Tag Archives: Harlequin quilt

Harlequin Diamonds — Some Assembly Required

We were out of town for several days, but now I’m back at it and having fun with my diamonds.

I strip pieced the block sections, creating 3-patches for the 15 9-patch blocks and 2-patches for the 8 4-patch blocks. Then I assembled the blocks from those. The colors and fabrics are distributed pretty randomly. I didn’t move many after creating the blocks and laying them out on the floor. The only balancing of color or saturation required was for the brilliant oranges and hot pinks. Even they are pretty random.

I laid it all out except the setting triangles, which I hadn’t cut yet. The fabric needed to be washed first. And once it was washed, all nine yards and more, I took it out of the washer and asked Jim to help me unfurl it. As we opened it up, we saw that there were holes. In the fabric. This is another story, another post. But suffice it to say, I didn’t use that fabric for the setting triangles and had to change plans.

The diamonds finish at 30″ long and about 17.25″ wide, so the setting triangles are unusually sized. I had to draw the arrangement on a piece of paper to make sure I could get them all from the fabric I had. Long and skinny or short and wide, I cut the side triangles similarly to how hourglass blocks are cut, with two crossing diagonal cuts on long rectangles. I always cut setting triangles too large, and trim after assembling the top.

Even with all the bias edges, assembly has actually gone pretty easily. I have each of the strips of blocks made, and some strips attached now. It is now in 4 big chunks. Some assembly still required.

A tip for assembly is to use lots of pins. I use very thin pins, so my fabric isn’t distorted even when pinning every inch or so. Another tip is to leave the “dog ears” after sewing the blocks together in a strip. Don’t trim them off. The dog ears on one strip should match up to the dog ears on the adjacent strip, making it easier to match those seams.

Tomorrow I should finish assembly and trim the edges.

Here is it laid out on the floor. It is too big to fit in the photo.

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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.