Saturday, March 5, 2022

Of Megan's Lone Star Quilt, Artful Rule-Breaking, and Coco Chanel

Hello and happy weekend!  I am so excited that I can finally share my client Megan's stunning Lone Star quilt with you today!  Waiting to post photos is the hardest part of my job.

Megan's 60 x 61 Lone Star, Quilted by Yours Truly

I know everyone loves seeing the "Before and After Quilting" photos, so here's what Megan's quilt top looked like when she brought it to me to for quilting:

Lone Star Top Before Quilting

There is so much that I love about this quilt.  I love that, instead of using a rainbow of different colors as seen in traditional Lone Star quilts, Megan used a mix of black and white prints from Tula Pink and Kaffe Fassett, obscuring the seam lines between the diamond patches so the prints flow into one another in a way that feels fresh and interesting, somehow simultaneously subtle and bold.  

I love the unexpected pairing of the black and white prints with a saturated salmon pink solid for the background, and I love the ring of pink diamonds that disconnects the outer points of the star as though they are radiating out from the center.  

Design Considerations

I don't believe that there is ever just one "right" or "best" way to quilt every quilt top.  If I had twelve identical quilt tops I could quilt them twelve different ways that would all look amazing, in totally different ways.  My goal is to learn my client's personal style and preferences well enough that I can predict (and suggest) the quilting that they would like best, if they were somehow able to preview a dozen different versions of their finished quilt before making a selection.  

Custom quilting, with separate designs within the star and in the background, is an obvious, traditional way to quilt a Lone Star.  Often you'll see big feather wreaths quilted in the four corners of the background, as seen in this glorious Lone Star/Bethlehem Star quilt from the International Quilt Museum:

83 x 83 Lone Star by Unknown Maker circa 1930-1950, International Quilt Museum

(I did tweak that photo a little to try to make it easier for y'all to see the white-on-white feather wreath quilting.  To learn more about this quilt, you can find the original photo and details of its provenance on the International Quilt Museum's web site here).  

So...  I could definitely have done a contemporary reinterpretation of typical historic Lone Star quilting by doing some fanciful free-flowing feather wreaths or garlands in the background to complement the modern color palette of this top.  (In fact, a saw a photo in my Instagram feed yesterday from Jennifer Evans of Peaceful Quilting that was quilted that way, with continuous curve quilting of each diamond patch in the star and gorgeous feathers and pebbling quilted into the white background.  Check out that beautiful Lone Star quilt on Jennifer's IG here).  

Custom quilting by its very nature serves to reinforce and emphasizes the structure of the patchwork seam lines and I felt like that would detract from the modern art vibe I was getting from Megan's quilt.  Custom quilting would have visually "locked in place" the various black and white prints that had been artfully arranged by Megan to flow out from the center of the star, unrestricted.  Does that make sense?  So we chose the edge-to-edge Raindrops On Water quilting design, Quilter's Dream Wool batting for extra loft and definition of the quilting design, and Megan took a huge leap of faith in allowing me to quilt it with a 40 weight cotton variegated thread from YLI in shades of gray and black.

YLI 40 wt Machine Quilting Cotton Thread, Color V92 London Drizzle

This was a risky choice for a couple of reasons.  First of all, as a general rule, machine quilting stitch quality is much more forgiving and likely to be attractive when the thread isn't drastically darker than the fabric you're quilting on.  Every little wobble, any place tension veers away from perfection will be really, really noticeable in a contrasting darker thread color.  So black/dark gray thread on pink fabric is kind of like those crazy car commercials with disclaimers at the bottom of the screen: "Professional stunt drivers on closed track.  Do not attempt!!!"  

Secondly, the Raindrops On Water design has some backtracking/overstitching in places -- normally I'd stitch this design in a lighter weight thread to minimize the thready buildup of double-stitched lines.  But in this case, with this particular quilt, I decided those risks were worth taking in exchange for the dramatic impact of the dark thread.

Detail of Raindrops On Water, London Drizzle Thread, and Dream Wool Batting

See how the black/gray thread disappears into the black and white fabrics as I intended, while emphasizing the texture of the quilting design in the background fabric? The dark, thick thread makes the stitching lines recede visually and exaggerates the loft of the quilted swirls as though the design had been carved or embossed rather than merely stitched into the quilt.  A safer 50 weight pink or white thread would have made less nail-biting and greater room for error, but would have resulted in a far less dramatic finished quilt.

What Does Coco Chanel Have to Do With This?

Ah, yes --   I promised you some haute couture in this post, didn't I?  As I was working on this quilt for Megan, her fabric choices were reminding me of a women's fashion trends from the later decades of the last century.  I was thinking of the original 1959 Barbie doll in her graphic black and white swimsuit, set off by her pink packaging and logo, and of the iconic pink and black Chanel suits worn by likes of Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Princess Diana.  A quick Google search unearthed this timeless 1990s Chanel skirt suit that channels the spirit of Megan's Lone Star quilt perfectly!

Vintage (1990s?) Chanel Suit

Okay, I totally lied to you just now when I said it only took a QUICK Google search to find that image, because I actually got sucked down a rabbit hole of research into how Chanel's fondness for black and white color schemes is attributed to her childhood as an orphan raised in a convent, how she is credited with revolutionizing women's fashion and freeing us from corsets and restrictive clothing and popularizing comfortable clothing for women that was menswear inspired but still distinctly feminine.  I was struck again and again by the tremendous staying power and timelessness of her revolutionary designs -- the Chanel suit jacket, the black quilted 2.55 Chanel handbag, and perhaps her greatest gift to women's wardrobes, the classic Little Black Dress!

This is what women's fashion looked like before Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel got involved:

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel in 1910

And here she is in 1926, epitomizing the new style she created alongside the introduction of her first ever "Little Black Dress":

Chanel in 1926 with her First "Little Black Dress"

Prior to Chanel, black in women's clothing was strongly associated with grieving widows, so the dress was just as revolutionary for its color as it was for its ability to be dressed up or down with accessories and go from day to night, suitable for so many different occasions, flattering on so many figures.  This is a look that emphasizes comfort and freedom of movement, finely tailored in wool jersey knit that moves with the body, flattering the natural shape without contorting women's bodies with corsetry to create the "S-curve" spine on which previous women's fashions were dependent.

Chanel's 2.55 handbag, pictured above, was introduced in February of 1955 (not in the 1930s as the caption claims.  The name 2.55 was a reference to the month and year of its introduction in the 2nd month of 1955).  Here we are, nearly 70 years later, and reinterpretations of this classic handbag from the House of Chanel are still wildly popular with women all over the world.

Coco Chanel in Paris, 1963

Chanel is notable as an artistic visionary and a self-made woman entrepreneur who broke into the male-dominated world of women's fashion, breaking a lot of rules along the way.  But I didn't realize that she closed her fashion business in 1939, when France declared war on Germany, and didn't reopen her couture house until 1954, when she was 71 years old.  Imagine starting all over again in business as a woman in her seventies, back in the 1950s!

Last Look at Megan's 61 x 61 Lone Star Quilt

Now, Megan didn't say a peep to me about pink boucle suits or Coco Chanel when she brought me this quilt.  That's just a connection that I made with the quilt as I was working on it.   A fresh, new interpretation of a timeless patchwork design that marries modern possibilities and aesthetics with classic appeal, just like the designs of Coco Chanel.  And also, having discovered that the original Chanel handbags were quilted WOOL rather than quilted leather, I have wandered off into yet ANOTHER rabbit hole, looking for a reasonably priced copy of this out-of-print Vogue accessories pattern V7982:

OOP Vogue Pattern V7982, reviewed on Pattern Review here

Not only does this pattern have a replica Chanel 2.55 (lower left), but also replicas of iconic handbags from Birkin and Hermes.  The pattern was apparently discontinued almost immediately after it was issued (lawsuit from the fashion houses they were ripping off, perhaps?) and it's really hard to find.  If I did get this pattern, instead of doing the classic Chanel diamond quilting, wouldn't it be fun to do Raindrops On Water quilting on my handbag like I did for Megan's quilt?  If any of you happen to have this pattern in your possession, please reach out to me!

Okay, this "quick blog post" -- and all the tangential research into Chanel fashion -- has eaten up a bit more of my Saturday than I'd intended.  I'm linking up with all of the usual suspects (found in my blog sidebar) and then getting back to the quilt that's currently on my frame!  Thank you, Megan, for trusting me to quilt your amazing Lone Star for you!


Karin said...

OMG…I love that handbag! I think you managed to send me down that rabbit hole! I often use contrasting thread…somehow, while nerve wrecking, it makes me quilt better. Love your choices for the lone star.

Paula said...

Wow!! This quilt is amazing! It's always interesting to see how different people interpret designs in different ways, and this is a layout I don't remember seeing before. The color combination is great. Your quilting is great, as well. You always see things in a new way and it's quite refreshing. Thank you for sharing your work with us.

trudys_person said...

Great post Rebecca!

That bag pattern from Vogue is really interesting - I've never seen anything like it. But it wouldn't have been discontinued because of a law suit. Fashions and patterns can't actually be copyrighted. That's why fast fashion can knock off designs within weeks. Fashion houses can only copyright their logos or brands. Some argue that this encourages innovation in the art form ... I have a nerdy interest in intellectual property law and art/quilting. :)

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Wow, this quilt is absolutely stunning! I love your quilting choices, the dark thread, the allover pattern, it makes a very modern look to this beautiful quilt. Merci pour les recherches, et le rappel de la vie et l'oeuvre de Coco Chanel ;)
Thank you for sharing your amazing work and linking up!

Pamela Arbour said...

Both the quilt and the quilting is beautiful. I occasionally step off into a more contrasting thread color but not often. You have me a little curious as to what other designs you might have used because now, all my head can envision is what you chose. LOL Thanks for the flash back in time. I'm seeing similar bags today and even of her designs. They were claassic.

Jill said...

Megan’s quilt is striking! Classic, yet modern. The colors she chose and your quilting design is a perfect match! Definitely quilt show worthy. I think the Vogue pattern price just went up.

Sandy said...

As always, I love the way you quilted this one! I'd never have thought of using a black/white thread on that salmon pink, but it's perfect for this quilt. :)

Gretchen Weaver said...

I love the Raindrop quilting pattern, perfect for this quilt! Megan's quilt top is beautiful! You've got a good eye for seeing the quilting design a quilt needs.

Barb N said...

That is great placement and use of fabric to create this quilt, and your quilting touch really set it off! Good luck in finding your bag pattern. You never know who might have it tucked away somewhere! said...

Coco had an interesting life. I wondered how she survived during the war. . .that is a story in itself and a reason behind her closing her business. I love your quilting on Megan's lone star quilt. Megan's fabric choices are so modern! She should be over the moon with her quilt!

Anonymous said...

This may be the first quilt I’ve ever seen that makes me believe in the saying “the quilting makes the quilt”. This quilt is STUNNING!

SJSM said...

Ah, your headline sucked me in. I went directly to your part about Coco Chanel to see what you unearthed. You focused on areas and pictures that I’ve not studied before. Once that reading was done, I looked at the quilt. The colors chosen has a wonderful vibe and blend of classic and modern. Your quilting brought it the rest of the way to life. I see your postings on the forum and appreciate the insight you give. Learning is an addiction for me. Just purchased the 790+ and still trying to get up to speed. The Bernina forum is very helpful.

Jane said...

Holy moly! That is gorgeous. I love the choices you made for the quilting. Brava!

Peacemeal said...

Absolutely perfect pairing of the pattern, love the negative space, the quilting, great! And your connecting Coco. She was really "something". We had to do a paper on a designer in school and I picked her. WOW. Interesting to see outside the designer into the personality.
Thanks for sharing your lovely work!

The Joyful Quilter said...

On my screen, your thread choice doesn't seem so extreme. It fades into a shadow on the wool batting and simply appears to amplify the quilting design. Well done, Rebecca!

Robin said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog today. Your work is so creative and enriching. I loved the comparison to Coco Chanel and finding that suit in the same colors is thrilling. I hope you find that pattern.

Linda @ kokaquilts said...

Stunning quilt! I love the colours and the layout! It left plenty of scope for you to work your quilting magic!

chrisknits said...

The quilt is gorgeous and the quilting is fantastic!

piecefulwendy said...

This is such a stunning quilt, and I enjoyed reading the little history facts you included! Thanks for linking up to TGIFF!

Gwyned Trefethen said...

Once again, you were spot on with your recommendation to the customer. The variegated black and gray thread in the pink, is subtle compared to lovely edge to edge pattern. As someone who does her share of backstitching and travel stitching I'd say you did an exemplary job.

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

What an amazing quilt! The quilting you did on it just added to the interesting design. I think the variegated gray and black gives the design so much depth and texture! I loved your sidestep into Coco Chanel and her designs - fun info!

Kris said...

I can't beautiful it is beyond words!!!!

Anonymous said...

absolutely love coco chanel and your post. that pattern is available on etsy......just a cool $1332....yikes!! thinking about it though - - if several people pitch in, then share the pattern....? one can dream right :)

Anonymous said...

absolutely love coco chanel and your post. that pattern is available on etsy......just a cool $1332....yikes!! thinking about it though - - if several people pitch in, then share the pattern....? one can dream right :)

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

Lovely quilt, inspired by Chanel or not! The color choice is classic as you pointed out. Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Muv said...

Hello Rebecca Grace, such a gorgeous quilt! You and Megan can be really proud of all the work you both put into it. I love everything about it, and every rabbit hole it sent you down too!
Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks. The quilt is this week's featured project!
Love, Muv

O'Quilts said...

What a winner in every sense of the word...Brilliance. You are a wonderful artist.
And, of course, there were the very fashionable pink and black and white bathrooms...