Settle in, friends. Grab a snack, perhaps. I’ve got a lot to say about this quilt.
I am typically pretty happy with how my quilts turn out. Not a single one is perfect, but I nearly always like them. This one? This one I am shamelessly proud of. It started out as this super-geeky idea between my husband and me, a sort of homage to his job at Google, and turned into what feels like a real creative and technical accomplishment. I am psyched. Also, a note, the solid colors were really hard to photograph well, so know that it doesn’t look so blown-out in real life.
This was, far and away, the most planned quilt I’ve ever made. Sure, I always start with an idea or a design. But somewhere in the process, there is at least a little randomness. Not here. My notes (and yes, I have notes) span at least eight pages of gridded paper. I started by enlarging the image on my computer, and then tracing the outlines onto the first piece of graph paper. I then went over it and sort of pixellated the curves in one-square (one-inch) increments. After that, I divided the whole thing into 10-inch blocks and drew out each block, listing what size pieces I’d need of each color to make each block. Seriously, pages and pages. That took me a few hours, but at least it made the piecing relatively straightforward. And the whole top came together exactly the way it was supposed to.
After the fiasco of the first back, which had also been rather elaborately graphed and pieced ahead of time, I went with a similar-in-concept-but-simpler-in-execution design the second time around. I knew I wanted big blocks of the colors from the front, and I knew I was going to use multiple colors of thread, and didn’t want yellow thread on green fabric or vice versa. But since I already had those dimensions nice and clear on another sheet of paper, it was really quite easy to put together.
The quilting, oh, the quilting. Since this whole quilt is “just” giant swaths of solid fabric, I knew the quilting had to be something special. It was going to stand out more than your average quilt, and I really thought it was important that it really add something to the project. It couldn’t just be functional and look nice-enough, it had to be very much on purpose. Which meant, naturally, that I was terrified of it. I knew I wanted to use different colored thread in each section, and I knew that I wanted a different quilting design in each section. But picking them? Oh, did I procrastinate.
After seeing Angela Walters at our Boston Modern Quilt Guild meeting, and reading her book, I really and truly look at quilting in a different way. It makes me want to try all kinds of new things. For this quilt, I eventually just started flipping through the book and writing down designs that I thought would work. I finally narrowed it down to five.
The white part of the quilt, the “g”, got pebble quilting. It was the first part that I quilted, and I really enjoyed intentionally doing pebbles of varying sizes. In addition to looking cool, it takes some of the pressure off when you aren’t worried about being super consistent.
The yellow was little flowers, similar to the ones I did on Ellie’s quilt, but much more closely spaced. The blue was a really neat combination of wavy lines and pebbling that I saw on one of the examples Angela passed around at our meeting. I don’t know if she has a name for it, but it makes me think of a riverbed. Both of those patterns seemed to lose some of their detail after being washed and dried, though they still are really obvious on the back.
The red was filled with leaves, though I think it could almost pass for flames on the bold red fabric. This proved a surprisingly tricky design for me. I found it challenging to make the sizes and shapes consistent, and it really seemed to want to move vertically instead of filling the space randomly. I was glad that it wasn’t a huge area of the quilt. (Also? Solid red = wicked hard to photograph.)
I saved the green for last. I knew I wanted to use the woodgrain design, but it made me really nervous. I practiced it a bunch on the re-purposed first backing, and finally went for it. First of all, it’s a SUPER dense design, so it doesn’t feel like it moves super quickly. And I found the left-to-right movement somewhat tricky on my home machine, since I ended up jamming a fair amount of quilt in the throat of my machine. But in the end? I am COMPLETELY in love with it. It turned out so, so cool. I am thrilled.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I really am proud of the quilting. It’s the most ambitious I’ve ever been, and it is CERTAINLY the most densely I have ever quilted – I think the final count was around 17 bobbins of thread for a 60×70″ quilt. And though it was nerve-wracking, I am glad I pushed myself and didn’t take an easier way out. Sure, I could take some close-up pictures to show you each and every little flaw that I can see when my nose is pressed up against it. But I think the effect is exactly how I wanted it, and for that I am glad. Especially the way it comes through on the back.
Finally, it was time to bind it. Adding a print seemed crazy at this point – trying to find one that really worked, after I had been so careful to pick just the right color solids, not to mention adding additional “busy-ness” to the whole thing, no thanks. I decided the dark gray from the back (Kona Charcoal, if you’re wondering) would make a nice frame, and added a little piece of each of the other colors in the order they sometimes appear in Google branding. Though I have fallen in love with machine binding over the last year, I finished this one by hand.
As a post-script, I was really, really afraid of washing this quilt. With all of those saturated solids and a huge swath of white? Oh, I was so scared this would be the one to bleed. But I washed it in cold water and tossed three color catchers in there (no idea if extra ones boost the effectiveness, but I was willing to try). Not a single spot of colors running, and even the color catchers stayed nearly white and didn’t seem to pick up any loose dyes. Thank you, Kona cottons.
There you have it, the saga of the Google quilt. It is done, and I am psyched. I hope you like it. (And I hope no one sues me for using a probably-copyrighted image. It’s an homage! It’s art! Have mercy on me, benevolent internet overlords!)