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.
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.
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!
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!!