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Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Travels with my Aunt

This quilt has been patiently waiting to get its moment in the spotlight, and since it was finally gifted on the weekend, it now can. A good friend of mine had a zero birthday at the end of last year, so the seeds of this started way back in lockdown in 2020 – sketching out ideas and playing with design options.

And then sepsis happened – and geez I hope this is the last time that experience has to come into a quilt story! My original design had been quite complicated, stretching my skills and forcing me to learn some new ones. It would also have taken me most of 2021 to execute. That wasn't an option anymore. I arrived back in Melbourne from recuperating at Mum's in June, but even then a full size quilt was beyond me. A baby quilt was more my speed at that point.

What to do? What I always do of course... Start with colour, and go big!

The palette was easy, as my friend has a very specific set of colours that decorate her home.

At left taken on a trip to Paris in 2019 and her Princess Zoe at right in all her palette perfection.

Red on Maroon Mural, Section 4 1959
Then the two things floating around my head in terms of inspiration were Rothko and Liberty. Now, I know that sounds like chalk and cheese but she's a fan of both so I went down a research rabbit hole. 

In terms of Rothko, I started with this image she took in London at the Tate in 2018. It was his works with large bands and blocks of colour that I thought could be useful and I've saved a few of them over on Pinterest here.

I then went to the Liberty website. Tana Lawn was out of the question given the size I wanted to work in, so I headed straight for the upholstery section, and that's where I hit the jackpot. These are all part of the Liberty Interiors collection, in soft pinks and greys with a touch of gold and an art deco theme, which I knew would also be appreciated. 

Then it became a matter of deciding how to include these into a design. To purchase the fabric I could only buy metre cuts at a minimum, and the price is eye-watering compared to quilting yardage – literally ten times – so I had to be a bit smart. I noticed that I could purchase swatches which were quite large at about 7.5" square and reasonably priced, so I started using that limitation in my design sketches before I committed to the order.
This is where I ended up. It was a bit of a gamble ordering the Liberty without knowing whether these large sections of solids would be possible to match, but it was a gamble I was willing to take and the swatches were ordered. Naturally it was still a bit of Covid-posting nightmare but UK-Aus was working reasonably well and they only got held up in Singapore for about ten days.
Once I had the Liberty in hand I thought I'd head to Millrose Cottage as I knew their selection of Japanese linens was good and I figured I might at least make a start there. Well, the quilting gods were on my side for this one and I couldn't believe the beautifully textured options in just the right colour palette.

All the fabrics bar the middle one below were purchased there. The far left is the only standard quilting solid. For the next couple of weeks I carried little swatches of these fabrics and the Liberty ones around in a bag anytime I was going near a fabric shop. It was Tessuti that came up trumps with that lovely middle linen.
By this time my body was well enough for me to manage piecing this and the crawling around on the floor it was going to involve. Squaring fabrics was going to be key here and I knew that loose weave on the right above was going to be my biggest headache. I used a mixture of pulled threads, following the fabric pattern and a laser tile level to square everything up. I think I also measured everything at least four times before cutting. Those pieces are so big, there was no room for recuts if I stuffed something up. 

Another thing I had to be mindful of was the different weaves for the Liberty. I used a thicker than normal needle for a couple of them and went pretty slowly over those round cut velvet sections. I also noted that one of the finer fabrics marked when I pinned it, so I was very careful to avoid that after I'd done it once. And last, even though ironing the seams open is normally my approach, it wasn't always appropriate here given a number of the Liberty ones couldn't be directly ironed.

Once constructed it was on to the quilting. There was still no way I could handle a queen size just yet so off it went to Sweetgum Quilting. I had some ideas about the pattern, but let's face it, it's not my strong suit and when Valerie suggested this absolutely perfect Art Deco edge-to-edge I was immediately sold on it. I don't normally face bed quilts but I didn't want a thin border detracting from these large shapes so I went with facing and I'm very glad I did.
And the name 'Travels with my Aunt'? Well we both love to travel and are both partly defined by being aunts so I borrowed the name from Graham Greene and that's what it's been known as while I work.
I don't know about you, but I think it's nice to name something you spend so much time with.


  1. The quilt is beautiful and the story was a delight to read.

    1. Thanks Cheri, a pretty dodgy start definitely came good in the end. I think I might be adding more textural fabrics to quilts in future.

  2. What an interesting journey this one had from concept to execution! You are brave to work with those different substrates and large pieces of fabric. The end result is smashing!

    1. Thanks very much Marla. I never think of the difficulties when I'm buying the fabrics! Only when I start to sew I then realise alternative choices might have been easier.