Size: 26″ x 74″ (66 x 188 cm)
Fabric: 100% cotton batiks (various manufacturers) and Emma Louise black solid
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Pieced: 23-25 May 2023
Machine: Janome Horizon MemoryCraft 9400 QCP
Basted: 26 May 2023
Quilted: 27 May 2023
Bound: 28 May 2023
The house I’m moving to in Tasmania was built c. 1910, with hardwood floors and two fireplaces. I love it but it has one significant drawback — all the bedroom doors have glass panels which let the light in. Consequently, I decided to make a quilt to cover the one in my door (I have a feeling I’ll be making more of them for my cousins once my machines are down there).
I needed a quick and easy pattern, one that was adaptable to the door’s dimensions. After reviewing various alternatives, I settled on the Jewel Box block in a 6″ size (unit size 1½”). Four blocks across and twelve blocks down give 24″ x 72″, and I added a 1″ border for the final dimensions. This pattern also made it very easy to quilt in straight diagonal lines.
I picked out 48 of my batiks and cut one 4″ x 8″ rectangle from each colour, sub-cutting it into one 4″ square and two 2″ x 4″ rectangles. I also cut 4″ and 2″ strips from the solid black. For once I actually cut the backing and border strips before the blocks so I have borders on the warp grain, which is important for a hanging quilt.
I put the batik and black squares together and sewed either side of a drawn line to get the half-square triangles. Instead of cutting individual black rectangles for the four-patch units I used a technique I’ve seen online (I can’t remember which channel) where I sewed the 2″ x 4″ batik rectangles to the 2″ strips. I pressed them, cut each rectangle apart, drew a line down the middle and stitched a scant quarter inch from the line. I re-cut them, pressed them and trimmed the excess black fabric.
Once I had my HST blocks sewn I played around with layout, since it was a lot easier to do it with 4″ squares than with the completed blocks.
I wanted a value gradient from light at the top to dark at the bottom. My first attempt wasn’t too bad, but when I checked the black and white version I found that it needed several adjustments. Unfortunately when I started making those adjustments I ended up with very similar colours next to each other, which I did not want.
My second attempt also used a value gradient but this time I worked on the diagonal, from top left to bottom right, with colour groups also in diagonal lines. This worked much better. There are some anomalies in the bottom rows but I had fewer colour options by that stage and I ended up making only one change (I swapped blocks 3 and 4 in the bottom row). Once the layout was settled, I did the rest of the sewing, pressing and trimming (so much trimming!).
I tried really hard to keep all the blocks in their proper places as I assembled them and put them together, but after I had pinned the rows I realised that I’d webbed each row upside down, so the value gradient runs from top right to bottom left and the long diagonal lines of colour aren’t as clear as I had intended. My wrists hurt and I was on a deadline so I didn’t re-do it, and now that I’ve got used to it I think it may look better this way rather than having long lines of the same colour running along the four-patch blocks.
I added a narrow black border (I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like attaching bindings directly to blocks — it’s too hard to coordinate all those points) and took it to my sewing friend’s place for basting. I managed to cut my backing an inch too short so we basted what we could and I added a strip to the bottom before quilting. Borders, backing and binding are all the Emma Louise black solid so it wasn’t much of a problem, except that I obviously wasn’t paying attention when cutting the backing.
Quilting was simple diagonal lines done with the walking foot. I used the same black Rasant thread I’d used for construction along the black diagonals, and then two different Gütermann 30 wt cotton variegated threads for the coloured diagonals. To be honest I wasn’t very happy with the end result of the variegated thread for two reasons. Firstly, the thread is loosely spun and the thread ends unravelled very fast once cut, making burying threads a challenge requiring a large darning needle. Secondly, I think it takes the viewer’s attention away from the colours of the fabric. With so many different colours, though, the only viable alternative was monofilament and I’ve never been able to get the tension right, no matter what thread was in the bobbin. I was pleased to note that my in-the-ditch quilting is getting better, although there is still room for improvement.
I added a hanging sleeve to the quilt, but split it to allow the weight to be carried on three hooks as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get over-the-door hooks and might have to use Command hooks which have low weight limits (not that this quilt weighs much, but the hooks may have to cope with cats hanging on by their claws). I added triangles to the bottom corners so that I could insert another dowel to prevent the quilt from moving too much.
Binding was attached to the back and pulled around to the front. Would you believe I used the lint roller not even five minutes previously? Those cotton fibres are worse than craft glitter.
This has to be one of the fastest quilts I’ve ever made. I settled on the design on Sunday 21 May and would have started cutting except that my rotary blade was blunt. I bought new blades on Monday and did almost all of the cutting that day. Tuesday and Wednesday saw me sewing the block units; Thursday I completed the blocks and assembled the top; Friday was basting day at my sewing friend Sue’s house (hence the deadline); Saturday was quilting and Sunday 29 May was binding. I did my best to pace myself, doing a little at a time with rests in between, but my wrists are not happy so it will be several days before I can resume work on hexagons.
A final thought: my usual practice is to press seams open and then use lots of pins, but it does take about three times longer than pressing to one side and nesting. Since I was working to a deadline I opted to press to one side and I didn’t even spin the seams. This didn’t matter much for the HST units because I always cut large and then trim to size, but my four-patch units were all a bit small — sometimes more than 1/8″ too small — because my pressor foot and the way I position the fabric under the foot is calibrated for open seams. My seam intersections are a lot bulkier, too, but my machine powered through (luckily I was using a 90/14 needle — I think a smaller needle might have had difficulty). I’m not fussed about seams pulling apart, though, because this quilt isn’t going to be handled much and the quilting is quite close — every piece is quilted and no point is more than 1″ away from a quilting line.
Overall I love how well the pattern turned out and I would happily make another Jewel Box quilt if the opportunity arises.
1. Measure twice, cut once!!!
2. Value gradients work better on the diagonal.
3. Pressing to one side vs pressing open has a significant effect on unit size.
4. If you are webbing your quilt from top to bottom you need to have the right-most blocks at the top of each pile or you’ll get everything back to front.
5. I don’t like 100% cotton thread for quilting, especially when it’s thick.