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Evening Star Quilts

October 12, 2006

Three little quilts I gave away are now unexpectedly back in my possession. I’d donated them for a charity fund raising auction that one of my coworkers was planning in connection with running a marathon (like the breast cancer walk, but different). I guess the auction didn’t happen or the quilts didn’t sell, because they appeared on my desk a few weeks ago. Color me surprised–the race was back in spring of 2004. I suppose I could ask my coworker what the story is, but that would take the mystery out of what my quilts were doing these past two years. They don’t look any the worse for wear, whatever it was.

Two of the quilts are part of a series; seeing them again has inspired me to share the whole series here. The work grew out of an offhand comment the teacher made in a class I was taking based on Color and Cloth (it’s a great book, especially if you have a large stash to play with when doing the exercises). There was a page in the text that had four Evening Star blocks outlined on it, and the instructor said something like there were a lot of possibilities there, but we didn’t do anything with that page in class at all. After the class was over, I decided I’d play with that layout and made a small quilt top. Before I got around to quilting it, an added class session was announced and I signed up, only to find out when I got there that I’d already done the work, as the instructor decided to follow up on the same comment. I ended up starting another top based on the same layout and thus a series was born. I worked on these little quilts on and off for a couple years and dubbed the series Evening Star Explorations (abbreviated ESE), a name that now strikes me as rather more grand than the work merits.


ESE I–December
This is the one I began in the additional class, which was held in November or December of 1990 so Christmas was on my brain, thus the red and green. I didn’t actually finish it until January (1991), so the name I gave it is perhaps misleading. I was happy with all the variety I got into it: a stripe, a plaid, a large scale floral, a small scale geometric, a dot, and two shades of solid red. No way I’d have done that before I took the class. I quilted it by hand in white thread, almost all in the ditch, which is a good thing because my stitches are both big and wobbly (not that they’re much better now, but now I know about machine quilting). This was the first time I used the alphabet embroidery cartridge that came with my sewing machine to make the label; before this I’d embroidered my name and the date by hand right on the backing of the quilt.


ESE II–Untitled
Completed in June, 1991. This one has no name because I don’t like it that much. I wanted to do a piece that showed four definite blocks and used pastels, which I guess I accomplished, though it isn’t really that pastel. I hand quilted this one with peach-colored thread, using a stencil to mark a swirly sort of flower in each of the big squares but sticking to the ditch other than that.


ESE III–Autumn
Completed in August, 1991. This is the top I made before the additional class session. I took it to that session and the instructor remarked on how I’d added interest by dividing the plaid triangles into two and piecing them. Yeah, that’s right–wait, no, I did it that way because it didn’t occur to me to treat them as one piece; I was still thinking four blocks as far as the piecing even though I treated them as one for the design. This was the first thing I ever machine quilted. I didn’t know about using clear monofilament, so there’s some lovely orange to show off my wobbly lines. I did a better good job with the metallic thread, though. I hadn’t yet gotten the Hera marker I now use, so I marked the straight lines when needed by using a hard plastic spatula. (Detail here.)


ESE IV–Tiger, Tiger
Also completed in August, 1991. To fit the big cats in, I made lozenge shapes by combining center squares of the blocks with two of the side triangles and cutting that shape in one piece. I machine quilted, using black in the bobbin in the center section but switching to blue to match the back midway through. I did my first stippling on this, and man did I make it tiny. (Details here and here.)


ESE V–Under the Sea
Completed in November, 1991. One of my goals with this was to be less concerned with radial symmetry. At least that’s what I wrote at the time per the folder of stuff I’ve been keeping all these years in preparation for doing my quilt documentation scrapbook or notebook or whatever. I also wanted to work with my favorite color, purple. I hand quilted in an arc pattern, the size of the largest arc being determined by the compass we had on hand. For the binding, I changed fabrics at the midpoint of each side to better blend with the design; this made me feel very clever. (Detail here.)


ESE VI–Jungle Elegance
Completed in January, 1992. This was inspired by three fabrics displayed together at a quilt shop in Ann Arbor; I loved the purple and was challenged by the yellowish green. Hand quilted in purple thread, mostly in the ditch but also outlining the leaves in the large squares. The hanging sleeve is the first I made to allow extra room for the rod. This quilt now lives with Lisa and Frank, who won it after I donated it to the JournalCon fundraising effort; they cleverly decided to hang it on the diagonal.


ESE VII–Untitled
Completed in June, 1992. If I gave this one a name, I don’t remember what it was. It uses some of the same fabrics as the lap quilt I made to coordinate with the couch in our family room. (Detail here.)


Completed in October, 1992. I don’t know that I gave this one a title at the time, either. I’m calling in Japan now because the main fabric came from that country (though I bought it in Saline, Michigan, this being long before I went to Japan myself). I used an asymmetrical layout because based on my limited exposure to Japanese art I thought that it used a lot of asymmetry. Though I started with the same initial layout as the others, this one ended up with no complete Evening Stars in it at all; the closest I got was the partial one in the upper right. (Detail here.)


ESE IX–Charm
Completed in December, 1992. For this last in the series, I used triangles leftover from the other quilts–some of the fabrics appear in the earlier quilts and some are the ones that didn’t make the cut. This is a charm quilt, meaning each triangle is a different fabric. I started with a layout idea I’d gotten from a larger quilt I’d seen in one of the AQS Quilt Engagement calendars and played with the pieces until I ended up with this arrangement.

I still have a bunch of copies of the basic layout page from the book (this was before the days of quilting software). Maybe someday I’ll continue the series, but I have so many other things I want to work on that it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

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