Congratulations to my son and new daughter-in-law! They had a charming wedding in Montana this past August. It rained right before the ceremony, but happily that cooled things down considerably and for their first dance they had this beautiful double rainbow above them! It was spectacular.
Quilter that I am, I wanted to make them an autograph quilt for their wedding. I love the concept of an autograph quilt – it makes such a meaningful keepsake. I made one for my daughter and her husband’s wedding almost seven years ago and they have loved theirs.
Both the Taylors (yes, both of them are named Taylor!) love the outdoors: camping, skiing, hiking, running, Jeeping – all the Montana things, so I came up with the idea of using a tree and having guests sign leaves. Perfect for my favorite tree huggers!
To get the idea out of my head and into fabric, I first made a rough sketch of a tree with bare branches. I drew in some leaves, then used colored pencils to color in the drawing. I made a small, roughly 10″ x 12″ quilted mock up so I could show the Taylors what I was thinking and get their approval before I put a lot of work into a design they didn’t like.
Once I got the go ahead, I went to my local UPS store and got the bare tree drawing enlarged to the scale I wanted, then I was able to trace the tree onto muslin. I used Steam A Seam 2 for the appliqué – I love this product. It has paper on both sides and can be repositioned until you iron it the final time. Of course, follow the directions on the Steam A Seam 2 package 🙂 Have I mentioned my son is a newly minted lawyer? He’s now my in-house counsel haha
To start, I peeled off one side of the paper, and ironed the Steam A Seam to the back of the of the muslin (with the tree outlined on the front). Then I peeled off the other paper and laid the sticky side down on the WRONG side of my brown tree fabric – at this point the muslin could be moved around and any folds or puckers smoothed down by hand. Once I was happy with the positioning, I ironed everything again to glue it all together – of course now after it’s been ironed there’s no repositioning! What you end up with is the muslin adhered to the back of the tree fabric, with the drawn tree visible – now I just cut along the drawn line and voila! You have the tree shape exactly the right size and scale. Once I had the background fabric ready – just a simple blue for the sky and green for the ground – I glue basted the tree to the quilt top and using matching thread, sewed it down close to the edge around the entire perimeter of the tree.
Next up, I needed to figure out how to do the heart with their names. I used a piece of tracing paper, folded it in half and drew one side of a heart the correct size to fit between the heart shaped branches. Leaving the paper folded, I cut around the heart shape – that way the heart turned out symmetrical (just like my 4th grade teacher, Miss Ha taught us!) I wrote right on the paper heart to get an idea of letter size and spacing, then practiced free motion quilting it on scrap fabric, and then a scrap heart. I wanted to practice writing, but also test out batting and interfacing. I ended up using a no-show, fusible embroidery interfacing because that stabilized the stitching without adding any bulk. Once I was happy with my heart, I glue basted it to the quilt top, then used a blanket stitch with red thread to appliqué it.
Now for the leaves! To prepare the leaves, I ironed Steam a Seam 2 to the back of four different green fabrics – I chose fabric with little to no pattern so that the writing would show well and be readable. Then I cut out the leaf shapes – leaving the paper on the back so that the fabric would stay stiff enough to be written on easily. I took the leaves to the wedding ready to be signed, and we arranged them with the Sharpies and the mock up quilt on a table where all the wedding guests would have an opportunity to sign one.
Arranging the leaves on the quilt top took me a long time, and I’m so glad I used Steam a Seam 2 so that I could move the leaves around. I would position them one way, take a picture with my phone and then decide if that arrangement worked – it’s interesting how useful a cell phone is while quilting! I take photos to get an overall “bird’s eye” view of a quilt, and I also to see the quilt in black and white. Both of those are extremely helpful in seeing color placement and balance. Once I was finally happy with the leaves, I ironed them all down. I didn’t appliqué the leaf edges at this point, I planned to quilt everything down later, and the Steam a Seam produces a good bond so I’m not worried the leaves will fall off before I can securely quilt them. The image below shows the leaves once I had quilted them.
Now for the hard part… the lettering. As I mentioned, the Taylors are nature people, so they had a friend read a quote from John Muir at the wedding. You may know Muir was an influential naturalist and was involved in the creation of several of our national parks.
“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”John Muir
I thought they chose the perfect quote perfect for the ceremony, so I wanted to include it on the quilt as well. I wrote out the quote first, just in my normal handwriting. Then I wrote it the actual size I wanted it to be on the quilt, and never lifted my pen as I wrote, so I could practice how it would be to quilt it. After writing the quote a few times, I practiced on a quilt sandwich with scrap fabric. It was very helpful to have this practice piece close by when I started to work on the actual quilt top – it’s a good reference to letter size and spacing, as well as spelling!
I fused the same interfacing I used on the heart, to the back on the quilt top, then using a fabric marking pen (I used a Friction pen – use your favorite) I lightly marked a line to follow for the bottom of the letters. I used my domestic sewing machine, a Baby Lock Crescendo, in the free motion quilting mode (this drops the feed dogs and decreases the foot pressure) to do the writing. I started by first quilting a few stitches in place to lock the thread, then writing one word without stopping. Once I got to the end of the word, I again took a few stitches in place to lock the thread, raised the needle, leaving the thread intact, moved to the spot where I wanted to start the next word, again locked the thread, and quilted that word. So every word is done with locking stitches at the beginning and end, all the letters connected like in cursive writing, and a jump stitch in between words. Once I was completely finished, I cut the jump stitches, both on the front and the back. I used a blue thread that was a few shades darker than the sky fabric – I wanted to quote to be readable, but I didn’t want the words to be the first thing a viewer noticed, especially if I wasn’t able to do a very good job! 🙂
As you see, the first part of the quote arches over the top of the tree. The rest of the words are on either side of the tree trunk.
Are you still with me? If you are, thanks for reading this far! Lastly I used the same appliqué technique to add flowers and wildlife up in the tree, and around the trunk. I found fabric with cute animals and plants, ironed the Steam A Seam to the back of the fabric, cut closely around the motifs, then placed them on the quilt top just like I did the leaves. So cute!
Finally, I quilted it all together on my long arm, also a Baby Lock. I stitched leaves and vines on all parts of the tree, and spirals everywhere else. I even quilted my finger to the area around the little bear in the right lower corner. Yep. Right through my pinkie, broke the needle and had to fish it out, and then pull the thread through like dental floss… it was a special moment in my quilting career! One I hope never to repeat. I’m pretty sure I got all the blood out haha 🙂 Taylor said, “There will always be a little part of you in the quilt!” True.
I also made the stole for the wedding officiant, a close friend of both Taylor’s.
And I made a little matching vest for my grandson. The groomsmen wore jeans and a green vest, and although my grandson was not officially in the wedding party, we all knew that at three years old, he would want to be up there with his parents who were in the wedding party, so at least he would be dressed for the part.
It was a fun and happy day! We are thrilled to welcome another Taylor to the family 🙂
Thanks for reading! Peace my quilty friends! Keep making, the world needs more beauty! ~Ann