Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Never again

I call this quilt "6 Bears +1".
I know! Three posts back I swore I'd never make another quilt. This is it, or at least one of them.

I started work on this in June 1998 and didn't finish it until June 2000, not that I worked exclusively on it.

"6 Bears +1" was inspired by a series of events. First, we were tidying the family stash and I kept finding fat quarters with 'bear' patterns. They started to shout "use me". Of course, I was so busy tidying that I refused to be distracted. Almost! The bears of course had their own ideas. Somehow they managed to wriggle about until they were in a different pile to the other fabrics. "Use me!" they shouted louder than before.

My first idea was to make a quilt with a series of intersecting bears or bears inside each other like a Russian Doll. (That may still happen.) Then, leafing through a newspaper I saw mention of the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). Flash of inspiration. I thought it would make an interesting 'hidden' motif which could be linked to the bears on the front by the quilting as seen on the back.

Out came the pencils, paper and fabric. And the eraser!

From the start I never had any expectation that this would be anything other than a full sized double bed quilt, so I started with a rectangle slightly smaller than the bed and marked in the stars and connecting lines of the constellation. I wanted the main design to be fully visible when laid on a bed, but I knew it would also need a border. I had already decided on the shape of the bear(s), but not the number, but when I looked at the stars I could see that with a little jiggling they would sit over the noses and eyes of five small bears. (Size being comparative, the small bears are each 20" high.)
The sixth bear seemed to sneak in there as a shadowy outline, linking the other five.

Then I began to allocate fabrics to bears. The blue chequered background is all from the same two pieces of fabric (blame my photography), and each solid bear is created from two fat quarters. The one in outline is all the same fabric. When it came to the border there was no question that it would be "Bear's Claw", and that there should be four claws for each of the bears on the front.

"6 Bears + 1" was entirely hand stitched using English Piecing. The centre of the quilt is worked in 1" squares, the border in larger squares and triangles. The quilting is deliberately open, with a bear set in a circle centred around each star and a metallic thread linking the stars.
I think that was the point, as the last of the quilting went in, that I realised I had made a basic error. The stars on the back would be reversed! As we say in Scotland; "Eedjit!" Some things just can't be fixed. I'll know better next time (maybe).

This was the first piece of work that I ever exhibited seriously and it received an Honourable Mention from the judges. It now resides where it was always intended to, on our bed. Quilts, after all, are for keeping you snug and warm.

On which, I wish you all a happy, snug and warm (or cool and air conditioned) New Year.

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