Creating a Quilt, Part 3 — Constructing the Quilt

In two earlier posts I talked about my process for creating a quilt design starting from a photo.  In this post, I’ll go through the process of actually making the quilt based on the final design (shown here). 

With the strong circular element in the design, I knew it would be important for the grass shapes to line up exactly across the circle.  Normally I prefer to make my quilts by piecing rather than some form of applique.  I’ll often use Ruth McDowell’s piecing technique on a complex quilt.  However, for this design, I thought that piecing would take forever and I wanted to complete the quilt fairly quickly since it was part of a class (“Inspired to Design” with Elizabeth Barton at Quilt University).

I decided to use raw edge applique since it would make the construction process go fairly quickly.  I did this even though I generally hate the look of frayed edges.  I wanted to start with the circle and the grasses inside it.  I printed out the design on freezer paper and cut out all the individual grass shapes.  I selected a dark green fabric for the circle, and using my value study for guidance, I picked greens for the grasses from my stash of my hand-dyed fabrics.  I pinned these up on my design wall and evaluated the colors as I went along.  Here’s a photo of the circle and the grasses pinned up.

Once I was happy with all the colors and placements, I carefully unpinned it from the design wall and sewed down all the raw edges.

The next step was to determine the color scheme for the remainder of the quilt.  I experimented in Photoshop, putting the completed circle onto different color backgrounds.

I also pinned the circle onto some different fabrics to see the effect.

I decided I liked the gray-green background the best.  I pinned that fabric up on the design wall, trimmed the circle and fused the center of it in place, and started selecting fabrics for the grasses.  For these, I used fabrics with fusible web (Wonder Under) on the back since I wanted to ensure precise placement of the grasses next to the circle.  I decided that I didn’t need to bother with making freezer paper templates — I’d just line up the fabric and trim it to fit, hiding the ends underneath the circle.

I used mostly cool greens in the background, but added some warmer greens as well.  Here’s an in-progress picture of the grasses pinned to the background.  It was time for a critique before I went much further.  Elizabeth gave me some great feedback that the areas indicated in red were too dark and thick and attracted too much attention.

I thinned out some of the grasses, using a lighter value green, and filled in more detail.

As I looked at this more, the area circled above still seemed too thick.  Since I had sewn down the grasses in the circle rather than fusing them, I took the plunge and ripped out some of the stitches and carefully trimmed the thick grasses on the left side of the circle.

After a bit more trimming of some of the grasses, I was happy with the fabric and I fused all the pieces in place.  I also sewed the edges of the grasses to keep them in place.

Now it was time to start the quilting.  I wanted the quilting to add more depth to the scene.  I used thread painting to create grasses ‘behind’ the fabric grasses, and then more quilting to echo these.  The picture below shows some of this quilting.

After all the handling of the quilt during the quilting, the edges of the grasses were starting to fray and it was making me crazy.  I finally decided I needed to satin stitch around all the grasses (a task I did not want to do).  I trimmed the quilt and finished it with a simple facing technique, similar to this one by Jeri Riggs.

So, after all that, here’s the final version of Prairie Grasses.  It’s about 33 inches wide and 27 inches high.

And here’s a detail view showing the quilting (and the satin stitching).


A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.

               You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.                             Maya Angelou

3 thoughts on “Creating a Quilt, Part 3 — Constructing the Quilt

  1. WOW!! A rreally GREAT piece!! I like your color choices and I really like your threadpainted grasses in the background too. Thank you very much for sharing this process. You added a lot of photos and explained it all clearly so it was easy to follow along. I found it very helpful and so inspiring. thank you, thank you.
    When are you making another one? 8) I bet you need a little rest first.

  2. I ended up on one of your earlier posts in this series after trying to help my scientist husband find some grass images to submit with an ecology paper he’s working on. I had to see the final product. This is GORGEOUS! I’m so impressed with your process and your commitment to getting this quilt just right. I’m bookmarking this – I’d love to come back and copy your approach!

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