Genes and A Cute Top

for my friend Laurie.

Laurie. She and I met in fourth grade. Her long hair, a soft brown, usually was in braids. Back then we wore dresses to school most days, and I remember her in layers of ruffles. I don’t know if that was her taste or her mother’s, but she still chooses a feminine appearance. Her long, soft brown hair spills over her shoulders. She doesn’t wear fluffy dresses anymore, though. A few years ago I fussed to her about not knowing what to wear for some occasion. Laurie reminded me that for most occasions, women can wear jeans and a cute top.

Since our grade school days, she has become a gifted scientist and professor, as well as devoted wife and mother. Both smart and wise, her academic focus is in biology, and specifically on the immune response of infants.

When I decided to make a quilt for Laurie, I’d recently seen a blog with some science-themed quilts. (I’m sorry I don’t remember what it was.) But it inspired me to consider what I could do for her. My first thought was of DNA.

I almost always design my own quilts, but I’m quite open to inspiration from others. So I googled images of DNA quilts. There is a surprisingly good variety out there. The one that caught my eye was a modern take of plus signs. It was designed by Richard of Richard and Tanya Quilts. I liked it so much, I wanted to use the design just as it was.

While I’ve long bought magazines and books containing patterns, I never bought a separate pattern before this one. (You can see on the blog that, at least for a time, Richard was offering it free. I got it very cheap, well worth the money I spent.)

My sister and I brain-stormed how to use the pattern, and she suggested a rainbow array of colors. I created a grid in EQ7 and painstakingly plopped in color after color until I was happy with the spectrum. I don’t know what scale Richard used. Mine uses a 2.5″ grid, so the quilt is 45″ x 60″.

I knew the fabrics in my stash wouldn’t match up exactly. But I counted the numbers of each “plus” color, and I pulled fabrics from stash to go with those.

The only hitch was the background color. Blue, dark blue, navy blue… I bought a beautiful shot cotton, but it didn’t seem quite right. And then I was shopping at Connecting Threads and found Quilter’s Candy Mirage Denim Blue. It created just the right backdrop to make the rainbow colors sparkle.

The denim blue, blue-jeans blue… Jeans and a cute top. DNA, spiraling, spinning like a top. Genes and a cute top. The quilt was named.

For the colors, I cut finished sizes of 2.5″ squares and 2.5″ x 7.5″ bars. For the background I cut strips to length, minimizing the seaming. Construction was very easy.

Like every quilt, it also needed a back. For most of the colors I’d cut strips, and then subcut my short and long segments. This gave me leftover strips lengths. From all the remainders I cut more short and long pieces until the strips were depleted. I pieced them together to cover the long direction (60″ plus the needed extra). They made a segment four strips wide, which was 10″. For the rest of the back, I used larger chunks of color. One piece of mid-blue needed to be wider and so received a strip in the middle. The strip needed to be longer, so it received two more small squares…

Top and back constructed, the last big decision was quilting. A friend had shown a quilting design she’d used several times. It consisted of a large meander across the width of fabric. Once reaching the other side, she doubled back, weaving a new line through the first one. It gives the effect of a ribbon, twisting and curling across the cloth. The same type of twist would give the impression of a double helix DNA strand.

There are four letters we use to designate DNA’s code, G, A, C, T. These are also the abbreviation for Genes and A Cute Top. Truth: I’m no scientist. I don’t understand this stuff. But Laurie does.

Winding and twisting, this explanation of how I designed Laurie’s quilt has gone on long enough. Here are pictures of the finished quilt.

Genes and A Cute Top. 45″ x 60″. Finished May 2014.

Back of quilt. Label is tipped green square in lower left.

Double-helix quilting meander.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know this quilt is far outside the style I’m used to. Even the pieced back is outside my comfort zone. It’s worth trying something new to create a special gift for a friend.


21 thoughts on “Genes and A Cute Top

  1. Laurie

    The quilt is going up in the Department of Biology main office this week. It’s going to look great!!

  2. KerryCan

    This is wonderful! I love all the levels of thought and meaning that go into it–the very clever name, the G,A,C,T, the rendering of the DNA symbol into bright colors! Your friend must be thrilled!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      She is. I was holding my breath, not for fear she wouldn’t love it, but just because I was so darned excited!

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

  3. Dot

    Thanks for sharing this Melanie. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful tribute to a friend. The quilting design was inspired. And on a practical note, that plus sign quilt is on my bucket list, but all the patterns I’ve seen used 5 squares per colour. Your method seems more logical to me. Any tips on planning the construction and colour distribution?

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      The construction was simple, given the layout. I did just cut 3″ strips (2.5″ finish) for all the colors i used. Then the squares were cut as 3″ and the bars were cut as 8″.

      As to color distribution… I haven’t looked at a lot of plus quilts, so I don’t really have any opinion on that. Of course modern styling often has a lot of negative space, as mine does. But in casual looking I’ve seen some pluses that are covered by “blocks”. In that case I think I would distribute as I would for any other block format quilt. For them I try to be aware of both value and saturation differences, as well as warm/cool. And I try to spread them fairly evenly throughout. Of course there are incredibly effective quilts that concentrate value in some places. I haven’t figured out how to do that! 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Jim in IA

    I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of this quilt. The science teacher part of me thinks it is very cool. I was sad to see it go.

    Nice job. oxoxox


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