...the tie quilt!

Tie the Knot 

Tie the Knot is the wedding quilt I made for my sister.  It’s been published in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine and featured on a recent episode the companion PBS tv show. Of course I’m honored and thrilled to have such attention paid.  But I’m especially pleased to credit the good folks at Fons & Porter’s with naming the quilt.  Tie the Knot is clever and just perfect.  Thanks ladies!

Back story… 

When my baby sister announced her engagement, I knew I had to make a special wedding quilt.  Katie’s not really a patchwork kind of girl.  She likes clean lines and neutral colors, so my tendency to splash lots of bright color into scrappy designs wasn’t going to work.  Of course she would have appreciated anything I made, but that wasn’t the point.  What I really wanted for her was something that she could treasure.  It was time to cut into the stash of ties I saved after our father passed away. Originally I had been saving these to make something for me.  But first things first, a family wedding takes priority so I used our dad’s ties to make my sister’s quilt.  

Dad’s ties + modern design = sentimental memory quilt! 

The first happy accident happened when I opened up the ties.  They’re bigger than I thought with enough fabric to make more than one (or even two) quilts from them.  The other thing that happened was that once I removed the heavy interfacing, the fabric was much more soft and supple than I had originally anticipated.  And since this was silk cut on a bias, they were also really stretchy.  I knew piecing traditional patchwork was out of the question because I wouldn’t be able to control all that nasty distortion.  The last thing I wanted was a wonky top.  Been there, done that and let me just say, it’s no fun!  The solution of course was foundation piecing. 

Paper versus Muslin… 

Okay folks, here’s an important tip.  BEFORE you cut into your special fabrics…make a practice block or two from some insignificant scrap fabrics! 

I didn’t want to waste one precious piece of my dad’s silk ties, so I headed over to the Salvation Army and picked up some truly ugly, stained and CHEAP ties from the sale bin and used them to practice. 

Here’s what I discovered—paper piecing (which I love by the way) doesn’t work with silk because when you pull the paper off, you tug on the fabrics.  Of course tugging on silk causes that nasty distortion problem I mentioned earlier.  And distorting your precious silk fabrics will only make you cry.  Not good.  Taking the time to practice on the cheap stuff saved me from major heartbreak and now I can share this new found knowledge with you. 

Instead of using paper to stabilize the silk, I reverted to the old school string quilting technique of sewing the silk ties right down to a muslin base.  And then I left them on the muslin for added stability.  Since I didn't plan to hand quilt this project, I knew that the added thickness wouldn't be a problem.

Overcut and trim up…

I cut 5.5” muslin squares for my foundation bases so these would finish at 5”. Then I cut strips of various widths from my dad’s ties so they were longer than my muslin squares.  It’s always easier to trim up a block than to nail the exact size, so yes I did waste a little fabric, but not much. 

I laid out the silk strips on a diagonal so I could put four of them together to form a secondary design featuring the wonky diamond shape. 

Now here’s the easy part…sew your strips down beginning with the center strip.  Add strips to each side toward the muslin squares’ corners.  The center strip goes down first—right side up.  

Then you add the strips to each side—right side to right side—or as Marianne Fons always says, “pretty to pretty.” 

Press the strips open.  NOTE…don’t use a really hot iron on these blocks because silk can melt with the heat.  Medium is good.  So is a pressing cloth. 

Working the color plan… 

Most of us don’t have the luxury of design walls where we can layout our entire quilt top—and leave it up.  Even in my shop where I do have design walls, I have to put them away when the shop is open.  So default for me is the dining room table—or worse—the living room floor.  Not ideal but workable.  And heaven help the cat who decides to curl up in either place while I’m working! 

There are two schools of thought when it comes to working color plans in patchwork. 

First, we have the over-sewing method.  That’s when you make more blocks than you actually need for your top.  The idea here is flexibility—making extra blocks enables you to add, delete and move color around without the constraints of working with the exact number of blocks.  Scrappy quilt tops are all about combinations of color—specifically how colors work relative to one another.  Although you may LOVE each and every block your've made, sometimes it’s difficult to make them work together.  Having those extra blocks helps you sort the ones that work from those that don't. 

The second method is to under-sew the number of blocks you’re going to need.  Say you make about 75% of the blocks you need.  Then you start laying those out.  Quickly you'll discover where your color gaps are--what's working--and what's not.  You may have a few reds or yellows with lots of darks.  Those reds and yellows are really going to pop relative to everything else around them.  Under-sewing allows you to see where you need to add or delete certain colors so you can sew out the remaining blocks with a specific color plan in mind. 

I’ve used both methods in previous projects and normally don’t mind wasting a little fabric for extra blocks since it gives me the flexibility to lay things out easily.  But in this project I didn’t want to waste any of my dad’s silk ties, so I opted for the under-sewing method and filled in the blanks. 

Sizing up the situation… 

Typically I make quilts to be used—and that means washable.  With cotton fabrics it’s not an issue.  But with the silk ties I had hoped this quilt was destined for the wall.  And that’s exactly what my sister plans to do with it.  In fact I’m adding a sleeve to the length so she can turn it and hang it as a head board above her bed. 

Tie the Knot measures 54” x 70” but this pattern is easy to adjust for any size quilt. However I would caution you to consider how the quilt is going to be used.  Super bed sized silk quilts may be beautiful--but only if you don’t have kids and/or pets to drool or urp all over them!  

Final notes… 

The setting fabric and quilt back are linen fabrics.  I chose linen because it had more gravitas than cotton and made the silk seem even more luxurious.  I auditioned silk but silk-on-silk was too shiny and distracted from the ties. 

My brother-in-law Mike contributed some of his whacky UNICEF ties to the project so there would be a little bit of him in this quilt too.  I hated to cut them into strips and ruin the design so I pieced them into a panel for the back. 

This quilt was long arm quilted by Sally Evanshank of Windy City Quilting using the connected circles pattern.  God love her, she stayed up to 2am in order to finish this so I could get the binding on by Christmas last year.  

Of course there’s no need to mention that I completed my sister’s wedding quilt three years after she got married—far exceeding my normal grace period of one year--so we won't.  

Lastly, a shout out to my father who loved striped ties.  Little did he know that they make for really interesting quilts.  Thanks dad, I still miss you a lot! 

Happy quilting everyone and good luck...Colette

Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 07:22AM by Registered CommenterQuiltology | CommentsPost a Comment | References12 References