One quilt that caught my attention was his Ampersand Quilt, which features a huge ampersand sign made of novelty fabrics to inspire storytelling. The author says he and his daughter snuggle under the quilt and start a story that can last for hours. First, a square with a picture is selected to start the story. When there is a pause, the storyteller says “And….” and another square is selected to help continue the story… and so on. Below is the image from the book that motivated me to make my own.
I have liked purple, green, and blue together since I decorated my room in those colors as a teenager. I chose solid fabrics in the same hues for the background. The original quilt is about 85-1/2″ square; I eliminated the two outer rows of background squares around the perimeter to make it smaller. I cut about 500+ background 3-1/2″ squares from several analogous solid fabrics in the green to purple range, trying to keep them close to the same level of saturation and color value.
First, I started making the top rows of the background. Determined to take a truly random approach to scrappy fabric selection, I tried using the squares of fabric in the order I pulled them from a paper bag.
I CANNOT DO THIS METHOD! Planned randomness is more my style. I found I needed to use my design wall to individually place each fabric so it was not adjacent to the same fabric in any direction. When I stood back to look at the quilt, two pieces of the same bold fabric near each other really stood out in my eye. To maintain my scattered placement of colors, I needed to mark the rows carefully and sew them in order. Flat Flower Pins with row numbers marked on them were helpful.
I did something here that I have not done in years. I sewed the first two squares in each row with chain-piecing. Then, without snipping the threads, I continued chain-piecing the subsequent piece in each row. You can’t see it well, but if I were to pick up the rows below, they would come up as unit because they were all still connected with the threads from chain-piecing. It made it a bit trickier to press the rows in opposite directions for seam nesting when the rows were joined, but I was able to do it. Can you see the two magenta-colored squares in a vertical row with a turquoise square between them? That did get rearranged before the final sewing – I think.
About 210 novelty print squares are needed for the ampersand sign. If you notice in the book’s quilt image, most of the novelty prints have a light background with a few darker or bold background prints scattered about. I had two large sweater bins of I Spy fabrics in my stash. Given the constraints of lighter background and the 3″ finished size, many of my novelty prints were not useable. I selected as many light background prints as I could use, a few of my favorite dark background prints, and searched CT’s stash, online, and in stores for more conversational prints that might stimulate storytelling.
The photo above shows rows pinned and labeled directly from the design wall. The photos below shows pieced rows that are not pressed yet.
The instructions for this quilt in Modern Quilt Perspectives shows the quilt divided into nine sections. I found this very helpful for counting the squares, fabric placement, and piecing. Below is my quilt top sewn in nine separate sections. The vertical seams between the squares in each row are pressed in alternate directions between rows. The horizontal seams between the rows are pressed downward in the far right and left columns, while the seams in the center three sections all go upward. This is because I plan to machine quilt the top in nine sections and sew them together later as a method of quilt-as-you-go.
Note how the squares with red or black backgrounds stand out; I tried to scatter them so they didn’t draw individual attention.To be honest, I had a few extra novelty print squares that just had to go in the quilt, so I expanded the ampersand design slightly to accommodate them.
My next step is to machine quilt each of the nine sections. I found nine purple, green, and blue tone-on-tone flannels that complement the background squares on the front. Each section will have a different color, producing a fun color block look for the backing.
By the way, here are a couple of other quilts from Modern Quilt Perspectives by Thomas Knauer that I would like to make. The first, called Mitosis, represents the steps of two cells dividing to make four, which divide to make eight, etc. Made with solid fabrics, this simple but clever quilt is enhanced by machine quilting that emphasizes the cell divisions. What a perfect gift for a family expecting a baby, especially if infertility and In Vitro Fertilization were involved (as was the situation that inspired this design).
Another amazing quilt by the author is called In Defense of Handmade. The title, visible in trapunto around the top and right side of the pieced bar code, came about after the author saw a label on a factory-made quilt from China that said it was from a “hand-made pattern”.
I will post again when my Ampersand quilt is finished.
P.S. Here is a bit of alphabet trivia. Did you know the ampersand used to be the 27th letter of the alphabet? Click here to learn more about it.