‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Actually, it is likely to be somewhat more than a thousand stitches. I guess it would be several thousand, but as I didn’t count them whilst I was making this wholecloth quilt, I will never know the exact number of times the needle entered the soft peachy cotton fabric.

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I have always been fascinated when I have come across old quilts or coverlets in museums or books. I always find myself craning over the rope barriers in museums to take a closer look, to find out more about the maker.

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My mind sets off wondering how those women managed to create such beautiful, intricate and timeless treasures without the luxury of a fabric store with all its choice of fine cottons, without a ‘daylight’ bulb and without all the notions and mechanical aids of today’s modern world.  How different it was for those women of my past who didn’t have a fabric ‘stash’.  It is nothing short of miraculous how they did it  and I love how their strength and tenacity is preserved in the fibres of those beautiful hand made quilts.

These are some of the things that I pondered as I stitched ‘Morning Star’ and in my own way I felt connected to those women as my hands busied themselves with the rocking motion of the needle. I yearned to create something timeless as they had done, to create my own little piece to enchant the eye with intricate patterns.

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The journey began with a sketch on squared paper, doing my best to draw out a ‘scaled down’ version of the actual thing.

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I knew that if I could come up with a design for just one quarter of the quilt, then I could mirror and flip the pattern to create a whole quilt. I started with a design for the centre star; I practiced drawing feathers and gathered quilting templates from magazines and books.

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I ‘scaled up’ the design to a life size version and I transferred it on to fabric, mirroring and flipping the pattern until the whole top was marked out.

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I tried out several different thimbles, but the one that I found suited me best was a Clover leather thimble with a metal centre on the pad. By the time I had finished quilting ‘Morning Star’ I had worn a hole right through the metal on two thimbles and was on my third!

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Whilst the thimble protected my finger on top of the quilt, the finger on the underside took quite a battering and I was forced to stop on many an occasion when it would start to bleed from repeated stabbings.  I didn’t want to risk getting blood on the quilt!  Someone recommended that I use ‘udder cream’ on the afflicted finger which I found a highly amusing notion at the time, but I have to say it did help to sooth my chapped skin 🙂

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It delighted me to work simply with just the cloth and the frame. It was a real escape, simply to sit with the gentle rhythm of the needle as it gathered all those tiny stitches and lulled my racing thoughts.  I was able to lose myself in the doing of it and I loved it.

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I stitched ‘Morning Star’ back in 2005, so it is already a few years old and my hope is that I might get to hand it down to a grandchild at some point in the future and tell them the story behind the stitches.

I would like to tell them about those strong women who have gone before us, who stitched by candle light, making do with the materials that they had.  I would like to tell them about how every stitch in a quilt represents a moment in time in the life of it’s maker and I would like to explain to them that, although every tiny stitch stands alone, it is also part of the whole; connected to the rest.

Just like a family.

Natalie x

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35 thoughts on “‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

  1. Wow,that is lovely! I would love to do one like that but my hand stitching is terrible; I cannot get even 2 sitiches the size, and as for finishing it………….
    Did you finish your other lovely quilt on St Patrick’s day by any chance?

  2. Wow! I was just looking for some whole cloth hand sewing to inspire me (I’ve just started my first one) & found your beautiful quilt! Thank you for the inspiration! I hope that I can make something as beautiful one day!

  3. Many congratulations on your labour of love – it is a beautiful piece and your stitching is beautifully consistent. I haven’t tried a wholecloth yet, but I’m an enthusiastic hand quilter. I’m wondering what wadding / batting you worked with? I love to use silk for hand quilting, but use cotton quite often too. Like you, I’ve tried out a number of thimbles and my favourite so far has been the Clover metal open sided one. I also loved the leather one you used but found that it got rather hot and slipped about on my finger – the leather is so soft. Also curious which needles you use – sorry for all the additional questions but I’m still working on perfecting my approach so love to hear about how others do things!

    Never come across udderly smooth before – must try that! Congrats again on a lovely piece.

    • Hi Debbie, I can’t remember exactly what make of wadding I used on this one, but I know that it was a fine (lowloft) 100% cotton wadding (the quilt was made in 2005 and, whilst I kept notes regarding the design process, I didn’t think to make a note of the wadding!) I used Millward size 10 quilting needles for the actual quilting. I must try the open sided thimble that you favour some time 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience of making a wholecloth quilt (and for your comments!) – I wholeheartedly encourage you to embark on one – it is quite a journey! Happy stitching! xx

  4. Your quilt is simply stunning Natalie and a beautiful heirloom of the future for someone very lucky…I completely love it!
    Happy Sunday!
    Susan x
    P.S I agree the udder cream is brilliant!

    • I have to confess to feeling a little bit nervous about tackling a wholecloth, but this one isn’t too big (cot size), which seemed more achievable for a first attempt. Once I got going though, it sort of took on a momentum of it’s own and I just enjoyed the process of creating. Glad you enjoyed the post Ali and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Natalie x

  5. This is utterly beautiful. I can’t comprehend how many hours this must have taken you, but it is stunning, well done. I’m sure it will be treasured for many generations.

    • Hi Jenny, it is a cot size quilt measuring approximately 48″ x 32″. As this was my first attempt at designing and stitching a wholecloth quilt, I wanted to start with something that wasn’t too overwhelming so a cot quilt seemed a good size to tackle! 🙂 x

  6. Absolutely beautiful, it certainly enchanted my eyes. I can’t imagine the time this took you, but I can imagine the tranquilness it must have brought to you while you were sewing it. So lovely and as I’ve said before your sewing skills are exquisite. xx

  7. Natalie this is stunning, beautiful design and beautiful quilting. I know what you mean about being able to lose yourself in your stitching – I felt that way while I was doing my Welsh cushion covers. I now aspire to do a whole cloth like yours.

    • I think every quilter should have at least one wholecloth quilt in their collection and I am certain that you will enjoy the process of making one Chris. I am sure your daughter will love the Welsh cushions – your stitching is so neat! Natalie x

  8. This is so beautiful,I have always wanted to try a whole cloth, only because I love hand quilting, you have done such amazing job, I love it so much, but I think I will start with something a little smaller,

Thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment. I love to hear what you have to say - it really does brighten my day! Natalie x

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