Friday, September 21, 2012

My Spiral Quilt--Serendipity

We posted our latest quilts on Material Mavens on Saturday the 15th. Our theme this time was Spiral. This might well be the most striking batch of quilts yet!  The composite of all the quilts emphasizes this; arranged together, they are eye-catching.

I had had every intention to paper-piece a spiral, and I was planning to use black and white fabrics with punches of yellow and red, perhaps.  I had made some preliminary sketches, and kept mulling the plan over.  But I had another project that I needed to finish first, a batik wall hanging.  I needed a yellow, so I reached into my Elfa drawer of yellow batiks, and pulled out this one.  Not really paying attention to the design on it, I cut off the necessary strips.  But when I was refolding it, suddenly the spirals jumped out at me.  Eureka!  I could forget the meticulous paper piecing idea and use this fabric.

So I cut it to size, backed it with polyester felt, and then began the pleasant task of embroidering with red perle cotton thread.  I followed all the major spiral lines with the simple running stitch.  I love to embroider, and working on this quilt was pure delight!

When I finished embroidering, I realized that the quilt desperately needed more.  Then I caught sight of the jar of old red buttons that I had purchased once at a junk store for $5.  Perfect!  I spilled out the buttons, sorted them by size, and then arranged them on two of the spirals and one partial spiral.  I put a bit of fabric glue under each, to secure it and keep the sorted buttons in order.  Then I sewed them each down with yellow perle cotton thread.

Finding the fabric printed with spirals was serendipitous, and spying the jar of buttons was as well.  Thus the name of the quilt!  I toyed with Eureka!, which would have been a fun name, too.

Another idea I had toyed with and rejected was to make the traditional block variously called Snail's Trail and Virginia Reel.  I decided to make this block and use it for the back.  As you can see, I used some of the yellow spiral batik and then a red fabric, also printed with spirals.  So here it is:

This is a close-up, so that you can better see the old buttons, which
I think are really charming!


  1. There is so much to be said for the serendipity or grace in the making of art. Always those surprises like finding the commercial fabric that fit the assignment. I also like to make nods to traditional quilting as you performed on the reverse of your quilt; and the color matching of the buttons and thread with the darker print are perfection. What lovely embroidery stitches and I learned about the polyester felt backing which I must try. Oh! I just spied the spirals in the red fabric. Live and learn to see more.

  2. Very striking,Alice. I think I like these designs better than representational art quilts. You are amazing! I spent my afternoon writing my column for "Gifted Child Today." I used the op-ed piece by Chester Finn which was in the NYT a day or two ago. I think I am going to have to resign from this task since I am no longer really "in the classroom" and won't have that much touch with teachers who are.

  3. Alice, your quilts are certainly a work of art. Congratulations. I have so much respect for this work. I love the use of buttons on the spiral. In case this goes through anonymously, I am your good friend Beverly. Take care. Take good care

  4. Alice, this is beautiful, and I love the "serendipity" of your decision-making, little surprises as you developed your creative approach. I love the colors too. ss