By Patricia Belyea
WAUCONDA WA At Plymouth Church in downtown Seattle, there’s a tradition of high school seniors receiving special quilts for their graduations. A corps of quilters—the Plymouth Piecemakers—is given the names of the students in Fall so they have ample time to make quilts for a June send-off service.
Last year I chose Chloe Fung as my quilt recipient. I remember Chloe from when I volunteered in the church nursery many years ago. One Sunday, sweet baby Chloe slept in my arms for hours—a wonderful gift for a mom with spirited teens.
Here’s a photo of Chloe, aged four, and me at the wedding of our associate minister over a decade ago. We almost matched in our shiny fuschia dresses!
To get started on my quilt project, I contacted Chloe’s mom, June Hayakawa-Fung, requesting some memorable clothing to incorporate into my composition. The package of potential materials yielded nothing quilt-worthy—a kawaii apron with animals, a Hello Kitty terry towel, some bright red satin fabric, and a polyester soccer jacket.
Also included was a note from June that mentioned Chloe’s favorite colors—red, blue, and purple. I decided that Chloe’s color palette would inspire the quilt design.
To start, I pre-washed a whole bolt of Japanese yukata cotton, hand-dyed with burgundy stripes and hollyhock leaves in a non-repeating pattern. (The auspicious hollyhock family crest symbolizes ambition and abundance in Japan—which seemed like a good choice for Chloe.)
I cut the yukata cotton into big blocks. Most of the blocks were filled with stripes. Some featured hollyhock motifs—which I artfully captured in each square. Working on my design wall, I developed a composition that pleased me.
On graph paper I worked out a sashing design for adding red, blue, and purple solids to the quilt.
Wide strips of the three colors were cut and sewn between the big blocks. Some of the stripes were the same color from top to bottom; others changed color midway—requiring precision in their placement.
For the back of the quilt, I contributed fabric from a vintage yukata that I’d taken apart a few years ago. The cotton was hand-dyed with an exceptional indigo pattern of koi and waves.
I hand-stitched panels of the pictorial yukata together, matching up the koi pattern, for the bottom of the quilt back. The remaining koi scraps plus some additional red, blue and purple solids were trimmed into 8” blocks for the top half of the quilt back.
To finish, I layered the quilt top and back with Hobbs Natural Cotton with Scrim Batting. Using Clover’s Wonder Pins, I pin basted the quilt sandwich together.
To secure the quilt layers, I stitched-in-the-ditch along both sides of the sashing with a mid-purple thread (Aurifil 50wt). The stitching was done with a walking foot—so close to the seam that it was almost invisible.
I made hand-stitch patterns of hollyhock motifs using freezer paper, pressed them to the front of the quilt, and traced around the patterns with a blue Clover Water-Soluble Marker. Big stitching by hand with red No. 8 perle cotton, I filled the quilt with over-sized hollyhock designs.
I dunked the quilt sandwich in tepid water to remove the blue markings. The sopping mass of fabric was laid out on a clean sheet, on top of wall-to-wall carpeting in our living room. Once dried to a cool dampness, I blocked the quilt on all sides with sturdy pins.
To finish, I trimmed the quilt sandwich with my 48” T-square and made a facing using a vintage yukata cotton hand-dyed with a traditional blue and white geometric pattern.
The quilt was delivered in time for Christmas—six and a half months late!
As I was packing up everything to ship, I re-read the note from Chloe’s mom. June did not write that Chloe’s favorite colors are: red, blue, and purple. She wrote that Chloe’s favorite colors are: red, and blue-purple. That means red and a periwinkle blue—a great color combo!
(There is a well-known news story about a $10M lawsuit that was won due to a contentious comma. Even in quilting, the rules of grammar are important!)
Although I missed the deadline and I got the colors wrong, hopefully Chloe will appreciate her graduation quilt.
JUST IN: A big smile from Chloe!