Queen’s Tile Quilt (a thirty-two-year journey)

Queen’s Tile quilt

Size: 184 cm x 215 cm (73″ x 85″)
Design: Queen’s Tile by Sharon Prettyman (Quiltmaker #14 Fall/Winter 1988) / Celtic Squares by Nancy Dudley (Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine #212 May 1989)
Fabric: cottons
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Pieced: 1990 (blocks) and 2009 (borders)
Machines: Janome Combi 10 (blocks); Janome Memory Craft 8000 (borders); Janome Horizon MemoryCraft 9400QCP (quilting and binding)
Basted: August 2022
Quilted and Bound: September 2022

In 1990 I made my third attempt at piecing. By this time I had identified the problem with my slightly-more-than-a-quarter-inch presser foot and had marked the quarter-inch line on my machine. I was also a subscriber to Quilters Newsletter Magazine and Quiltmaker so I was more knowledgeable about the process of machine piecing.

Queen's Tile and Celtic Square patterns
Queen’s Tile and Celtic Square patterns

Two very similar patterns had appeared within a few months of each other: “Queen’s Tile” in Quiltmaker #14 (Fall/Winter 1988) and “Celtic Squares” in Quilters Newsletter Magazine #212 (May 1989). In both cases it was a relatively simple block that produced a complex interlocking squares design. I decided to use the simpler corner pieces from Celtic Squares but used differing colours for centres and corners as Queen’s Tile did.

I was still living in Victoria at the time, in an area that has very cold, very damp winters. While I knew that this quilt would have to have a thinner batting than Autumn Mood I still wanted it to look warm, so I chose red, orange and yellow as the main colours, with grey to provide contrast. Although the block pattern was identical throughout, I varied the colour of the central square. The pattern was for a queen size quilt with 64 blocks but I was in a single bed so I reduced the number of blocks to 30 (35 would have produced much better proportions). When the top was assembled I realised I didn’t like the orange I had chosen for the centre squares (an apricot which turned out to look insipid) or the black in the corner blocks (too stark) and I had used two different red prints in the corners where one would have provided a more even background. If I had used a single fabric for both the centres and the corners (as Celtic Squares recommended) then the interlocking squares would have floated, but that didn’t register with me at the time. Consequently, this top, like the rail fence, was put in a cupboard for many years.

Queens Tile top
Queens Tile top

In 2009 I decided that I would live with the imperfect colour choices, and added the grey and seminole borders. The top after that stage was 72″ x 84″ — too small for the queen bed I was using by then (the photograph shows it on the sofa bed in the spare room).

Queen's Tile border plan
Queen’s Tile border plan

I thought about adding a 6″ red border to bring the final dimensions up to 84″ x 96″ (a small queen or large double quilt), but I didn’t have enough of the original red fabric and I didn’t want to add yet another colour. It went back into the cupboard instead.

Queen's Tile backing fabric
Queen’s Tile backing fabric

In July 2022 I decided that it had been a UFO for far too long and its size would be sufficient for a single or, indeed, for the double loft bed I’d been using for a few years. I found a suitable wide fabric at Hobbysew and basted it at the end of August with the help of my sewing friend Sue. I started quilting as soon as I got my Janome 9400 machine back after a service (it had broken a needle on a previous project and it always needs the timing tweaked when that happens).

Queen's Tile Free-motion quilting
Queen’s Tile Free-motion quilting

The quilting isn’t complicated, although it did involve far too much turning. I matched colours except for the orange squares and the seminole border, where I used clear monofilament with red Invisafil in the bobbin (my machine did not like it at all, even with the tension adjusted, but we managed to finish). All the straight lines were done with the VD walking foot that is a half-inch wide and so is perfect for quarter-inch outlines. The interlocking squares and the borders had outline quilting, while the centre squares had simple diamonds. For the print fabrics I decided to practise my FMQ and did scrolls (very badly, but they’re barely visible against the print). All told the quilting took me about twenty hours over ten days, with many more hours watching a DVD while I knotted and buried the threads (approximately 400 of them).

Queen's Tile quilting from the back
Queen’s Tile quilting from the back

This is the quilting as seen from the back. It doesn’t look too bad but I wish I could have been more consistent in scroll sizing and stitch length. There are bits everywhere but that’s because it wasn’t meant to be a blog photo — I was checking for any remaining loose thread ends and the light happened to be at the right angle to show the quilting.

Queen's Tile border and binding
Queen’s Tile border and binding

I used off-cuts from the backing as the binding. I had intended to bring the backing over to the front as the binding so basted it with a generous 3″ border from the edges, but of course I promptly forgot that and trimmed the excess batting and fabric off as usual before starting to quilt. Then I managed to attach the label to a side of the quilt rather than the bottom, but no one will see that when it’s in use so I’m not re-doing it.

Verya burrowing
Verya burrowing

Cat tax: another view of Verya burrowing into the quilt from a couple of weeks ago when I was still tying off threads.

Queen's Tile outdoors
Queen’s Tile outdoor shot

Here is the photo taken at my sewing friend’s place on Friday — it was very windy but you get a good idea of the size and the colours. The safety pin was a marker for the block with the best FMQ, shown above, which I had totally forgotten about until my friend told me she could see it.

So, after a long, long journey of thirty-two years, Queen’s Tile is no longer a work in progress but a finished quilt.

The funny thing is that it’s technically terrible — no seam is straight (and some are puckered); no block is square; the designs don’t line up; the pressing was awful and every yellow piece has dark threads showing underneath. And you know what? — NONE OF THAT MATTERS. It’s a quilt. It’s finished. I don’t care if coffee gets spilled on it or it drops on the floor or the cats poke holes in it. It won’t be “kept for best” — it will be used until it falls to pieces, and that’s really what makes a quilt a quilt.

Lessons Learned:
1. When using blocks set side-by-side, think about the pattern as a whole, not just within each block.
2. Fabric suggestions in the pattern aren’t always the best options (except when they are).
3. Think carefully about the final dimensions before finalising the number and layout of central blocks.
4. Unless the quilt is square the borders affect the width proportionately more than the length.
5. Finished is better than perfect!

One last note: I placed the last stitches in the quilt while watching the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It struck me that the colours of the quilt are very close to those of the royal standard — completely unintentional, of course, but sadly apposite. The title is also a reference to royalty, but to the House of Hohenzollern rather than Windsor.