Wednesday, March 21, 2012


It's been a long time since I posted here; life's kind of gone sideways for a while. But things are better and here I am, posting about a recent project which was unusual for me, quite challenging, and very rewarding.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with a challenge. I was asked to make a couch quilt for my cousin, for her birthday, and honoring the work she’s doing as a post doctorate in neurology. Her husband asked if I’d be willing to make a brain-themed quilt. A quilt? A present for my cousin? A challenge as a quilter? Of course, I said yes. He looked on line for some inspiration pictures, and sent them to me. When I said I don’t know how to translate the pictures into patchwork, he assured me I’d do a great job and left me to it.

Ok, so the first step was to enlarge a picture of a brain, to a size that might work for a centerpiece of a quilt. This is not as easy as I thought it would be.  I cropped the image into three overlapping parts, magnified them as much as my printer would allow, then went to a photocopy store and had them enlarge them further, making sure the three cropped images still line up properly:

Next I pondered the type of fabric to use for this brain. I looked at my fabric wall as I am still trying to whittle down my collection, and I tried several combinations, but soon enough I settled on some batiks I had. I traced the brain sections onto the batiks, and soon realized I would need to hand sew them with all those curvy lines. Here they are before the sewing:

For the next step I decided to applique the brain onto a square. Now this is highly, highly unusual for me. I am not fond of applique, nor do I think I am particularly good at it, but for this, well, the thought of piecing the brain into a fitted background just seemed too hard. I appliqued the patchwork brain using a tight zigzag stitch and was really pleased to realize I could use the same stitch to add more detail to the patchwork brain. Like so:

And voila! The center piece was done. I sewed a border around it, and then two more borders around that, and set to create the outer border.  And this step took me a while to figure out. The original idea included images of neurons and I looked at many images, but it is beyond my skill to actually create a patchwork neuron block. Finally I used printable fabric sheets (kind of a cop out, but it worked). I printed images of neurons off the web, set the ink as best as I could, and sewed them into square blocks.
Here are some examples:

I alternated the neurons with blocks with centers of the dark blue batik quilts. I thought it added…balance.
The final touch was appliquéing a black puzzle piece onto the brain, to symbolize my cousin’s work. And the letters embroidered are CRF, which is what she’s working on, more specifically.
Here’s the finished piece:

I mailed it to my cousin’s husband and he surprised her with it tonight. Success!