Tag Archives: Wedding quilts

My Favorite Fabric Purchase in 2018

You know those big dinner salads you can get at some restaurants? The greens cover a platter, and there are a variety of toppings, and at least two condiment containers for the dressing. You can eat and eat and eat and eat. Your dinner companions can finish their entree as you just keep eating, with little apparent progress on your meal. Using fabric stash is like that, with the added problem of the server coming ’round and putting more salad on your plate now and then.

Some people measure stash in and stash used over a period of time, a calculation that is not interesting to me. Since all my fabric collection is in a fairly small space, it’s easy to see when it’s increased or decreased. Most years in October, I do a “state of the stash” post to review it. This year I didn’t, but the text of the post would be similar: It changed! I have a bit more! or a bit less!

As I look at this quickly-passing year, I do notice how my stash has changed. It is a bit smaller than a year ago, and I didn’t buy a huge amount this year. As always, most of my projects relied heavily on stash rather than new purchases. And as always, my favorite fabric purchases are those I used right away. 

I did buy mostly new for two projects. Georgia’s graduation quilt is from white and light grey, at her request. I rarely use grey, and white is not typical, either, so this was a rather hard quilt to make. I don’t remember the size, but it covers her queen-sized bed nicely, so something like 96″ square.

Georgia’s graduation quilt. Queen-bed sized. May 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Almost all of the grey got used up in Georgia’s quilt. The leftover greys became the back of Heather’s baby quilt. Leftover white went on the front.

Another project that required new fabric was the wedding quilt for Son and his bride. To make Hands and Hearts, I needed to buy solid black Kona for the background, and a variety of batiks for the hands. The green batik in the wreath and corner Celtic knots was from stash, as were the components in the Claddagh ring and the fussy-cut hearts. The hearts actually came from something purchased in 2007, so it’s one of the older pieces in my cupboard.

Hands and Hearts. 29″ x 29″. July 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

It would be hard to pick a specific favorite fabric from 2018. Since I don’t think of myself as a fabric collector, the best fabrics are those that are most useful. Sometimes that means they’re quite ordinary. Solid white, solid black, pastel batiks, grey and white prints. None of these are exciting, but the quilts they made were gifts of love.


Hands and Hearts — A Quilt From the Whole Family

Do you remember this piece? I made it in April as a “sketch,” just something to try forming shapes and colors and lines into a picture in appliqué. It’s a representation of a Claddagh ring. The traditional Irish symbol represents love (heart,) loyalty (crown,) and friendship (hands.)

The pretty heart in the middle was printed like that from fabric I bought eleven years ago. I drew the hands and crown from the basic Claddagh ring symbol. And then I encircled it with a ring of batik. It is all on a black Kona cotton background.

At the time I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, or if I would do anything more. I considered the possibility of creating a small wedding gift for Son and his fiancée. But I didn’t have a plan.


Then about a month before the wedding, I started hankering to make that gift. I thought it would be meaningful to represent the closest family members in a personal way. Including Jim and me, our daughters’ families, and the bride’s parents and sibs’ families, there are 20 of us. Because there were already hands in it, I wanted to use a handprint from each. That required swift help from the bride’s family, as well as from our daughter who lives far away.

I asked for a photo of each family member’s hand, on a piece of white copy paper with all the edges showing. That would allow me to standardize the sizes to scale them as needed. Either hand, left or right, would do just fine. Here is my hand.

I cropped the images to standardize size around the paper, and Jim cleaned them all up to create a good outline for each, and to remove the wrists. (OW!)

He and I agreed on a size as compared to the hands in the Claddagh ring, and as they would appear on my monitor, and we re-scaled them all to that. I flipped each image and then traced each hand as it appeared on my monitor (basically as a light box) onto a separate piece of fusible web.

I’d already decided to use a different fabric for each of the family units (Jim and me, bride’s parents, older daughter and family, etc.) There were six different families, and six different fabrics used for the hands.

Besides manipulating the hand images, there also was the matter of the Claddagh ring. First, the pretty pink heart in the center somehow picked up a minor stain. Second, it was appliquéd on a relatively small piece of fabric. I wasn’t sure how big the quilt would be, but knew I needed more than the 15″ or so that the ring was on. Also, I thought the green batik ring by itself was a little stark, and I wanted to add leaves around it to create a wreath. Ultimately, I redid the Claddagh ring completely on a new background, large enough to contain whatever else came next.

I zigzagged the ring with leaves and the other components of the Claddagh symbol down to the background before dealing with the 20 hands. Then I began arranging the hands. Jim had already done a mock-up in Photoshop for me, so I had a pretty good plan to use. I put the parents’ and siblings’ hands in the first ring around the Claddagh, and then organized the sibs’ partners and children in the outer ring.

Here are a few pictures of the process as it developed. One of the families has seven members, so distributing those hands in a balanced way led many of the other decisions. Also, the tiny hands were paired with larger ones. Even when all the hands were in place, there were gaps that looked awkward. I filled them with more hearts cut from the same fabric as the center heart. Finally, I drew Celtic knots to add to the corners. Click on any picture to open the gallery. 

I knew that I wouldn’t stitch all the hands down with the domestic machine, as I was afraid that manipulating the fabric so much would loosen the adhesive and make the whole piece look worn and tired. Instead, I did raw-edge appliqué around the hands and across the palms when I quilted.

Besides the appliqué-quilting on the hands, I also did a small free-hand design within the black background, and once I got it off the frame, I went back to the domestic machine to zigzag the Celtic knots into submission.

Rather than applying a basic double-fold binding, I faced it with black to give the edge a smoother finish. When it was all done, I used a black Pigma pen on the muslin backing to write the names on each of the hands, and complete the labeling with the name of the quilt, the bride and groom, and the wedding date. Again, click either photo to open the gallery and see larger. 

I love that the quilt comes from the contribution of all the family members, and that Jim worked so closely with me on its design. The style is unique, maybe even quirky, certainly bordering on folk art. It’s also very personal, just as intended.


My running list of finishes for the year:
1. Fierce Little Bear
2. VA hospital quilt
3. VA hospital quilt
4. Charlotte’s Kitty
5. The Old School House
6. Georgia’s graduation quilt
7. Where Are the Birds? (landscape tree quilt)
8. ¡Fiesta!
9. Hands and Hearts
10. Shirt


Wedding Quilts

There is a long tradition of making quilts for a wedding couple, with some quilts created as gifts, and historically, others made by the bride herself. The bride’s quilts likely would include utility quilts — those whose aesthetics were less important than usefulness — as well as some number made for beauty and to exhibit her needlework talents. Gifts from others were markers of the union, intended to be useful but also to create a remembrance of the occasion itself. At different times and within different cultures, there were recognized styles for the gift, and the giver’s best work was displayed.

These days, handmade quilts given as wedding gifts emphasize the beauty of joining lives, just as in the past. However, there is no common form or style in the U.S. for these gifts, which are as personal as the giver and receivers themselves.

I’ve made several quilts as wedding gifts, each intended as an expression of my love and hope for the couple.

Holly and Will‘s was given to them for their wedding in November 2010. I made it at the same time and using the same block style and colors as the next quilt. As you can see, though, the layouts are very different. I think of them both as “mock Amish” due to the colors used. However, the blocks used are not Amish in form, and the fabrics are printed rather than solid. Holly and Will’s quilt is made in the “diamond in a square” layout. One reason I chose this is because both have last names beginning with the letter “K.” If you look at the red border framing the chartreuse border, and use your imagination, you can see two Ks facing each other. I chose the colors after Holly expressed a preference for the plum/purple used as the background.

Friends Steve and Ginny also got married in Novemeber 2010, and as mentioned above, I made this quilt during the same time I made Holly and Will’s. Steve and Ginny are both musicians and professors. Steve’s focus is jazz. When I made this one, I planned to have the sawtooth border go all the way around. However, I messed up the math so badly, it couldn’t be done. So I improvised, appropriate for a jazz quilt. I put the sawtooth border wrapping two of the corners. I also wanted to brighten the edge before the plum binding and kept thinking of adding a touch of the chartreuse to one corner. It’s a touch they really love and point out to people. The quilt hangs on the wall of their living room now, a real honor for me.

When one of my sisters got married five years ago, my other sister and I made a quilt for Marianne and Bruce. Bruce had been a Marine, her son was a Marine, and his two sons were Marines. Between the strong military/patriotic connection and her traditional taste, we chose a muted color scheme that was subtly patriotic. The photo you see here is before it was quilted. It is big enough to be used on a king-sized bed, though they currently have a queen bed.

I have four older brothers and sisters, and three of them got married in the last six years. This is a quilt made with my oldest sister. We didn’t have prior notice that Greg and Kathy were getting married. They just up and got married! We had already begun a quilt for them, though, so we had a head start. This quilt is made using the maple leaf block, and all the fabrics except the background are prints with birds, feathers, leaves, or mushrooms on them, very appropriate for two people who love to be outside.

The other of those siblings to get married was my brother Jerry. In May of 2008, also with no notice to family members, Jerry and Lucy got married. Since my sister and I were already working on the quilt for Marianne and Bruce, a known event, we continued that and decided to make a quilt for Jerry and his bride once we were done with the first one. At Christmas 2009 we presented this beautiful quilt, one of my favorites ever. Unfortunately Lucy flaked out and left him, and they’ve since divorced. He kept the quilt. He didn’t want it, didn’t want to use it at first. But he does use it now.

As you can see, these are all very different, made with the receivers in mind with design and fabric choices.

Have you made any quilts as a wedding gift? What happened to the quilt if the couple divorced? Do you have any upcoming weddings for which you plan to quilt?