2015 Quilty Resolution--January Journal Quilt Done

So the one thing I've always wanted to do that I hadn't done yet--my 2015 Quilty Resolution challenge--is to make one journal quilt per month in 2015. 

Several years ago, there was a national quilt challenge named "Journal Quilts."  I was first introduced to the Journal Quilt project when I went to the International Quilt Festival in Houston with my mother in 2005 (if I can believe the festival pin that's sitting in my sewing cabinet). I fell in love. I spent more time in that exhibit than in any other part of the show. I even bought the book. I highly recommend it--I've spent a lot of time with that book over the years.

I'm using my journal quilts as experimental fun. My personal rules are:

  • Each one will be 8 1/2" x 11" (based on the original Journal Quilt challenge size).
  • Each one will be an opportunity to experiment with something I've not done before or want more experience with.
  • I won't take too much time with them--they'll be spontaneous and fun, even if they ever end up dealing with more serious themes.
  • I won't worry about the product, just the process. If it turns out looking like cr*p but I had fun and learned something, it's all good.

For January's journal quilt, I really wanted to try my hand at using sheers. I've seen it done, I've read about it a lot, I've just never done it myself. Just as I was starting to think about it, I saw an article on sheer collages in Art Quilting Studio magazine Winter 2015 (the same issue that our very own #twilter Carol McDowell is in!) and I was off and running.

For my image inspiration, all I had to do was remember the glorious sunsets I'd seen in Burma, especially in Bagan. It's probably the most famous tourist spot in Burma and I can see why although my personal favorite was somewhere else, but that'll wait for another blog post. We spent one evening on top of Shewsandaw Pagoda--famous for its sunset-viewing opportunities.

Shwesandaw Pagoda--all of the sunset photos are mine; the photo of the steps up the pagoda was taken by one of my friends.

Shwesandaw Pagoda--all of the sunset photos are mine; the photo of the steps up the pagoda was taken by one of my friends.

Rather than lock myself into trying to represent a single image, I didn't even look at the photos before I started working on my journal quilt. I wanted something that would capture the shadowing of the landscape, and also give some sense of the immensity of that pagoda and the insanely steep/high stairs you had to climb to the top. So I mentally compiled all the images in my memory and abstracted a bit from there.

And thus: January's Journal Quilt "Sunset in Bagan" is complete.

In the name of "getting over myself," I didn't sketch anything out ahead of time. First, I fused backing to a piece of batting, and then I put fusible on the front of the batting as well. I free-hand cut most of the fabric pieces although I did loosely sketch the pagoda shape on the cloth, but in cutting it I didn't really follow my own lines so it was still spontaneous. Then I just laid things out as they looked good to me, and did a quick fuse-tack to get it all in place. The fabrics for the background and pagoda are all my own hand-dyes.

I used a piece of nubby silk for the sun and highlights on the sky fabrics. Finally: the sheers. I only ended up using two as I didn't want to entirely lose the fabrics behind. There's a darker burgundy sheer that I layered in a way that reminded me of the mists drifting through the valley--you can see a couple of strips of it in the photo on the left. IT's got a beautiful gold sheen to it that just very barely comes out in the finished product. 

Then I layered a very light gold sheer with a bit of sparkle to it over the whole top, again because it reminded me of the mist on the valley. I used a fusible spray on the burgundy sheer because I was afraid my Misty Fuse would show through. I was a little concerned when I first put the spray on but it did dry entirely invisibly. I didn't fuse the overlay sheer--just pinned it to hold it in place until I quilted it. 

For quilting, once again, I made myself just haul off and start quilting lines. Oh, but I wanted to draw it out first! Still, the name of the game was "experimental fun" so I just did something that represented the stairs and the different levels on the pagoda that you could stand on to view the sunset (we were on the top one). The background just got swirlies and lines to show rolling ground and a slight breeze.

Finally, I did a zig-zag to stabilize the outside edge and then couched yarn as a binding*. One pass of yarn looked kind of skimpy, so I went through a second time with another round of yarn. Bingo! I really like how that turned out.

So when I compared my finished product to the photos, did I get the shape of the pagoda exactly right? Nope. Do the stairs really stand out in my quilting as much as they do in the photo? Nope. 

But do I care? Nope. 

I had a ball. And I got to play with my hand-dyes and with sheers. And I learned a few things in the process. 

So the January Journal Quilt experiment is a success!

*Thanks to Carol Ann Waugh's Stupendous Stitching class on Craftsy--I first learned this technique when I did her class last year. (The link to her class is an affiliate link--thanks for supporting this podcast and blog! The second link is to my review of the class.)