Ends and means

I can say, finally, after five years and seven months:

Pentatonic is finished.Pentatonic is finished.

Hello, Pentatonic. You're done. You're going home now.

My original, crazy, massively oversized Penrose tiling quilt is done at last. It carries all the imperfections of my first stabs at English paper piecing, as well as every bit of love I could bury into it over the course of five eventful years.

From "Closet Thoughts," May 2011:

As it turned out, the tornado (a nasty, nasty EF-4, barely missing EF-5 status) tracked just a bit north of me, about a half-mile or so. Not much, given that the beast was about a quarter- to half-mile wide. I didn’t know that at the time, though, and in the space of those seemingly-eternal seconds I had plenty of time to think. I asked myself the question anyone would ask: “Any regrets?”

Mine made me chuckle: “I wish I’d finished Pentatonic. I wish I’d finished Seven Brides. I wanted to prove they could be done.”

This quilt has shouldered much in the five years it awaited completion.

An accident, a bad one, to a loved one.
His coma, and a range of ICUs (neurological, trauma) and hospitals.
Many months of his extensive physical and occupational rehab.
A job change.
The Hackleburg F5 tornado.
Much travel for work.
A promotion.
Losing quilt cats #1 and #2.
Buying a home in another state.
Cross-country move.
Gaining two new quilt cats.
New boyfriend, and his additional two quilt cats.
New life.

Packing the partially-completed top as part of my cross-country move caused me sadness and embarrassment -- "all these years and STILL not finished" -- and due to under-buying the original fabric, I believed it might never be finished. 

But … let's begin at the beginning.

Jacob introduced me to Penrose tilings through instant message late one afternoon, and our discussions then and since have completely altered my interest in quiltmaking. They were always shown in two colors, and I thought, "What if I could technically keep my design a solid plus a single, creatively cut, print fabric?"

I settled on two fabrics from Kaufman's "Chasing The Rainbow II" line:

I wanted swirls of color in 'Pentatonic,' but I didn't want to attempt using different fabrics in different areas. Instead, I spotted these two Kaufman fabrics. They have irregular color blotches, which means the cut diamonds (the fat ones in this pattern) will be gently variegated. Once cut, I can sort them roughly by color, and get my desired effect.

My intent is to have the skinny diamonds be solid black, to both contrast these fabrics and fade into the background. I want the pattern of the tiling to be center stage on this quilt.Kaufman's 'Chasing the Rainbow'

and colored in this graph to determine what I wanted to do:

This is seven iterations of a P3 Penrose tiling, with radial lines in red to help you see the symmetry.

More about what I'm thinking about doing with it, and how I got the idea, at domesticat.net/2010/03/penrose-quilting The entry includes vector versions you can tinker with in Inkscape or Illustrator.Empty graph

I chose the portion of the infinite tiling to display, and decided white made the best background color: 

Funny ... I was so sure this needed to have a black background ... and now I'm not sure. I look at this and think about how amazing it would be if the colors flowed evenly instead of being chopped up like this.

It gives me shivers. I'm on to something here.Screenshot on white

In the week of power outage after the Hackleburg tornado hit down the street from me, I started cutting out fabric for this quilt, and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers:

Where I've spent my powerless nights - candlelight in my new sewing room, cutting fabric.A dark, quiet workspace

I tested a LOT of different star ideas from the fabrics, and found some I liked:

25 stars done. My pile of cut-but-unassembled pieces for this quilt is starting to get a bit more manageable.

I am thinking very very hard about disassembling the green-ringed star to get some green stars. It was a neat idea, but I think the pattern would be better served by having cohesively-patterned stars from all sections of the fabric, and leaving the borders between them to be variegated and random.

I think.

Check back again tomorrow to see if I've changed my mind.Stars complete: 25

I always knew I wanted the glowy green stars to be the center medallion of the quilt. Tenzing, AKA Quilt Cat #1, assisted:

It rarely fails; set down a piece of fabric and Tenzing flops on it with a palpable sense of exhaustion.

The pieces are fairly large. Tenzing is 13 pounds, for comparison -- not a small cat.Partial eclipse

I traveled a lot for work, and this project went everywhere with me:

sewing peacefully on the hotel bed.another hotel, another Sunday

and when I got home, I would bolt in my progress to the rest of the top, one section at a time, 

It's FINALLY starting to come together. Now I need to start filling in the holes in the middle. Please, please let me have enough fabric to finish it the way I want...Structure happens.

while updating my little schematic so I could see how much I had left to go.

DSC_4418View on Flickr

I stopped soon after this point, though, because I knew I had a problem. I was running out of fabric:

I kept a saved search on eBay for it for a couple of years, and eventually began to despair of ever finishing the project. I started making stars that were the best of what fabric I still had. Then, in May 2014, ten yards of the fabric I needed appeared for sale on eBay. I bought it all, and the project was back on. As I made progress with the luxury of spare fabric, I realized I would eventually want to go back and fix a few stars made during the time of scarcity that I never would’ve placed in the quilt if I’d had any other choice. (February 2015, "Pick-Up Time")

Those ten yards let me start fussy-cutting, and saved the project.

To get the five specific looks for each section of Pentatonic, I had to fussy-cut specific parts of the fabric. The remainder gets used for the pieces whose exact color don't matter. To me, there's something comical about the leftovers.The leftovers

After constant use and reuse, my paper templates were showing signs of wear, just like me: 

As the five-year Pentatonic project draws to a close, I am tidying and putting away my materials. These papers, which had numerous pieces of fabric basted around them, show the needle marks of serving as the edge guides for many, many seams.

I am finding these papers all over my house. They're as ubiquitous as dust bunnies.Five years of hard use

Kolohe, my newest quilt cat, was undeterred by my slow progress:

#Quilt #cat.#Quilt #cat.

and when I'd finally finished the top, and found the longarm quilter I wanted to use, I gave her a printed chart to help her see the pattern. (A nod of respect to Nancy at justquiltingpdx.com because her work was beautiful and appropriate!) 

After finishing sewing, I printed out my original guide, marked symmetry lines, and colored in the groups of stars to serve as a guide for quilting.

A photo of the almost-finished top (a few stars were replaced after the photo was taken) is below.Pentatonic, a quilter's guide

When she sent me this photo as a teaser, so I'd know she was almost done with it, I was so excited I immediately shared it out for everyone to see:

My quilter shot this photo as Pentatonic was being removed from the longarm. Quilting is done!Quilting is done!

It's beautifully quilted, honoring the pattern and texture of the design. White thread on white fabrics, color-matching thread on the others. It was labor-intensive and worth every penny: 

My quilter sent me a photo of the quilting of Pentatonic in progress.

Some quick answers:  

* it's 100' x 100' square. 
* English paper pieced, so hand-pieced. 
* It's a Penrose tiling. 
* Yes, it took a while. My mother will tell you I am EXTREMELY stubborn.
* No, it's not my first Penrose tiling quilt, but it is my largest.Quilting in progress

Jacob and I met up for a five-day visit plus sewing retreat, and as part of it, we took over the living room of the place we were staying, and oh-so-carefully trimmed Pentatonic to final size.

Because everyone trims the final side of a quilt they worked five years on by lying with their feet in the kitchen, right? Right?Final side

I, of course, immediately sat on it afterward to demonstrate scale: 

Quilter included to show scale.Quilter not included.

and once I'd finished hand-binding it, we pinned it to my sleeve and photographed it properly out in my courtyard:

Pentatonic is finished.Pentatonic is finished.

It is quilted with Easter eggs all through it. My home state. Jacob's home state. An outline of Australia. Cats. The names of Jacob's wife and children. A message from me. It is as intensely personal as you'd expect of a 96" x 96" (2.44m²) hand-sewn quilt. I'm halfway through the promise I made myself while huddling in the closet in 2011: I finished Pentatonic. It goes home with Jacob today, and if the stars align, and we submit it in time, it should be displayed at the Sisters Quilt Show next summer.

Go home to Minnesota, Ms. Pentatonic. You have people to keep warm. You are no longer my Guilt Quilt. You are just an object to be loved and snuggled under; an object that serves as a reminder that even in the lowest period of my life, I chose to continue making beautiful things. It took five years, but I am finding my way back to warmth and light, and Pentatonic is finally going home.

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Amazing quilt and a wonderful story. Well done!