Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quilt Fabric Shopping for my Son in Amish Country

My teenage son has outgrown the choo choo quilt I made for his sixth birthday. Last September when we were visiting Amish Country we visited Village Quilts...
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...a gallery of Amish quilts handsewn by a local Amish lady named Rachel Pellman. The stunning craftsmanship inspired my son to ask for a new quilt. A star quilt. Oh I liked that idea! It would be perfect! Not only would it be manly but also simple. I've always wanted to sew one of these Amish quilts. I asked about a pattern book. Besides I really wanted an Amish quilt book full of their secrets and tips since they are reknown for their fine work. We were told to go across the street to The Old Country Store.
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This is the book of Rachel Pellman's patterns that I purchased. For some reason, the quilt in the upper right hand corner was the quilt I was planning on sewing for my son, with a hand stitched star in the center. That simplicity of quilt is all about showcasing the elaborate handstitching in the various fields. I had envisioned this for nearly a year with authentic Amish wool fabric. I thought we had discussed this and agreed to the design.
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Here it is a year later and I suggested we go away to Lancaster County for the weekend, for a relaxing visit. While there I wanted to get the fabric for my son's quilt for a Christmas present. That won a vote of approval so off we went to The Old Country Store (pictured above) was our next stop. Upstairs they have a free quilt museum of gorgeous quilts. Downstairs they have a fabric shop full of a rainbow of fabrics. Be sure to open the link and the slide show will eventually showcase the colorful eye candy. I told my son to show me which colors he'd like best.

It wasn't long before I realized my mistake. My son hadn't wanted that simple quilt but an elaborate Lone Star Quilt (not sure of the Amish name for it, some quilt patterns have more than one name). More like this...
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Of course he doesn't want all the surrounding stuff, but the star itself in the center is basically what he wants. A giant star with a million pieces of color. Of course he doesn't want something simple! I convinced him I could use this pattern to make what he wants. It's a fun book full of many great looking quilts as well as quaint pictures of the Amish in Lancaster County.

After finally settling on the pattern, it was time to choose fabric. My son had no idea what to choose, so I showed him combo kits of selected fabrics, showing him how colors go together. He liked the colorful marble fabric pack the best, so I sent him to the back corner where all the marbled fabrics were.

Then we began the agonizing choice of figuring out yardage per color to achieve the quilt top he wanted. He wants the Lone Star in the center. I suggested smaller stars in each corner. Then we'll edge the quilt with strips. I think I'll even have enough fabric to do prairie points on the edges. The problem was that following the pattern in the above picture incorporates more than we need for the edges, Even more so, the finished quilt above is 73" square but I need more of the basic fabric for a twin size bed. We agonized over yardage amounts which depended on how many colors we used, then we had to interpret that into a twin size quilt. Not easy!

We kept analyzing colors, moving piles. putting colors back, trying new, to get a look my son would like. I kept suggested a couple of very light colors to make the mediums and darks, to which he was most drawn, to pop. That is one of the greatest downfalls of a quilt, that when choosing colors, quilters need to choose a range of lights, mediums and darks. However, most quilters choose two of the three, which leaves the effect a bit flat. Quilters usually choose darks and mediums, or lights and mediums. By incorporating the third, the colors pop. I assured my son I would not use too much of the lights, that they would be used minimally to highlight his favorite colors.

Finally we carried our bolts to the cutting table and the ladies asked if we had it all figured out. I think so. I explained the scenario and they gave me a few tips. Turns out I bought too much of the binding, 2 yards instead of 1. Oh well that's never a problem for a quilter. The extra can always be applied to prairie points!

Considering all the fabrics I had cut, I began to fear that I would forget which colors were for which part of the design. I said something about that out loud and the ladies quite understood. They gave me some items to label the purpose of each fabric, so I pushed them over to my son. It was his quilt and he knew better than me. Well almost. I'd say, "Label that one 'binding.' That IS what quilters call it." etc, etc, etc. The ladies were laughing, my son was laughing...because he would otherwise argue the term for one he'd prefer to make up that would make more sense to him.

Here are his color selections. The ladies were raving over his color choices.
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I purchased these for me. My daughter loves crazy quilts, which were popular at the turn of the century. I know the basics of them but this book looked especially great.

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I chose "calm" to help some of my future quilts pop. Even I tend to collect mediums and darks.

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Then I sat on a bench on the porch and enjoyed the calm and quaint Amish life trotting by.

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