This September when I got out my autumn quilt from the top shelf of the linen closet, I got the itch to make a new one.
I’d been reading quilting books about paper piecing, and a technique I read about in Sarah Sharp’s book, Adventures in Paper Piecing and Design, . She calls it “graffiti,” and it means making the solid places on your quilt out of different pieces instead of one piece of fabric. She’s referring to paper piecing, but I loved the idea.
Somehow that little spark grew into an idea: what if I made a graffiti autumn leaf as a sort of center medallion and then surrounded it with log cabins?
Especially since I realized that while I’ve made several baby quilts out of log cabins, I’ve never made a quilt for myself with them. And I love log cabin squares. They are magical to me, that mix of dark and light and the way that how you arrange them entirely changes the quilt that you’re making.
So one morning after physical therapy, I popped in to one of my local fabric stores. I found some gorgeous autumnal pieces. Then I visited another store and found some more. I went through all of my stash, looking for extra pieces to add. I wanted the quilt to feel like a walk in the autumn woods does, when the mountain is scattered with all different colors of leaves and light filters through the thinning trees and it is all entirely magical.
It didn’t quite feel right yet, though. I kept looking at the fabrics I’d assembled and it was close but not yet exactly right.
Then, a few days after the autumn equinox, Kendell and I went for a long drive in the canyon so we could go on a short walk. (All I was up for at that stage in my surgery recovery.) As I scuffed through leaves, that’s when I noticed: there are bits of purple here and there mixed in with the golds, browns, reds, and oranges.
Purple was the bit I needed to bring the quilt to life. (I also mixed in a very few brownish pinks.)
I love how it turned out!
To make the center leaf, I started with the “Fall Leaves” pattern by Cluck Cluck Sew. I increased the measurements of the block by 1.5 because I only wanted one big leaf in the middle.
To create the “graffiti” for the leaf, I drew out how tall and wide the pieces would be, and then I drew lines to help me map out the horizontal seams. (The seams on the pattern, not the strips, if that makes sense.) I didn’t want a strip to coincide with a seam but wanted the color to cover both sides.
Then I sewed all the strips together, wide and long enough to then cut the pattern out. I arranged the colors of the strip into an ombre pattern. (Not technically a rainbow because there isn’t any green or blue.) And I used an autumn print I absolutely loved for the background.
I blocked out the rest of the leaf with background strips and what I think of as photo corners so that the leaf square was 19.5” squares.
For the log cabins, I used 1.5” strips for the low volumes and whites, and 1.75” for the colors. This is the first time I’ve made log cabins with strips the same width! (On other quilts I’ve just made wonky squares.) The uneven sides make a slightly curve in the resulting squares on the quilt. (This would be more dramatic if the difference was bigger.) There are four strips on each side (8 light, 8 dark). I wanted this to be a fall quilt, and since Halloween is in the fall, I put in a few Halloween fabrics, but none that scream ghouls and ghosts. (Although one literally does say “Witch’s Brew”!)
I made 60 log cabins (because it’s 8x8) so it’s about 75” square.
For the back, I used a panel I bought last year on clearance (it’d be hard to track down by now I think) and some Woolies flannel.
I worked on this throughout October and finished it a bit after Halloween. The quilting was done by Melissa at Sew Shabby Quilting and I have to say: HOLY COW. Her quilting just took this over the top. I wanted something swoopy and beautiful, and the wave pattern she used was perfect. I wanted the quilting to stand out so I had her quilt it with pumpkin-orange thread.
Finally, for the binding, I made a flange and then sewed the front of the binding on with chunky quilting. This was my first time doing that and I’m not sure I did a great job (and my thumb and forefinger are so sore!), but I enjoyed doing it. And I ordered several different colors of thread for it, so I think I see more chunky quilting in my future!
One thing I love about quilting is that it gives me time to my thoughts. Some of that time I spend listening to audio books, but some of it is just thinking. Part of my thoughts while I made this quilt was about creativity and personal style. In essence, this quilt grew out of one of my oldest quilts, the rag quilt I made in 2009. When I made that quilt, Kaleb was only three and Haley 13. So much has changed during the time between that quilt and this one. My family…my outlook on life…my faith…my body. I have learned so much about many things, including quilting. I am a better quilter and have more skills. But my basic design aesthetic is the same. I like scrappy quilts and I think I am pretty good at figuring out how to put a bunch of seemingly-disparate colors together.
And all these years later, I still just love this hobby. The colors, the textures, the techniques. The making of things that might last longer than I do. Items to wrap around people, to sleep and read and snuggle under. Hopefully it will be something to love for the next decade. A bright thing to love during my favorite bright season.
PS. I like to name my quilts. This one is called Trinket from an Emily Dickinson poem about fall. If you zoom in you might spot one of the strips also has an Emily D. quote.