Tuesday, December 20, 2016

San Francisco Quilt

My sister turned 40 this year.   On December 15th and I came up with a mad cap idea on December 6th.  Luckily in 2015.   Not that it makes me any less crazy.   I took this pattern by Satsuma Street -

which is intended to be a little cross stitch bit of wonderful. 

And turned it into a more than king size quilt.   118 inches by 120 inches.

It is amazing.  

So here's the whole story.   I downloaded the pattern and then thought, I'll make the Coit Tower, hate the fiddliness of it and then make a pillow and give it to my sister for Christmas. At first it looked like a robot.

Then voila, a tower.

And it was awesome.  I didn't have the solid fabric to keep going so I made a color key and plotted and ordered fabric and looked at ways to break it up into manageable chunks.   And never once did the math of how big a quilt it would be if I used 1 inch finished squares.  

And then I laid out sections to piece together.   I tried to limit the amount of inset piecing I would need to do while still making sure the structures would make sense.   For example, the bridge needed to be solid pieces along the bottom so it wouldn't fall down.

And I ironed.  Every seam open.   Every.  Seam.  Open.

And realized that it was going to work.  Then questioned my sanity.   Then sent 10,000 pictures to my QBFs (Quilty Best Friends) who were happy to confirm that I was crazy.

I taped it to my wall and then picked it up off the floor 37 times.  

I kept track of progress with a highlighter.

I made a ton of water when I started to wonder how big it would turn out.

I sat a puppy in the photo for scale. 

I did math and took up all available floor space.  It's bigger than my studio.  I also had to remake some of these pieces as I also adopted two giant dogs while this was going on.   One of which expressed his displeasure at being left by chewing up a section or two.

My horrible QBFs said make the trolley until I caved.   Then they learned not to sew with me if I was working on this project.   Because I cursed a lot and accused them of stealing pieces, moving colors and other general mayhem.

The towers came together and I mis-cut the sky.   Gray sky, of course.   It's San Francisco after all and I had a plan for the quilting.

In May, I realized that I would never ever finish this project.  

I made pagodas and houses and locked up the dogs to lay it out.   

Hi Stella and Matilda in the Princess Crate / Best Bed!

And I finished the top in July while Bean was visiting and making me drinks.

When I finished it, she said "I think you should hand quilt it" which is code in our crowd for "I truly hate you".   

The only place I could lay it out to get a full picture was my parent's living room which didn't offer the best light.

And oh boy was it huge.   My mom was super helpful in pointing out that my sister didn't own a king size bed.   I didn't care.   I'm an artiste.   I make what needs to be made not what might fit in a small apartment in the city.

And luckily my sister bought a king bed in October.   So art wins again.

And then the backing saga.  Because the top was already heavy so I didn't want to use my usual flannel.   And extra wide fabric backs are not as wide or as tall as this quilt.   

So I mathed a bit more, cut 5 inch squares from every color on the front, pieced a backing, ran out of the aqua greek keys, stubbornly refused to change my plan and started quilting while waiting for another order of the backing to show up.  Which means that yes, I had to wrestle the largest quilt ever through my Janome to finish piecing the back after I'd spent 3+ months quilting most of the quilt.   It worked though, so I'm unlikely to become less stubborn from this process.

It took HOURS to load this thing.

And months to quilt it, if I had not had a deadline, I'd still be quilting.  

bricks in the building
flowers in the field
leaves in the trees
all the designs
siding and curtains
catification in one of the windows, including my sister's three cats
the logo of one of her favorite coffee shops on the trolley as advertisement
pebbling in all the white and gray clouds
Japanese message in the pagoda
message for humanity
clouds and wind (before washing)
After washing the sky had the best texture.  So much crinkly goodness and the clouds puffed up as a good cloud should.  

I hand stitched all the binding in a little more than a day.  And I'm not a fast stitcher.   But I had to get it on that weekend in order to make it to the giant machines at the laundromat.   Where I fretted and paced and took photos of it spinning around.

But oh the deliciousness of it out of the dryer.

It is labeled and you can see that I changed the binding color around the bottom water on the quilt.  Because madness.  I kept track of the bobbins, I used 19 on this quilt.  Plus all of these colors on the front.   

The little olive one was a panicked text to a QBF, who purchased it, passed it to my walking pal and saved the day.

This was truly an epic project.  I questioned myself a thousand times and bored my friends talking about it incessantly.  I am so very happy with how it turned out.  My sister seems to love it so I'm calling this one a success.

And yes, I would make another of these patterns into a quilt again.  But maybe just one of the Mini Cities this time.

And yes, there are still more pictures of this on Flickr.


  1. You are my quilting hero! This is absolutely fantastic! Lucky sister!

  2. You're amazing!! I wish I had the patience to make one. Your sister must've been overjoyed while opening this stunning quilt!!!!

  3. I travel with this baby now! I do truly LOVE it!! And I have the world's best sister!

  4. WHOA. Ridiculously amazing! Meanwhile I have been painting my kitchen cabinets for, like, eight months or whatever. I mean, I think I still have paint around here somewhere...

    I'm not even a QBF but I'm confident that you really are crazy, in the best way!