La Dolce Vita

A finish!  And this one has a story…

La Dolce Vita, king size, 36 blocks

This is a commission that has been a year in the works.  Maybe even longer.  It started as a cute little pile of Dolce by TanyaWhelan.  One of my clients, (let’s just call her my generous benefactor) has  had several quilts made for her family, but none for her.  This was going to be her quilt for her bed in her bedroom.  I needed a little more fabric, so I threw in a few others to make it look a little less match-matchy.

For the pattern, I wanted to do something a little less traditional, and I wasn’t sure she’d go for it.  But she did.  And when half the blocks were made, I was so tired of this quilt.  Then eventually I made the other half a few months later.  And then I let it sit because I knew it needed some improv piecing on the back.  So that took a couple months since I work so quickly.  And then it took a couple weeks to quilt.  And then a week to bind.  Have I mentioned this quilt is HUGE?  It’s super duper king size.  36 blocks in all (plus the ones on the back).

La Dolce Vita, back

So, 11 months later, I finally have it done, and I took some pictures– getting it a little dirty in the process.  So I took it home throw it in the wash.  Orange streaks (from a hand-dyed fabric) appear throughout my quilt.  I died.  I hyperventilated.  I was going to have a panic attack, but I wasn’t sure how. Hypoxia, anoxia, somatic cell death.  Funeral.

And then I remembered the chemical Synthrapol.  It’s a chemical that you put in the water when you are worried something might run.  Synthrapol molecules (or some chemistry type of word) wrap around the dye molecules floating in the washing machine water, and then they carry those dye molecules away so that they don’t get absorbed in the fabric, kind of like a color catcher.  So I held my breath, bit my nails, and gave it a whirl.  It worked.  I slowly came back to life and started breathing again.  Lesson learned.

By the way, I did pre-wash all my fabric (because I’m nuts and LOVE using pre-washed fabric), and it still ran.  When you are working with hand-dyed fabrics, sometimes, there are excess dye molecules that haven’t set in the fabric yet (or something like that).  Next time I’ll pre-wash my hand-dyed fabrics with Retayne, my other fabric chemical.  My advice to you:  buy each of these to have in case of emergency. (I’m not an amazon affiliate and will not profit if you do, fyi.)

Where did I learn all this?  From my art quilter friends Laurie Brainerd and Leslie Tucker Jenison.  They are brilliant at all things dye-related, fabric-related, and at talking me off the ledge when I most need it.  Where did I find these awesome ladies?  My quilt guild.  Go join one if you haven’t already!

Another valuable lesson was learned from working on this quilt.  Pick out your fabrics in natural light.  I used a different white for the outer border than for the innards of the quilt.  And one white is so white that it’s almost blue, but it isn’t.  It’s white.  And the other one is just white.  But when these whites get together, they aren’t jiving like I planned.  When did I notice?  When I was photographing the quilt outside after I finished it.  So now I’m contemplating setting up a card table and sewing outside instead of in my studio.  What am I going to do?  Leave it.  If my client wanted a perfect quilt, she would have called Pottery Barn, right?

The Amish always make a giant, intentional error in their quilts, like flipping a block upside down.  They call this a humility block because only God is perfect, and they don’t want to compete with that.  I love their confidence assuming that if their quilts didn’t have a humility block, they would indeed be perfect.  So, when I make a mistake, I usually refer to it as my “humility block.”  Well, I could have left the orange or went with mis-matched white fabric.  Whatever the case, this quilt has definitely given me a dose of humility.

Close-up of some quilting. I can't get enough of feathers.

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8 Responses to La Dolce Vita

  1. Vicki W says:

    I don’t know if you even want a 3rd opinion about pre-treating fabrics but I’d recommend that you be very careful with Retayne. If you are prewashing a multicolored fabric and one of the colors runs, the Retayne will cause those loose particles to adhere all over your fabric. I wrote a blog article about how I get out excess dye if you are interested. I never, ever, under any circumstance use Retayne. It can go wrong too easily.

    • Oh, Vicki– thanks so much for that information. I only used it once, and luckily, it worked out. Thanks for the link to your article. Every bit of information and help is greatly appreciated!

  2. j says:

    I LOVE my quilt – MY QUILT! Can’t wait to put it on the bed.

  3. I love that quilt Danielle, and the feathers, and the story behind it! I can’t wait for the quilt guild meeting/party tonight!

  4. Suzanne says:

    It is such a happy quilt…….colors, blocks and for that special person. Saw it during photo shoot, beautiful, so pretty!

  5. I work at a snails pace too. But mine is mostly procrastination to start. My SIL asked me to make her a Tshirt quilt and gave me her shirts back at the beginning of July. I found out last Tuesday that it needed to be dropped off at the quilters on Thursday to make my deadline. 94×110, finished. A LOT of movies watched at my house in those 36 hours. HA! SO glad the orange came out though. I can imagine the freakingout that was happenening at your house. Also, I prewash too. I like it much better.

  6. Lucia Wilke says:

    Ms. Wilkes,

    Loved this post. Lots of great info and I enjoyed hearing your story behind the quilt.

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