A Black and White Quilt

When I started sewing last year, I said I wasn’t going to be a quilter. I’m not even sure why I said that. It was nothing against quilts or quilters at all – I just didn’t think it looked like something I wanted to do. Too much detailed work, maybe? Not being sure I had the ability to do that sort of precise sewing? I suppose when you start learning a new skill, you don’t yet know what you will or won’t be able to manage and so it’s easy to dismiss things that look too hard. Like knitting lace. I used to think that’d always be outside my range. But I learned with knitting to never say never.

So I made a little quilted table top last year and thought that was a fine way to pass the time. It’s pretty dodgy in places and in fact won’t really last very long because my poor seaming is coming apart, but that’s what first steps are all about. I learned all the ways that stuff can go wrong and applied that new knowledge to my first proper quilt, which I finished on Sunday. Made with a pack of Moda charm squares in the Half Moon series, it’s draped here over our small sofa bed lounge.

quilt - black and white

I made the top of the quilt several months ago, spending a couple of Sundays arranging the squares into blocks. That was fun. We put them out on the lounge room floor and over the course of a day or two, would stare at them, rearranging, trying to get them into some sort of pleasing configuration. Sean turned out to be quite good at that – he’s got a good eye.

So I made four blocks, using some white cotton from the stash to build them and then eventually put them together with the black border, or sashing. There it sat for several weeks while I built up the courage to do the big job of machine quilting.

quilt - black and white

I’m not sure how normal it is to make the lines of the quilting so visible – see those black lines running diagonally? I think most people choose a colour that blends in more but I talked it over with my mum and we thought, what the hell, just go with the black, see how it works. I think technically it’s supposed to blend, and technically when you’re new and not particularly skilled yet, hiding your quilt lines is more the norm. I did worry that not being terribly precise yet, going with such stark sewing might really show up the wonkiness but it’s ok.

As I said to my mum, it’s a lap rug. It’s not a show piece. And I’m just learning so who cares – just go with whatever. One of the benefits of being new is that I’ve got a certain amount of naivety about it all. I don’t really know the RULES yet and anyway, who wants to be bound by rules? I don’t.

quilt corner

There are certain things I wanted to get right though and I overcame my perceived dislike of handsewing and did the final stage of the binding by hand. Love the polka dots! Over two nights, I crippled my hands doing all that stitching on the reverse side and decided it’s just as nice a way to spend an evening as knitting on the couch is. It’s all about the tiny stitches in the end and I should just get over myself and embrace the hand sewing thing. So I did and it was lovely.

I think it’s about as big as I want to go in terms of fully quilting something. I found it pretty gruelling working with a 109cmx109cm (43″x43″ ) piece of fabric in the last stages. I think if I wanted to make something bigger, I’d do all the piecing myself and send it out for professional quilting but that’s some way off yet.

Here’s the back, which I had to put a strip of black into because of the width of the piece.

quilt back

I like the idea of putting a point of interest in the back and plan to explore options for this with my next quilt.

quilt back1

So does one quilt make you a quilter? Maybe. I don’t know. I seem to have the bug if my net surfing is any indication, as well as the books I’m buying and the way I’m looking at my stash. I started out just wanting to learn the techniques because I think it’ll be useful and it’s certainly teaching me a lot about precision.

Oh, and it’s fun. Truly fun. The two days I spent last week completely lost in bringing this all together were just wonderful. I felt content and satisfied which is a very nice headspace to find myself in.



29 thoughts on “A Black and White Quilt

  1. Just playing around on google for ideas for a black and white quilt and came across yours and let me tell I’m in love. My question is what size block did you use? Your quilt is striking and pleasing to the eye. I would love to make one for a friend.

  2. Pingback: Stacked Coins Table Runner | Bellsknits

  3. Nice job! I’ve certainly caught the bug too and am working on my second quilt now. At first I did it , like you it seems, to kinda see if I could. I’ve tried something that requires much more precision this time and it’s kind of driving me batty. hehe but in a good way! I sent away my first one to be quilted and this time I’m going to attempt it myself. I’m scared! 😀

  4. It’s lovely.
    I’m keen to make a quilt, but I’m apprehensive about all the layering (plus this year has been insanely busy with work, conferences & study)… Can you recommend a book or tutorial?

    The black stitching is really fabulous. And the strip on the back looks nifty – handy, too, when you’re sharing the blanket on the couch; “hey, keep to your own half!” 😉

    I know Claire at Matching Pegs always makes a large label for the back of her quilts, saying when it as made, and for whom, and often with a little feature on it.

  5. Why you are definitely a quilter! That is such a fun and original quilt. I really like the black quilting lines. By starting out so boldly, you are going to go on to make really original and beautiful quilts.

    I have to keep telling myself to stay away from quilting. I already have way too many hobbies!

  6. a lovely quilt 🙂 it looks fabulous. whether you’re a quilter or not is up to you to call!

    i am in agreement about rules: some things are worth knowing how to do properly, but i’m not really up for working with rules for the sake of it.

    i think quilting is a bit like knitting though, in that i often knit a skein up because i love it and want to snuggle it! making it into a garment allows me to do that. patchwork/quilting allows us to enjoy and live alongside fabrics we love every day once they have become ‘something’ rather than stash! with that viewpoint, i find that although i do strive for straight stiching and a development of my skills, i don’t mind the flaws i inevitably make so much.

  7. great quilt, Bells! Love the B&W, such a cool contrast.

    and hey, black quilting stitches may show up on the white…but white would have showed up just as much on the black! I think it’s a great feature

  8. I love the contemporary look of this and I like the stitching running diagonally across the quilt. I also think that the naive approach to it all is a good thing cause you do learn from mistakes but you also have a brave approach to execute – this can be a good thing.

    looks great ! 😀

  9. Lovely. But do you feel like a quilter (whatever that may feel like)?

    I’m tempted to quilt. But first I’d have to get scraps up. And finish the patchwork quilt I started age 15. Which is somewhere in my parents loft. No doubt providing gracious quarters for moths…

  10. What a fabulous piece!
    I’ve read your blog for well over a year now (I feel like it could be 2, but I could be wrong) and I absolutely adore it. The way you write and explore your approaches to craft is inspirational. I aspire to have a blog as fantastic as yours!
    I’ve been re-reading your posts about your exploration into fabric, and it has reawakened my desire to get the sewing machine out and I’ve not played with my textiles properly since preteens! As soon as the teaching allows, I’m going to break out the stash and document it on my blog.
    Thanks for the fabulous blog – keep up the good work!

  11. You know, I said th DD this afternoon when she threatened to pull out her quilting stitches: “It’s a play mat for children, not an exhibition piece!” Same sentiment, different words, I think!

    I think your quilt is lovely and I like the quilting in black! Well done – it’s a fabulous first quilt.

  12. The quilt is beautiful. Black and white work really well together like that. I’ve hand quilted some things but never machine quilted anything large. It’s an undertaking! I like to put curly ques designs on the quilt but it takes a long time. And it’s not a lap project for the warm weather.

    We spent some hours at a bookstore/cafe yesterday and I had the same thought. After almost 30 years of marriage, we still have things to talk about and we talk a lot but we can also sit together and be quiet. Pk was reading books on woodworking and I was picking out the stitches in a sock. It was a lovely way to spend a day.

  13. superb work, bells! the black quilting lines are unexpected, but work really well. they remind me of pinstripes, which goes with the elegant minimal style of the quilt. love that the back and edges are also beautiful. and i couldn’t help noticing that you’d aptly formed a pattern of H’s (for helen!), perhaps unintended!

  14. Congratulations! It looks great. I don’t envy you the wonky eyes you must have had from sewing the polka dots. You almost inspire me to finish my quilt this winter! If only I didn’t have so much knitting to do….

  15. Well done on your first lap quilt. I think the black stitches make the whole quilt “pop” in a good way! You will be making quillows for the nieces and nephews next.

  16. Lovely quilt, and I agree with everyone, the black quilting is a feature. I love the idea of a secret ‘feature’ on the back. I’ve done that a few times too!! Don’t forget to put your name and the date on the back. For posterity.

  17. not that i know anything about these things, but i think the black stitching gives it a very japanese aesthetic. i like it a lot, i like these kind of simple two or three colour quilts, so much more elegant and practical than those brightly coloured things. it really does look very striking. i think there is a difference between being a maker of quilts and a quilter, same as for knitting, but it doesnt really matter in the end, so long as you like what you make! you should be very pleased.

  18. It’s really stunning, Bells…and I absolutely LOVE the black quilting, too. Very bold, very brave and totally effective. And there are no Quilting Police, so you were absolutely right to just do it. What a successful quilt!

  19. Bells, it’s spectacular! I love everything about it – the color choice, the pattern, and the black lines, whether they’re “legal” or not. Very cool!

  20. I like how you casually threw in mention of “my next quilt”. I think that makes you a quilter!

    I think black and White is great, and I really like the black quilting lines, it adds extra impact. And you can’t beat polka dot edging! Nicely done!

  21. Oh, Bells. Oh, I love it. You know, perfect step–if you’re not sure of working with color, start with black and white. It WILL teach you how to work with color because shades come into it when you move to color too. I love the choice of black quilting lines, and I feel the same way about “rules.” Everything I’ve taught myself I’ve been too naive to know I wasn’t supposed to start the way I did: first knitting project in the round on DPNs, embroidering on denim (apparently you’re supposed to start with an easier fabric, whoops!). (The exception to that: it’s good to know some design and color rules so you understand how to break them effectively!)

    I sewed curtains this weekend–45″ by 70″–and I was thinking there’s probably not much machine quilting in my future if I was struggling that much with the size of the fabric. Must start with little quilts. 😉

    FABULOUS job. I love it. I covet it!!

  22. Wow – it looks fantastic. I am just amazed at how clever you are at all this. You seem to be able to make anything you set your mind too. Does it now make you a quilter? Hmmm…perhaps. Make some more and we’ll discuss it then : – )

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