Monday, 14 September 2015

City of Angels - Red Sky at Night Quilt

Last week I talked about all I've learned (and can't learn) in this series about Quilt History. I've learned about how blocks came to be named, why patchwork exploded in the 1930s, about the place it had in families and society. But if I'm honest with you, and with myself, it's definitely not even half of what I've learned overall. I've learned that I tend to bite of more than I can chew, that I don't work out, or even begin to consider, the details of how I'll achieve something before I dive in. I have a grid book full of red and white blocks sketched without names or numbers. I've made blocks and taken photos, only to realise that I can't for the life of me remember where I saw the block, and that I can't find any interesting stories to accompany it. And lastly, and most regrettably, I've discovered I don't really like making quilts this way, stopping and starting to take photos, making it, not just to work, but in a way that's easily understood by others, feeling trapped inside a routine no matter what's happening around me, and no matter how much I ran out of motivation months ago. I often feel uncomfortable about the amount of Works in Progress I have in my big WIP box, but at least they're allowed to be there, not demanding my attention each week, but waiting patiently for my enthusiasm to spark anew.

So this weekend, when I dragged these blocks and my red and white yardage to a sewing retreat with my old sewing buddies from Newcastle, I was reluctant to force myself to plow through them. I brought a couple of other projects to do in breaks and planned to just make a few blocks each morning while the light was good for photos, and then reward myself with some fun sewing.
But, to my surprise and delight, after I finished one block, I felt like making another, and then another. And then when the light died in the evening, I cut the blocks for the next day, and sewed and trimmed half square triangles. I did like making this. I just loved making it when I could throw my whole attention at it. I had time to think while I was making, what kind of stories I could tell. I didn't mind working out the maths when I didn't have to make morning tea, change a nappy and answer the phone all at the same time. And then I remembered that this is how I had planned to make the quilt earlier in the year, before Flowers for Eleni had grown much bigger than all of us anticipated. I'd planned to write all the blog posts and just let them tick over each Monday morning. All the dread and foolishness I'd been feeling for most of the year started to dissipate. I wasn't completely ridiculous, it had just all turned out differently than I'd expected. Before I knew it, I'd sewn up and photographed each step of the blocks I needed for the front! Then the sashing and corners. And finally I brought it home in just a few pieces.

As I stood there in that big lounge room, the buzzing of machines and the smell of coffee all around me, looking at my laid out, almost finished Red Sky at Night quilt top, I was in awe. It was beautiful. And I mean beautiful. Full of detail and care and effort and history. I had felt a little like I was sacrificing my taste for my mum's (who will receive the finished quilt), a bit disheartened that after all that work, it won't feel like it was really my work, my way of playing with colour. But it did. And I was, am, very proud of it.
On the last day of the retreat, not quite ready to stop, but really needing to start my seven hour drive home, I reluctantly rolled up my pieced strips of patchwork. And suddenly, with horror, I realised. I hadn't expected to finish the quilt top. I had planned to bring the blocks home and photograph them around our property, like the others. But in a whirl of excitement, I'd started sewing them together before taking the finished block shots. Sigh. It appears this series would still be marked by my whims and lack of detail. Oh well!

I chose City of Angels today because it's one of those blocks. No details. I can't remember where I got the name from. I didn't take enough photos. But I like it. And because this quilt has become a kind of story of 'self discovery', it still has a place here.


What you'll need:

Red: Five 4.5" squares, eight 3 3/8" squares cut in half diagonally.

White: Eight 2.5" squares, four 3 3/8" squares.

1.  I've borrowed photos from Spanish Moss. But we're constructing our star differently today. Read colour instructions carefully!

2. Place the longer sides of the red half square triangles around the 3 3/8" white square (diamond). Sew one triangle, and then the opposite side. Press toward the red. Sew the next two corners. Press. Repeat with three more square-in-square blocks.

3. Place the 2.5" WHITE square in the corner of the 4.5" RED square and sew diagonally across the white square. Trim the corner off and press the remaining triangle over to complete the square.

4. Repeat with the three other corners of the block.

5. Arrange your block as below, and sew together in rows. Press seams open and sew rows together. Press.

See what I mean by forgetting the final photograph? But that just means that for most of the rest of the series, you'll get special progress shots along the way! Finished top, basted quilt, hand quilting (yes, I'm really going to quilt it by hand!), and then finished quilt. And while not what I planned, it will have it's own charm. I'm determined to enjoy the rest of this process!


  1. Hi Jodi. .this QAL is fabulous. The quilt will be stunning. If one was just beginning, how much of the red do you think you'd recommend buying?

    1. Thank you so much Patty! I bought 8 yards, just to allow for mistakes, and to have freedom of choice with sashing, etc. I have about 2 yards left, after using a lot in those corner settings because I sewed the blocks on point. I have about 3 yards of white left, even after using it for sashing. So, I would recommend the same amount, but I think you could get away with 6 - 6.5yds, if you wanted to get less. Hope that helps! Enjoy! xx

  2. I have been following your progress on this quilt! While I totally understand how much work it is for you...I and so many others appreciate it so much!!! I love the red and white! Thank you! Did you prewash the red and are you scared it might bleed?

    1. I too have been wondering if you pre-washed your fabrics and how it's going to handle in the wash after. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. I have saved your posts and will be working on one of my own one day. You are amazingly talented!

    2. Thank you so much Jayne and Ghesspanish! I pre-washed them a few times with colour catchers, but I'm still worried about washing. I think I'll hand quilt with white perle just in the white so that the red can't turn the hand-quilting pink. :/ Maybe I'll just tell my mum she can never wash it?? :)

  3. This is absolutely beautiful, and I have loved reading and learning along with you. You are an inspiration!!

  4. Hi... thanks so much for these tutorials.. theyre amazing. Im finally up to date bar this one but i have a question? It says 8 2.5" white triangles but i can only see 4 being used. Thanks so much again. Shevvy x

  5. I'm with Shevvy ^^ only 4 of the 2.5inch squares xxxx


I so love your comments! I read all of them and reply when I can. If you don't hear back, I'm lost under a mound of scraps or outside jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Jodi. xx