My Harlequin Medallion Quilt

Last October I showed you a quilt I’ve long admired. It’s the Harlequin Medallion Quilt, part of the collections of the American Folk Art Museum.

Harlequin Medallion Quilt.

It was a bed cover, about 87 x 96 inches, made of a glazed wool called calimanco. The quilt dates from 1800-1820. From the museum’s description:

It is constructed in the center-medallion format that was popular before about 1840 but anticipates the elaborate pieced patterns of later quilts. Its bold, geometric composition of large triangular pieces in bright, saturated colors appears very contemporary, belying the still commonly held notion that early American homes were devoid of color. In fact, this type of bedcover often displays beautiful shades achieved with natural dyes.

I decided to make the quilt using contemporary cottons and in a smaller scale, intending to use it as a wall-hanging in my dining room. I scaled it to about 57 percent of the original, to finish at 50 x 55 inches. Though my first EQ7 drawing wasn’t true in design, I was able to modify it while I worked, so the design matched pretty closely.

To achieve the texture of the original, I chose wool batting. Well, I’ll tell you right now that wool was a mistake. It has a resilient loft, is spongy, and bunches up. The loft makes it a great choice for a bed quilt or lap quilt. But it is a poor choice for a wall-hanging. The quilt is not flat, and it would not hang flat.

Quilting on my longarm took weeks, a little at a time. The wool required special handling, pinning it in place to keep it from bunching up.

I used a straight ruler and ruler base to mimic the concentric square quilting of the original. Using rulers is new to me, and it took a while to adjust to the change in method and all the starts and stops of stitching. Ironically, this would be one quilt that would have been easier on a domestic sewing machine.

Since my intention was to hang it, I used an unbleached muslin for the backing. And I used three, maybe even four different colors of bobbin thread. The back was a mess.

Attitude is everything, right? The back was a mess; it wasn’t going to be a wall-hanging. But it was a worthy experiment, anyway. I learned a lot with the rulers. I learned a lot with the wool. But if I wanted to use it as a lap quilt, the back had to be prettier.

A false back was the solution. I found a great print in the same colors, basted it on, and then bound the whole thing. It hides the muslin. And though it adds weight, the quilt will be extra cozy for cold winter afternoons. Eventually I’ll use perle cotton and tie the back through the muslin, to secure it.

It isn’t what I planned on, but I’m happy with it. Now the challenge will be developing something else for the dining room wall.

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11 thoughts on “My Harlequin Medallion Quilt

  1. denmck

    No risk, no reward as they say. This looks really nice and sounds like it was a learning experience; albeit a frustrating one. Nice job saving the project!

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    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      I’m glad I made it. It really didn’t turn out how I hoped. And it was incredibly frustrating to quilt. Not terribly hard, but … still frustrating. But I like it, and now it’s mine. I don’t just have to look at it in a book. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. snarkyquilter

    It’s so maddening when you find you still don’t have the wall hanging you planned for that spot after doing all that work. I’ve only quilted one item with wool batting, and that was a baby quilt. It turned out quite puffy because I accidentally used 2 layers of batting. I’ve had a professional longarmer use wool batting for a wall hanging, but the quilting was very closely spaced. So far the piece hangs straight. The wool gives some areas a lovely trapunto effect. Your false backing was an inspired idea to repurpose your quilt.

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    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Yes, closer quilting may have helped. This was basically all either 1″ or 2″ apart. Seemingly that would be close enough. But …

      At any rate, I napped under it yesterday, and it was great for that. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. treadlemusic

    Love the backing you decided on!!!! I used wool, for the first time, on a quilt I just did for our bed. I really am super pleased with the outcome……..really soft, drape-y, and warm!!!! I like to layer the wool with 80/20 cotton/poly for wall hangings that need extra loft w/o true trapunto. Sorry that you had such a time of it….but, I know you learned a ton….a good thing!!!! A lovely finish!!!!!

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    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      This was the third project I did in wool. The first one I wasn’t thrilled with. The second I managed well and LOVE it. This one just took too much management, considering the stitching starting and stopping. And yes, I learned a ton. It wasn’t a bad experience. I just have to frame it right.

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  4. katyquilts

    It is a beautiful quilt but I understand your frustration of ending up with something entirely different than what you envisioned. Thanks for sharing your experience. I see so many people raving about wool batting but I just have not been brave enough to try. I am not sure I will! I am working at learning rulers too. Definitely a learning curve there!

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    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      I recommend you try it. But do so knowing it needs a little more management. Cotton and poly (like Warm’s Soft & Bright) both lie nice and flat. Even lofty polyester doesn’t creep around! I love the wool in a bed quilt I made for myself. But it was the 2nd thing I made, and I pinned it at the belly bar each time, to keep it in place. I float the top and batting. If you don’t, you may not have that issue.

      Thanks for taking a look.

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