The idea for the Gulf Waters series started with a black and white junco bird outside my window in our redbud tree in March 2016. I always imagine these birds as little nuns in black and white habits. The idea came to me to make a quilt in all black and white. My immediate concern was that I did not have enough solid black fabric. Ok . Improvise. I could expand out to grey along with the black and white. Then I realized I have loads of bright blues like Caribbean water colors. I decide to switch to blues and greys as my color palette. This is perfect since I was going to be spending time on the Gulf of Mexico in March. Hence the name of the series, Gulf Waters. Things were starting to fall into place. Next idea, I needed some color accents in each square. The question is, should I use the same color in each square or the same color family, or totally random. Hmmm. I decided on Kona cotton tomato red to contrast with the bright blues. I have always loved turquoise blue and bright red together as a color combination.
Since I was in Florida for Spring Break during this 25 days, I needed a project that I could easily hand sew with some precut strips of fabric to sew together. This meant long strips and big squares as part of the design since they would be easier to hand sew. When I travel, I bring a small sewing case for a few needles, thread and a small embroidery-size scissors along with a variety of precut fabric strips in my color palette for the series. I use a lot of bias fabric which is cut diagonally across the fabric grain and can be stretchy. To stabilize my squares, I use a piece of thin cotton as a foundation fabric. I have used Ikea sheets cut into 7 inch squares in the past. It becomes my canvas where I lay out the fabric before I start sewing to see how the design will look. I audition the fabric choices for both color placement and the over all design. When I am satisfied, I start to sew the piece of fabric onto the foundation fabric by machine or hand sewing if I am not near my sewing machine. I keep sewing until I am done and the 7 inch white square is fully covered with fabric. Lastly, I use my 6.5” acrylic square ruler and a rotary cutter to cut the square down to this consistent size.
In this case, this series started with the color palette. Once I knew what fabric to use, I turned to the design.
Now for the design decision. In 2015, I was inspired by aboriginal artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s art to make the piece titled, Homage to Emily. I used one of her classic designs and added a color palette from one of her other works depicting colors of her native Australia, reds, oranges, and magenta. I thought this design would be perfect for the hand sewing portion of this Gulf Waters series. Not one to do the same thing twice, I decided to make some slight modifications. The lines would be vertical instead of horizontal. In addition some the same strips would have two or three colors instead of just one color. This adds quite a bit of complexity into the design.
I just completed quilting Gulf Waters. I love the red H in the middle of the quilt. The utter randomness of all the lines really speaks to me. I never know how all of the daily squares will look together except in my imagination. This piece exceeds my expectations.
I used light grey thread to quilt all three layers of the quilt top, cotton batting, and backing fabric. The grey thread weaves in through the design vertically just like the fabric strips. For complicated designs like Gulf Waters, I try to keep the quilting lines simple and minimal to let the colors of the quilt top really stand out on their own. The finished quilt is 30 inches square. I am continuing to catch up on the quilting of all the daily squares and will post them on Instagram as I finish them.