Being a person who sews with older fabrics and reuses items, I seem to inherit a lot of fabric stashes. Sometimes they are from the person who no longer wants the fabric or other times, they are from a family member who has inherited the stash themselves. Last year, I was given a fantastic stash of fabrics and doodads from a friend. I've used SO much of that stash already in almost every quilt I've made since then. Most of the fabrics came from her aunt, but there were a few boxes with items that were passed along to the aunt once upon a time. One such box contained one of my favorite projects to date. The Jewel Star Quilt.
A particulary beat up shoe box contained a stack of these hand-sewn stars. I asked the internet if they knew what the name of this star was, and internet sleuths came back with the jewel star. There was also a smaller stack of small, white diamonds cut up. I played with layouts, googled the crap out of sewing y-seams, and tried to find any tips out there about sewing up these specific stars. I decided that since the stars had been originally hand-sewn, the rest of the quilt needed to be hand-sewn. No big deal, right? Except I'd never hand-sewn seams before and I'd certainly never hand-quilted anything. I'm always up for that challenge though.
I landed on a layout of grouping trios of stars, simply because three was the common number that all of the fabrics had. I often wonder what the original maker of this quilt had planned. How big? What layout? To whom would it have been given? Why did you stop working on it? How long did you work on it? Were the fabrics significant to you somehow?
It took me about six months to connect all of the pieces together. My seams were wonky and my points weren't pointy, but I didn't care. I definitely improved the more seams I stitched. Learn as you go, ya know. Once the top felt done, I went back and forth about cutting off the edges of some stars and having straight edges or keeping the stars in tact and having points everywhere or adding random stars to the edges. I liked the idea of the trio-grouped, pointy-ness, but was pretty scared of concave angle binding! I had a while to learn about that though.
I chose a really soft, sweet butterfly vintage bed sheet for the backing and I love it so much. I basted it a month before I actually started quilting on it. I just kept the whole thing in a quilting hoop in the back of my car, so I'd have some emergency sewing on hand should the situation arise. I quilted most of it over three months during my downtime at work. It was SO much fun. The movements of stitching would show up in my dreams and I couldn't wait until the next time I could work on it. That quilting time also meant that I was caught up on everything else, so it was a bit of a reward for that as well.
Then one day, I was done quilting it.
I was SO nervous trimming it, worried I'd cut off a vital knot of hand stitching, or cut too far into a seam. Running my hand across the top of it suddenly became one of my favorite things to do. I was really amazed that I'd gotten the quilt to that point with just my hands (and the hands of the original maker, of course).
Finally came the binding. Oh man, talk about nervous. I knew those crazy angles could be done because I had seen table runners and such with similar angles. I wasn't even sure what to google, but searching for 'binding concave angles' wielded a few tutorials, thankfully. Well, I had been worrying for nothing. Yes, it took a loooooong time to sewing on the first round, but once I got in the groove, it was no big deal. This was the ONLY part that a machine was used on this quilt. Then, I hand stitched the backside of the binding on the quilt. DONE.
But wait, it needed to be washed. I had no idea if any of this fabric had ever been washed before. My best guess is that the stars were made in the 60s? Maybe earlier? Some of the fabrics had definitely seen better days, and I was definitely worried about modern day washing for them. I was also SUPER worried about all of that hand stitching. You'd think I'd have more faith in the stitching by hands!
Out of the wash it came, and it looked fine. Into the dryer. Nail biting. Dryer singing. Quilt done. Done, done. It was perfect. I was elated.
It spent a few days on the back of the couch, but has since moved onto my side of the bed. I'm just proud of it, in awe of it, and in love with its history and story, known and unknown. One year and several decades worth of work, to bring me a little more warmth at night. Thank you little jewel stars.