured quilt is Leesa of Square One Studio’s String Quilt for Carol Lee.

Here’s what Leesa had to say about her quilt:

“This quilt was years in the making—eleven, to be exact. In 2001 I received some amazing vintage fabric from my painter-friend Carol Lee whose quilt-making mother had recently passed.

As a junior professor working towards tenure, I had limited free time, I barely managed to keep up with crib quilts for the babies other friends were welcoming in to the world. With tenure behind me in 2010, I wrote to Carol Lee (also recently tenured, huzzah!) about her color preferences for a quilt incorporating her mother’s scraps.

She preferred a palette that avoided primaries and incorporated “maybe something to complement a gray chair”? So I thought about the kind of design I wanted to tackle, about the vintage integrity of the scraps, about Carol Lee’s own abstract paintings, and about the unfortunate fact that the important milestones in a single woman’s life too often pass unrecognized even now, in the 21st century.

After a few spectacularly failed attempts, I hit upon this patch-y vertical string quilt design in pink, olive green, grey and golden yellow—a palette I imagined might have been a “groovy” Pantone color chart from the late 60s/early 70s. The top came together slowly and was finished a full decade after I received the scraps.

It was my second machine-quilted project ever and the first on my new Janome Memory Craft 6600 “space age” model. It was also my first attempt at quilting a measured, tightly spaced grid over an irregular, “wonky” design.

This is not to suggest that I marked and measured a grid before quilting, I don’t have the patience for that. I marked a giant “X” through the middle, positioned the adjustable quilting guide to 1” and sewed outward from the middle using the original X as a reference. Although it can be risky to work with unwashed fabrics and tedious to sew a closely-knit grid when you’re anxious to see the finished result, I feel the resulting crinkled, vintage texture is well worth the effort. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a finished top but equally important to execute the quilting in a way that will complement and enhance the design rather than detract from it.

It’s not perfect— there are unintentional wobbles where I fought against the pull of the full quilt’s weight in the center and more than a few hand-stitched repairs to the vintage seams weakened by its inaugural trip through the wash. At the same time, it is a “perfect” reflection of the constancy of quilting across generations, of the wobbles and adjustments in long-distance friendships over time, and of the need to occasionally give yourself, your professional, personal and quilting aspirations room to lie dormant and breathe until they’re ready to emerge from nostalgic bits and bobs into a dynamic new form.”


13 thoughts on “100 Days – Week of Quilting – Featured Quilt #4

  1. It is a beautiful quilt. the “imperfections” add to the beauty and richness of the story. Well written and touching!

  2. This quilt has a special story. I hope it gets lots of use because it’s made with lots of love.

  3. I love this quilt. A woman’s life is a beautiful thing and this is a wonderful way to honor it. I am constantly amazed by the things that women do, especially the quiet and mostly unnoticed things. It is such a lovely tribute!

  4. Love your quilt. What a treasure. I especially like the idea you shared on how you quilted it – the X. Very creative!
    blessings, denise 😀

  5. Well done and well written. It is beautiful Leesa and a wonderful story, which makes it so much more meaningful. Proud of you.

    Love, Mom

  6. Just love your quilt and the lovely story of its creation.

    You have just given me a kick in the butt to finish a string quilt I started 8 years ago with fabric from my mothers stash I inherited when she died at 92. The fabric is mostly from the 50s to 70s


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