Bite the bullet

Well – the time has come to tell the story of Binky’s 21st birthday quilt!

Most things I do, I do once, and then I am onto the next adventure – so when I decided to make a silk quilt, I had no idea what I was in for.  I love silk – who doesn’t – and have used it a lot for dressmaking, even making a wedding dress from silk satin, with a heavily embellished silk net overdress, dripping with silver dragonflies!  I was confident!

Piecing was a dream and the top was finished for her birthday in the summer of 2006.

quilt top

I wanted to cover the quilt (a Jacob’s Ladder patchwork)  in butterflies, a favourite motif of Binky, and felt after a few trials, that hand quilting would be most appropriate.  I had never hand quilted and began as beginners do, with quite a rough finish.

begin butterfly

I was lucky enough to get advice from the delightful and knowledgeable Margaret McQuillen who organises Quilts in the Garden, and she showed me the benefits of using a frame ( I told you I was a beginner !!!) and the difference in tension and stitch length was immediate!

good butterfly

However, the silk was beginning to fray and I learnt too late that when piecing silk, it is essential to have deeper seams than the traditional quilting 1/4 inch.  Half an inch minimum I would say – now!

Soon I was restoring the top, before I had even finished the quilt, and losing heart and confidence rapidly.  Margaret introduced me to iron on stabiliser, and a painstaking three years of work followed.  I made myself a commitment not to begin any other projects until the quilt was finished, but I was so afraid by now of the silk and its weaknesses, that the three years were punctuated by long fallow months when I did no creative work at all, and other months when I quietly ploughed on – if you have read The Road, I resonated with the stoic but demoralised protagonists.

Eventually it was quilted and bound, but after three years, under a hand stitching novice, the white backing and pieces were very grubby and even blood spotted.  I had tried to employ the old saliva trick, but it left marks.  Proprietry stain removers worked, but also released dye from some of the colours.  It looked awful and I felt that it couldn’t be marred more by washing – with an if all is lost idea in the back of my mind.

Washing was, as you can imagine, disatrous.  I used three boxes of Dylon Colour catcher, and still the quilt became a mottled rainbow as the reds and greens ran and merged.  I washed it until no more colour came out. then I tried to dye it with Dylon, knowing they were for cottons really.  The quilt went from rainbow mess to grey mess.

I bought my first ever Procion dye, in a beautiful bottle green that I know Binky likes.  I used my big wash basket as a vessel and plunged it in, with nothing to lose.  This is the result.


It is not what I intended, but actually I like it more – it is more subtle.  Sadly the butterflies are all but invisible, so I have added interest with some gorgeous silk knotting, using threads from Oliver Twists.


I am glad it’s over!

Immediately after completion, I began another cotton quilt – Moda Charisma – very Binky – and it was finished in record time – sadly I forgot to take a pic and Binks keeps forgetting – will post when I have one.  Since then I have been making up for lost years in the creativity stakes – more soon!!


About George

A friendly Sociophobe
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4 Responses to Bite the bullet

  1. Pingback: Blogger’s Quilt Festival « Rose Coloured World

  2. Anne says:

    What a story and I am so glad it all turned out so well and even if you don’t see those elusive butterflies as well its still beautiful and makes searching for them all the more interesting 🙂


  3. Rebecca says:

    Oh goodness it is so beautiful and the story of how you got there will make it all the more treasured and precious.


  4. Hazel says:

    Wow, what an Odyssey that turned out to be but the quilt, although different from when it started out, is still beautiful and think of all that wonderful experience you’ve gained which is invaluable. Silk is so beautiful, isn’t it and it’s such a shame that it’s very fragile though that’s probably part of it’s beauty. I often admire those antique silk quilts that you can find on eBay. They usually have some damage to the silk but they still sell for astronomical prices.

    I can’t wait to see pics of the new quilt.


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