Making New York Lights for Houston

This was “the” quilt for me, it was the art quilt I dreamt of making from the moment I became aware of the existence of art quilting. I knew I needed to be an art quilter for a couple of years to learn the techniques through experimentation to be able to produce such a quilt and when the time was right I set about making it.

The first stage

At the beginning I wasn’t really sure how to start. I merged elements of Times Square and created a photo in photoshop then printed it and laminated it as my little reference tool for while I was working on the quilt, you’ll see it in one of the photos. I also printed it off in colour at the full size of the quilt, taped the A4 sheets together and studied it before starting. In the end I think my quilt was quite different to my picture and at a certain point I stopped using my reference.

I laid out large pieces of background fabric for different sections of the quilt. I roughly cut them out with scissors while my 10 year old neighbour watched me, we chatted together over which fabrics to use for which buildings to make the first steps of creating the image, I then placed just a few pieces and it didn’t look like much at all. That was ok though because I knew what I was doing with it even if I was the only one who could see how it would develop.

By the way sorry for the bad photos, this was just before I got my new camera. The next lot should be much better.

Background pieces fused together now

This time I wanted to enter it into Houston.

Starting to look more like buildings now
My mess when I'm fusing tiny pieces

I launched into it as soon as I got home from Manawatu Symposium. I started with enthusiasm but I didn’t want it to take over. I did a bit every now and then but didn’t bust a gut and live and breathe it. I spent more time looking at it on the dining table than actually sewing it. In fact that’s how most of my quilts get made; I mostly think about it and spend a small time actually making them.

Painting details (reference photo I used top left)

Then after all the fused pieces were in place and after much discussion with my friends over which batting would crease least for the exhibition I then quilted the sh*t out of it. I was keen to avoid creasing as my last quilt was creased in the exhibition, not a good look! I did get a 1st place with that quilt despite the creasing but it still bothered me. When I appliquéd the fused pieces of this quilt I was using my Husqvarna 875 but I sold that and starting using a Bernina 770QE to freemotion it. The 770 is beautiful to use, I love it. As I primarily want to FMQ these days and have little need to do much else, the 770 was the best choice. I could quilt it so quickly too. The 770 is fast! I’d never done so much freemotion before; in fact I often just used my walking foot. Now after sewing freemotion on the 770 all year I am so used to it that I don’t want to sew any other way.

Probably the most stressful point for me was making sure I got the photography just right for the entry to Houston. And also right at the end finishing all the little details like the spot where I must have been sewing when I was very tired and had done something weird that needed unpicking. There was also the time I somehow sewed one end of the quilt to the other end without noticing, that was a lot of unpicking, it wasn’t just sewn together but actually thread painted! I was clearly half asleep that time too. Probably one of my 2am sewing sessions.

Stitching close up

I named it New York Lights and my quilt was accepted into Houston International Quilt Festival’s Special Exhibit category ‘Festival Awareness: Celebrations’, they told me only 15 quilts were selected, awesome I thought, my first internationally exhibited piece. Everyone said it’s an achievement to have anything shown at Houston.

Then I got the email to say I’d won 2nd in my category, which was also pretty awesome but a little bit arggghh so close to 1st!! The best bit though was seeing a photo of the rosette on my quilt in the exhibition - it’s rainbow and the most beautiful rosette I’ve ever seen. I didn’t actually think rosettes could be beautiful but now I know they can be and I love it. Haha easily pleased huh?!

This quilt I will remember as the one I discovered a love for shiva sticks on, the one I really got into my freemotion on, the one I applied all the techniques I’ve taught myself on. I have many ideas and another quilt I’m just about to start that I’d say is pictorial and surrealist. But will it have the same passion I had for this quilt? This one was personal, it is my dream to go to New York, eat hot dogs and pizza in the famous locations, buy fabric printed in New York themes, go to central park, go to the art galleries, go to Times Square, buy dorky tourist things! Take a gazillion photos and see the bright lights at night. Will I have the same passion for the next project?

Along the same vein of thought what if the things I want to depict in my quilts are distasteful to others? This was a easy to relate to subject matter, what if I want to depict the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, a eating disorder, alcoholism, cancer, depression, homeless people, would that do as well in an exhibition as pictures of joyous family meetings, cool destinations, grinning people, nostalgic games, flowers and cute cats?!

#newyork #newyorkquilt #newyorklights #houston #artquilt #exhibition

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