Monday, January 16, 2012

Out Of Africa

This one is for Bethany in Toksook; I hope it is helpful (to others too).

I made this quilt when I had a pile of African fabrics that my cousin had sent while she was in the Peace Corps.  I loved the fabrics but I was stymied trying to get the fabrics to work using the quilt patterns I had been been using.  I needed something to "turn the volume down" so they could dance in a quilt.  When I was sorting fabric looking for a solid the African prints landed near the yellow orange print I used in the quilt.  All those prints needed another print to dance, what a surprise.

The pattern for the quilt I made up, but I have seen this pattern since, so like most quilts I owe my ideas to others. First I cut the mix of prints into 2 1/2 inch strips.  I don't know how many (sorry) some math person could figure it out, but I just cut some fabric and sew... this time I made two quilts because there were a lot of all of the fabrics involved and I wanted a quilt and I also wanted to give my cousin a quilt to welcome her back from the Peace Corps.  The other reason I don't know is the fabric I had was "Pieces, Pieces" an odd mix of shapes and sizes, not the standard 45" most fabric comes in off a bolt.  I would start with a total of about 15-20 strips... total guess let me know what you used and how big your quilt ended up.  Next cut 5 or 6 strips of the "background fabric" about 5 inches wide.

Sew the 2 1/2 strips along both sides of the five inch strips.  Then cut your new 3 fabric strips into five inch sections.  Each of these five inch sections will have a 2 1/2 inch strip sewn to other two sides and you have finished blocks... super easy.  Now just lay them out on the floor and arrange them as you like... Note I did turn the blocks to make the pattern.

I know many people have different methods for how they keep track of the rows as they sew... My method is to pin a post-it not in the the top left hand corner of the first block in each row.  The Post-it has the row number and sometimes other notes (the last quilt I made had two blocks that I had to make after laying it out so the notes pointed out where those blocks went).  Then I pick them up in stacks and go sew.  If I can just leave the blocks out on the floor as I go, I sometimes just make larger and larger blocks (2 by2's, then 4by4's etc.) until I have the top put together.  I added a 3 1/2 inch strip of the "background" fabric as a border around the edges.  Once your quilt top is done you assemble the "quilt sandwich" baste or pin, quilt, then bind, then perhaps sign... take pictures (I didn't do this on my early quilts and now I wish I had pictures of some of the)... and enjoy.  I like to use Quilter's Dream but there are many different battings available to choose from.

Bev Palm did the quilting on this particular quilt.  She has amazing long arm quilting skills and cusomizes what she quilts to the quilt (and the quilter).  I must admit I am always jazzed to make a new quilt top, but not as into putting the sandwich together.  I love the work done at this stage, I guess I'm just too lazy to wrestle the quilt through my not very fancy machine.  Some people ask what machine people use... I have an old Kenmore.  It is loud, but sews OK.  Since it does its job I haven't replaced it.  I think too much money is spent on really fancy machines; especially by beginners.  If your machine can consistently sew a straight stitch... life is good. 

See... this is guaranteed to be fabrics made in Africa :)
I even had an embroidery label made (You can see this quilt is a few years old).
I think this is my longest post ever.  Last words... if you run out of fabric, don't stress yourself out.  The quilts you make will sometimes be more unique due to how you solve the unique problems you have living in bush Alaska.
BTW Congrats Sarah and Dylan!  (They just got engaged.)


  1. Naomi, I love this quilt! Thanks for the tutorial! I think I will start it tonight! I am just wondering how big a finished square is and how big the whole quilt is. What size batting will I need? Also is it just one pattern on the back? Thanks for the post! I am so excited to make my Hawaii quilt!

    1. Well, with 1/4 inch seams the blocks will be 9 1/2 inches. Don't over-think the seam size, just be consistent. The size of the quilt will depend on how many blocks you make. I have a bad habit of not planning. I just sew until I start getting bored, then I figure out if the number of blocks I have work out to make a nice rectangle (or square). When you order the batting, check with Joann's or where-ever you order, for the sizes your choosing between... make the quilt top then order the batting and your good. I used just one fabric on the back, sometimes I do some piecing on that too. I'm excited to see your quilt!