Love Letters to Friends, As Well As Very Important Musings on Earth Shattering Matters:
Thread Count, Powerlifts, Quilting, Karaoke, Lemon Cookies, and Graphomania

Friday, August 22, 2014

Phantom Frankenquilt Lone Stars and Other Works of Fiction

…a quick quilt meant to bring cheer, deep in the heart of Texas.

This quilt fights cancer.

A friend I shall dub L is in Texas is going through chemo, and so to send her some moral support and good juju, and to continue my streak of sending quilts to people in the very hottest parts of the country at the very hottest times of the year,
I buckled down last weekend to bust out this here rootin'-tootin', cancer-bustin', spirit-liftin' piece of fushia-y fabrickal fortitude, which I had hoped would be bright and jolly enough to light up the cancer ward, but not so garish as to make the chemo nausea worse.

And I thought a suitable quilt for a Texan, if there can be such a thing in a place that routinely gets above 100 degrees F, would of course be a Lone Star quilt, despite the fact that the Texas Lone Star has only 5 points and a traditional Lone Star quilt star has 8. That in the quilting world is what we call a "technicality."  L's beloved dog is also named after a star, so that settled that.

Flag of the Lone Star State

Lone Star quilts are made up of diamonds - a few diamonds, or many many diamonds. (Graphic from here).

Now L has a penchant for bright colors and funky geometric patterns, as I gather from the array of these things that adorn her biking gear and athletic-wear in general.  I had some fuschia-y pink solid I bought as a remnant (which I believe was Kona Cerise - sorry, Radient Orchid) that I thought would  make a sprightly background, and I'd initially meant to make my star out of warm brights that would be reflective of L's brightness and warmth….but as these things move along, I found myself gravitating towards purples more, partly because I didn't HAVE that many warm brights, and few that could fight with the fuchsia in any kind of satisfactory way.

That's the fierce fightin' fuchsia in question to the left, and some Lone Star fabric options in the bin.

"Inspiration" is a funny thing, and perhaps should more frequently be called "theft." I wasn't working from an overall pattern for this, but there are a million versions of these old classics online - notably, the Amish do a kick-ass classic hand-pieced Lone Star.  More importantly for me, though, the modern quilty blogosphere is rife with people riffing on old patterns, and Lone Star is one of the oldest around, so there have been plenty of second looks at this old favorite and I cadged pieces of each of these for my fabrical get-well-soon missive.  Janice at Better Off Thread did this super-cool off-center lime green scrappy lone-star that she based on a cropped picture of someone else's full Lone Star.  Janet at Simply Pieced liked that one so well that she played on it further, splitting the her cool blue and neutral star into two and consigning the pieces to opposite sides of the quilt.  Amanda at Bedtime Quilting put this delightful rainbow burst of excellence, with its funky double border, together for her daughter ("Starburst" is about halfway down this page, though the link to her site is broken).  And ChonaHomegrown posted this extremely helpful tutorial on how to strip-piece Lone Stars, so that I could spend all of my time mulling over my color decisions, and not piecing endless little diamonds together individually.   And so I can technically say that this quilt top is all my own doing, I could not in good conscience say that it was all my own inspiration that got me there.

So here's my version:

Annoyingly dark picture

Annoyingly washed-out picture

Annoyingly washed-out close up

That aqua and purple double-border combination, by the way, took some doing to arrive at - I tried white, and light pink, and orange, and combinations of each of those with both the aqua and the purple, and also some three-layer attempts just for good measure:  but the purple played best with the fuchsia and the aqua was the brightest thing I had in the whole house, and so this combination won the day handily, and brought an end to the veritable explosion of border strips, which lay in color-coordinate heaps on my floor for about a week afterwards.  Ah, the joys of living alone.

As for the quilting on this:  the 2" grid background pattern is in purple thread and each star diamond is outlined in pink, which makes for more distinction between the two, especially on the back where you just see an echo of the stars, much like I am used to looking up into the Chicago sky and seeing airplanes and satellites.  And about halfway through quilting this grid pattern, I realized with a sudden clarity how very, very 80s this whole thing was:  the pink, purple and aqua, the grid, the stars - reminiscent of every trip I took the the old store Arcadia for smelly erasers and heart-shaped pencils when I was in jr. high school in 198mumble, and also hearkening back to the video for Olivia Newton-John's "Physical."

Don't be coy, Olivia. You knew exactly what I was talking about.

Nevertheless, I forged on.

The negative space was a conundrum right from the get go - I knew I wanted a stretch of blank space, but my fuschia was only stretching so far.  Originally, I had thought I'd be able to add a strip between the two star-parts, so they'd be farther apart from each other, and that this quilt would thereby end up being a more suitable napping rectangle rather than a not-sure-what-you're-supposed-to-do-with-it square. 
That bit in the middle is an entirely different shade of pink, though.
Given I was running out of the correct fightin' fuchsia solid, and wasn't liking the idea of a strip of some-other-color running through the middle of things, I started to cobble together a strip of leftover fuchsia triangles that I could add to the TOP of the quilt instead. Because of the myriad seams this caused, it did give the proceedings a sort of frankenquilt quality, but my delight in thriftily using up all of the fuchsia outweighed my concern that the seams would detract from the overall design.

This wasn't squared off yet, but you get the idea.  Those pieces at top didn't look like a different color in real life.
And into that blank space I knew I wanted to add another star - a phantom star, or a fictional star, if you will, which would be outlined the same way as the ones on the front, in pink, and be the same scale as them.  It's actually more visible from the quilting on the back:
The phantom star is the one that's mostly in the aqua….
….and the other two stars show up mostly in the darker purple on the back.
The back is some of my favorite shot cotton, which lends a more soothingly subtle iridescence to these proceedings, and perhaps some respite from the fuchsia freakshow on the front, if those colors start to be too eye-stabbingly, relentlessly cheerful.  And I had in mind the proportions of the red white and blue blocks on the Texan flag, but didn't have quite the right percentage of colors to really make that flag fly here on the back.  Call it an homage.

Overall, I was pleased with this - the stitching of the phantom star hides some of the frankenpiecing, and the diamonds and the grid work together to create an orderliness that may please L's lawyerly brain, while preserving the difference between star and background.  The pieced Lone Stars themselves (are they really alone if there are two of them?  But ARE there really two of them, when together they only make one?) include some of my very favorite fabrics from the stash, which maybe aren't as bright as L's bike clothes, but are nevertheless funky enough to make me think of her, and smile.  

And so, L, if you're reading this, you should know that, even if your tubes and chemicals and procedures have you feeling a little bit like a frankenquilt, your warmth and brightness still shine brightly through to all of us, your old MFD pals.  And I am hoping with all of my heart and soul that your chemo goes swiftly and well, and that you are soon enjoying an altogether different kind of Lone Star with your family and friends. 

Betcha didn't know their HQ was in Woodridge, IL, though, didja?

best wishes to you!



  1. I know that L. will be just thrilled with this quilt gift. It is stunning.

  2. Thanks! She should be getting it soon, I think - maybe tomorrow.