Quilt festival : the story of 'star stories'

I'm hoping nobody minds that I do this, because this is old news to anyone who has been reading my sporadic entries this year, but I wanted to make a single, combined post about my quilt 'star stories' for an online quilt festival.  It seems there is an online quilting community, of which I am not really part of.  Perhaps it is time.

The rules for the quilt festival ask that we write a post about our quilt that we're entering, and provide photos.  The problem is that I've done this already, in two separate posts.  Forgive me if I combine the two of them together to tell the story of 'star stories' in a single post.  It, and plenty of photos, are after the jump.

'Star stories' was a gift that came about from a look.  My first quilt was given to Mandy, a coworker-friend, at her wedding shower, and when I did, a couple of people joked gently that Lexie was next.  I noticed her reaction, and realized something:  Lexie would never, ever ask for a quilt for her wedding -- which, of course, meant I would do one.

I had found a star pattern, 'cosmosdust,' here and loved it.  Since Mandy, Lexie, and I were all employees of the same library system, whose logo included books and stars, a star pattern seemed perfect.

Lexie has worked at this library system since she was a teenager.  She's well-known and well-liked, and it occurred to me that I might be able to get other people in on the project, if I just asked.

This is where I turn to my entry of January 2009, 'entrusted' --

"This quilt presents a new challenge for me:  I've had almost no input on the choice of fabrics.  I contacted a group of people who all knew the recipient.  I explained that I was going to make a quilt for this person, regardless of outside contributions, but if they wanted to contribute fabric I'd be happy to take it.

I don't have photos yet of the sheer volume of fabric that landed on my cutting table, but it was impressive.  I expected a few fabrics, but I'm presented with the very real possibility of being able to do the quilt top entirely through donations.

This has proven to be more of an emotional responsibility than I expected.  While some of the people who contributed fabric bought new fabric specifically for this project, in colors they thought the recipient would like, many of these fabrics are old.  Many of them come with stories.  Several people fished out fabrics and spoke words like, "This came from a dress that my grandmother made me," or "I used this fabric to decorate my nursery before my first child was born."  The one that had special resonance for me: fabric from college curtains that the submitter's mother (who died some number of years ago) made for her.

I hesitated for a moment and almost didn't take that fabric.  It felt too special, too precious.  I've buried a parent.  I understand this.

These are people's lives I'm stitching with here: grandparents, parents, siblings, children.  I don't know the stories of all of these fabrics, but I'm aware that by virtue of the nature of the project, the stories must exist.  Some of the print patterns are new, but some are clearly decades old; some of the fabric pieces had that well-worn softness that only comes from use and love.  They've been somewhere.  They belonged to someone. It's incredibly easy to wonder if a little of the love and care and goodwill that came from their prior uses, perhaps, lingers.

I find myself hoping that I'll be able to do these fabrics justice."

They aren't stars yet, but they will be.  Soon.  (Each stack contains the pieces needed for 20 stars.)Currently only a nebula

The JeffSpouse can attest to the fabric (the equivalent of nearly three full garbage bags) that took up our kitchen.  I cut star after star after star, trying to pick fabrics from all over the color spectrum, trusting that somehow, I would make it work.

A rough sorting of all the stars, first by hue and then by intensity. Not sure what to do next.

Yes, I had to stand on a chair to get this shot. Quiet, you.

(Photo has notes; if you're not seeing the original on flickr, you're missing the snark.)So now what?

I didn't know what I had.  I didn't know how to arrange it.  So I turned to what I trust:  my camera rig and Adobe software.  I photographed every star and sorted them by color, and asked myself, what do I do?

This screenshot contains a scaled-down version of every star currently slated to appear in the quilt.  There's no particular order here, but it does let you see which fabrics got used the most.

Now all I need is a moment of inspiration...This will all make sense in the end

It took several revisions to get to this point, but when I reached the final row here, I knew I had it.

I believe this is final. Instead of making it another row longer, I opted to add another column; I liked the dimensions better this way. That means I need to go back in the stash and cut another 18 pieces. I felt the darker sections were rock-solid; it's my favorite part of the color spectrum and I knew I was gravitating to it as I cut. I've scattered the empty spots so that I'll be forced to pick a variety of fabrics, and tasked myself with adding more very-pale fabrics. I was nervous about their usability, so I didn't cut as many as I should've. 

If you're reading this on solecist, know that this photo has notes; go to the original on flickr to see them.We have a plan, sir.

I called it 'star stories' from the beginning, because that's what it was.  Virtually every star was donated fabric, much of it used, all of it precious, and every bit of it had a story.  I also had a deadline, though:  Lexie's wedding shower.  I had promised that I would unveil the quilt top that night, come hell or high water.

Instead, what came was a quilt sprint.  My laptop stayed at my kitchen table as a guide.

Using the schematic (yes, the image here in this gallery!) to know which corner pieces to insert.Quilt sprint, night #3: Let your MacBook be your guide

By night number four, even the cats were exhausted...

...and that's just me, let alone the cat.Quilt sprint, night #4: Sleeeeepy.

...and our front room was taken over by the half-assembled pieces:

I can tell the end of the project is near because both couches have been consumed by the quilt.  (Nom.)Quilt sprint, night #4: room thoroughly consumed

An hour before the bridal shower was supposed to start, I pulled the quilt top off of the machine.  It lacked the last, lightest row, but it did not matter.  From the entry 'This is why' -- here is what happened next.  Lexie learned about her quilt, and the women who contributed fabric and made it possible told their star stories.  Childhood dresses.  Childhood costumes.  College curtains.  Fabric shared with other wedding quilts.  Nursery fabric.  Gifts for grandchildren. 

I got a bit of a surprise tonight when I checked my camera's card. I knew someone had picked up my camera during Lexie's shower, the shower in which I showed 'star stories' for the first time, but I never checked to see what photos were on it...

From left to right: Melissa, Sarah, Stephenie, Lauren, Susan, Sam.Librarians

Initial unveiling

Connie's stars were on the paler side of the quilt, which unfortunately you can't see well in this photo.Connie points out her star

Group examination

Sarah and Lexie both wondering where THIS fabric came from. I think it was from my stash. It looks like something I'd buy.Funky stars!

Sarah and Lexie discuss whose stars are whose.

Some fabrics were old, and some, like the blue-and-brown stars I'm pointing to, were chosen specifically for this quilt.  These were Mandy's stars.Mandy's stars

Me pointing out the fabric Mandy contributed

At this point, I'm loopy and grinning and can barely believe the thing actually came together.  I'm even willing to forgive the last row not going on in time (notice the bottom row isn't finished)Babble, babble, babble.

Me, clearly brain dead and giddy that the damn thing came together in time.

Sarah points at a star whose fabric is shared with Mandy's wedding quilt.Unveiling: Sarah

Pointing out fabric shared between this quilt and Mandy's wedding quilt

The quilt sprint was not easy. The reaction made it worth every moment.

It was displayed at her wedding reception, along with many of the photos I took of assembly along the way.

'Star stories,' plus many of the photos in the set explaining how the quilt came to be, were all exhibited at Lexie & Steve's wedding reception.On display at the wedding reception

After the wedding, the quilt top went off to be quilted, and is currently receiving its last touch:  it has been sent out to one of our small, rural branches for hand-binding by a few of our librarians who weren't able to get star fabric to me in time to participate in the first part of the quilt. 

The full photoset is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/domesticat/sets/72157613043153779/

It was not the showiest quilt I did in 2009.  That would be 'red shift.'  Nor would it be the funniest; that would be 'serendipity.'  Nor would it be the one closest to my color taste; that would be 'Lights Over Lothlorien.' But it is probably my best.


I love your star quilt.  Absolutely beautiful.  Great colors & design.  I also love all your photos.  Very cheerful.  And your cat is purrfect.




WOW, that is one fantastic quilt! Love the different stories and contributions, am sure this will be treasured.

What a huge job!  But you suceeded to put it all together brillinatly, so much so that it looks like it all just fell into place.  Thank-you so much for sharing this quilt!


Your story is just lovely! I am sure that Lexie recognizes all of the love and effort that went into making her quilt. You did a beautiful job, and should be very proud of your quilt sprint (I definitely don' think I could have done that in that amount of time)!

Oh my, I am speechless :)

I just read the story for the quilt. How beautiful and thoughtful. Someone making a quilt, with others donating special fabric, just doesn't happen much anymore. I hope Lexie realizes how lucky she is! It's a great story and looking at the pieces, I'm amazed how you put it together. The colors! and it all workstogether so bewwwwtifully. Thanks for sharing that, Amy.

That quilt is amazing! And suck a great story too! Stars are my favorite.

This is one occasion when the story competes with the quilt.  *S*

What a wonderful job you did.

That's a quilt novel, not just a quilt story, amazing and wonderful.  I loved it all.  What a great adventure and lasting set of memories you will all have together.  Thank you for sharing this beautiful star story!

What a fabulous story! It really touched me while I was reading it. :) Not only is it a wonderful story, it's a simply gorgeous quilt! Thanks for sharing! 

This is incredible!

I love seeing how you designed the quilt on with the computer software. What a huge undertaking! I'm so impressed, and I love the story. 

This is a touching, inspiring and endearing story...your quilt is truly beautiful and amazingly special.  And I don't think you should consider yourself NOT a part of the online quilting community...I've seen and admired your work on Flickr, you are a quilt artist, and you belong in this community!



What a beautiful story.  It turned out fantastic. I'm sure she will cherish it!

Great quilt with a wonderful story.

Oh my goodness, what an incredible story.  Thanks for sharing.

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Wow, this is an absolutely incredible quilt. What a huge amount of time and effort you put into it and what a beautiful story behind it.

[...] This star quilt by domesticat is a) incredible and b) has a lovely story behind it… [...]