In Design inspiration, Reviews & Recommendations

In early 2011 I was asked to contribute a quilt project for We Love Color from Stash Books. Since I had a quilting cotton collection coming out in late 2011 with Robert Kaufman, the maker of Kona cottons which are featured in the book, I thought it made sense for me to get on board.

Am I a seasoned quilter? No. Had I made a quilt before? Um…not exactly. Well, if you count the patchwork throw I made in 7th grade for a colonial Social Studies project, maybe. So when Susanne Woods, the editor of the book sent me an email with the list of contributors, I admit my knees began to shake a bit. There were some heavy-hitter quilters on that list. Like I said, I was honored, intimidated and excited by the challenge.

I evaluated the situation. Am I a seasoned designer and seamstress? Yes! How hard can a quilt be? Straight cuts, straight seams, binding. I can do all of that. Plus it doesn’t have to fit anyone like clothing does. I do like to stretch my comfort zone and embracing quilt making felt like a logical and not-too-uncomfortable stretch. I had many other things on my plate last year and with the quilt due the same month as Quilt Market I knew I needed to get a jump on it.

We Love Color quilts only use solid Kona colors. My newbie quilting skills would have nowhere to hide without prints, so I needed to keep it simple. Big areas of color on a smallish throw size quilt suitable for the back of the couch would be just the ticket! I came up with an old school iconic design: The TV Colorbar Quilt. Here’s how my project intro reads in the book:

“The TV Colorbar quilt is the perfect throw to snuggle under in front of the tube. In pillow form, it stays neatly folded up on your couch, disguised as a black and white TV with lousy reception. When the popcorn’s ready and the movie begins, open it up into a bright and bold blanket of Technicolor. The quilt’s graphic design is based on the SMPTE colorbars which is a type of television test pattern developed in the 1970’s used to correct video signals. Growing up with network TV, (before cable, DVD’s and internet!) this was a familiar image to me when channels went off the air. In quilt form, the video rainbow is bold and modern while evoking a sense of nostalgia and simplicity.”

Oh wait, I didn’t tell you about the pillow part! Yes, keeping my quilt simple…ahem. So, I decided that having the “big screen” quilt fold up into a tiny TV pillow would be super cute and add a bit of novelty to the whole concept. Yeah. I planned it out, sketched it up and submitted my “quillow” concept (quilt + pillow) to the Stash team. They loved it! I was excited. I chose my Kona colors to match and went to town.

Cutting and piecing the quilt? Easy enough. Quilting the quilt…how hard can it be? I went online and learned how to make a “quilt sandwich” from the excellent Elizabeth Hartman (also a contributor to We Love Color). I invested in a walking foot for my Bernina. I was all set. Until I read the instructions on the quilt batting I had purchased. It recommended that it be quilted every 10 inches or less. Oopsies. My plan was to HIDE all of my quilting by using “stitch in the ditch” which is when you quilt right on top of your seam lines. My rectangles were about 10″ wide but much longer. Now what? How will I quilt this in a way that will not detract from the clean graphic look? What color thread should I use for crossing into all of those different areas of color? And what about that silly quillow pocket? That needs to be quilted but not quilted shut. Ay, caramba! I was in over my head and needed help. I consulted with my friend Julie of Jaybird Quilts who so very patiently laid out various options and basically saved me! I decided: white thread for the light colors, black thread for the dark colors, quilt in straight lines every 3″. How hard can it be?

It was hard. Crooked lines, bunching fabric, swearing, uneven stitches, seam ripping, swearing. Finally, I managed to finish quilting, bind, attach the pillow pocket and be done on deadline. Yes! I said a little prayer to the quilting gods and washed the quilt in hopes that the freshly laundered rumpled look would be the finishing touch. Feeling triumphant, yet still apprehensive, I sent the not-perfectly perfect quilt off with hopes for “gentle” photo styling and perhaps a bit of smoke and mirrors.

Now, more than a year later, the book is out and the quilt is back and in use in our family room. My quilting skills and confidence are more aligned with each other. I’m proud of my little quilt, regardless of my struggles and naivete. I learned a lot from this experience though the majority of it was not about quilting (although much was learned about that, too!):

Take a leap
Look before you leap
Practice makes perfect
Nobody’s perfect
Recognize when you need help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Stretch yourself
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Do your best
You are your own worst critic

I hope that my contribution to We Love Color and the story behind it shows that stitchers of all skill and experience levels can sew and quilt and create beautiful things.  And now that my own Colorbar Quilt has been absorbed into household use, it definitely feels less “a book contribution” and more a part of the family.

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Showing 9 comments
  • Cole

    What an awesome quilt, it’s such a fun idea!

  • Tumus

    You never forget your first quilt :) Glad to see it turned out just fine and now you have a healthy respect for just how much sewing goes into one! Just wait till you attempt more complicated designs where you’re literally cutting for days before you even start sewing/piecing them together. I still say the most satisfying part of making a quilt is finishing the binding and then washing it.

    I’m getting to the point that if I do anything bigger on my sewing machine I’ll suck it up and send it out to a real longarm quilter to do it properly for me.

    And I wouldn’t worry overly much about the batting instructions either. If you buy your batting from a reputable quilt shop they can help guide you to the appropriate “loft”…but really in the end it just depends on the type of look you’re going for once it’s quilted. I still prefer good ole cotton batting over anything synthetic.

  • mascanlon

    Love the quillow! And the whole design inspiration…I got it! Remember so well our first color TV!

  • Jan | Daisy Janie

    I’ve pieced and patchworked fabrics together for years, but never turned them into quilts – duvets, pillows, curtains, photo album covers. So I sort of had the same mindset the first time (how hard can this be?) I attempted a real quilt with batting and binding. And it was for a magazine! I experienced very similar issues. The pic turned out okay, fortunately!

    I have a deep, deep respect for quilters these days. And they keep going back for more!

    Your quilt is so cute and fun! Looks super in these pics!

  • Mytutorlist.com

    This is such a fantastic idea! I love it!

  • Blair

    Betz, I love it! You added your fun stylish spin to it, its such a fun piece. Do you have the quilting bug now?

  • xt

    I’m catching up on the advice of a certain sister-in-law. Love this post, and the quilt is far more than a quilt. So cool, so fun, and only you could have pulled it off! Love it!

  • Tui Cook

    Hi!! I Bought the book “We love color” because I was very excited by your tv test pattern” quilt. While ordering fabric tonight though, I discovered a discrepancy between the “corn yellow” you ask us to use and a “canary yellow” the color really does come across as more similar to the canary yellow, and not the orange that “corn yellow” seems to be. What should I do about this?

  • Betz White

    Hi Tui Cook,
    Thanks, I’m glad you like the design!

    I chose Corn Yellow because I liked how it balanced with the other colors of the quilt. I think that Canary Yellow would work too, if that’s your preference. Either would work just fine!


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