A Quilt is Born - Block of the Month

Each year, as Betty and I plan our BOM quilt, we try to incorporate as many different quilting techniques as possible, so that we can teach you new things every month. We begin with the basic techniques and continue to build on that foundation as the year progresses.

We emphasize TECHNIQUE and ENCOURAGE YOU to make the quilt UNIQUELY YOURS, rather than merely copy the sample. Betty and I do the same, and that has yielded two different “versions” of our 2018 BOM Sampler quilt this year. We are excited to share them with you!

As we sat over dinner, Betty shared her vision of making a muted background in low volume neutrals, which would then serve as our “canvas” to add a large colorful appliqué for a visual “POP” of color!  We would make a new block each month, and teach a new quilting technique. 

I suggested we change up the blocks from the standard squares, and make a “long block” and a square block for each row. The quilt is comprised of eight different blocks; four are 16” x 16” square blocks, and the other four are 16” x 44” long blocks. They alternate by row, with two square blocks on the right and two on the left side of the quilt.   This unique pattern gives the quilt interest and balance, and allows for all techniques to be visible should you choose to place a large appliqué on it.  

As we sketched on our notepads, and brainstormed our ideas together, we tried to envision it and decide what techniques to include, where they would be placed on the quilt, and whether or not we needed to add sashing. I loved Betty’s idea of using 3” strips with flying geese as the sashing! That was the perfect way to join the completed rows!

I continued to crunch numbers and calculate block sizes, as Betty continued to hash out which techniques would be assigned to each of the blocks.  Before long, we had a solid plan hashed out. Now it was time to go back to Bumbletees to pick out the fabrics and get down to work!

We each went home and began our quilt. As we completed blocks and then sections, we shared them with each other. At times, our blocks were nearly identical, and other times, they ended up quite different, as we each added our own personal touches to our quilt sampler.  For some blocks, we used different sized rulers, so the finished blocks reflected that. Here is a picture of Betty’s background (on the left) and LoriAnne’s (right):

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Note Betty’s long Half-hexie block (left photo) and mine (right photo); She used the 10” template and I used the 5” template, because those are what we had on hand.  We also incorporated an “Improv” block.  Betty created the beautiful “Peace Sign” block and wanted to incorporate that into her quilt top, as it is uniquely hers.  I decided to create a block using one of my favorite techniques, thread sketching. The bird and sunflower block was the result.  As Betty and I teach technique, we encourage our students to create their own unique quilt, just as we have done.

We were excited to have the “canvas” completed and we now began designing the large appliqué that would go on top.  Betty decided to create big, beautiful flowers using the Dresden Plate template.  It fit perfectly with her modern, muted background. Her flowers incorporated bright, bold colors, full of excitement!

I tried a few things, but didn’t like any of them. I needed a second pair of eyes and some fresh ideas.  I brought it to the shop and showed Jan. She suggested I try a sunflower, to play off the thread sketched block in the quilt. That was it. Perfect! I began to round up a pile of scraps and cut flower pedals. As the colors came together, I knew I was on the right track. The result: blooms of rich vibrant color, full of movement.  Here are the completed quilt tops after the appliqué:  

                “Sunny Days Sampler”                                             “Bachelor Bouquet” 

Now, I usually stop the creative process right here, slap a piece of fabric on the back and call it a quilt. But Betty is famous for her quilt backs. I always tell her I can’t tell which is the back and which is the front side of her quilts. So this inspired me to continue with something creative on the back of my quilt.  I figured the thread sketching was “my signature” on the front, and wanted to bring it around to the back. I also decided I had enough of the low volume fabrics, and wanted vibrant color on the back, an element of surprise when you turn it over. Since the thread sketched sunflowers were the focal point of the front, I thought I would do some thread sketched leaves as floating blocks on the back. I loved the flying geese on the front and decided to do them on the back, but this time, they would be created with the fabrics used in the sunflower petals, to bring a hint of that element to the back of the quilt. I loved creating the back just as much as the front. I will never again let another quilt back go unadorned!    

Betty used the design on the front to inspire her quilt back as well.  She decided to use one of the deep, rich florals of the flower petals to back her quilt. She separated the rich fabric  into two asymmetrical sections, to create visual interest. Then she brought the Dresden Plate to the back in a monochromatic form. She took the other colorful fabrics from the flower petals on the front, to form a colorful strip of alternating Dresden Plate pieces sewn into a strip, for a pop of color that draws your eye right in! 


As Betty and I reflected on our experience in designing and making this quilt for our BOM class this year, we are most excited by the fact that there is a lot of technique for us to teach you, yet, a lot of room for your very own creative interpretation!  You may choose to make the quilt top in color, rather than muted low volume fabrics, and not even put an appliqué on it.  Here is an example of how one block in my quilt would look if done in color: 


Or, you may decide to add an appliqué in a low volume or monochromatic color:   

                    By Betty Nowak                                                           By RJR Fabrics

You may also be inspired to incorporate your favorite image or technique into your improv block. The options are endless! As I have shared this year’s BOM quilt journey with you, I hope you can see how much Betty and I enjoy working together, building off each other’s ideas and experiences, encouraging one another, and sharing our creative energy. Betty says we help each other achieve things that we would not have achieved on our own, and I agree!

Bumbletees Block of the Month meets the fourth Saturday of each month, from 2:30pm-4:30pm.  The first class is this Saturday, January 27th and we will accept new students through February. Sign up online here.

Give us a call if you have questions. 

We would love for you to join us!