Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Jumbled Library" Quilt

I have a finished quilt to show you. And I was keeping it secret, so you haven't seen any part of it before! Even more amazing is that I started and finished it in about a month!! A far cry from my usual 3 to 5 year (or more) time frame.

In early March I contacted my cousin because I was hoping to visit with her in April. In passing, she mentioned that it was about the time that she would (finally) finish the diploma she's been working on for years (while working and raising her kids). Well, that is a big deal! So I decided to make a quilt for her, and I had the perfect design in mind.

I love Wanda's quilts over at Exuberant Color. I especially liked a design she did that she called "Jumbled Library 2" (the link goes to a picture of the quilt--well worth a look). It's a quilt made with strips, and someone commented to her that it looked like shelves of jumbled books. Although Wanda's uses different sized blocks that she has to fit together, I thought I could get a similar look with 12" blocks. Easier to do (I was on a bit of a time crunch after all), but just as much punch.

So one afternoon, I headed to my MIL's to use her cutting table with a box of leftovers and fat quarters. I tried to keep the colours in the brown family because I knew my cousin used a lot of neutrals in her house, but I couldn't keep out a few blues, greens, purples, and of course, red. (It was me making the quilt after all.) I also purchased two fabrics which had lines of text on them, just to emphasize the book theme.

I cut and cut and cut. I wasn't sure where to stop or when I would have enough. I varied the widths from 1.5" to 3" so I would have a variety. In the end, I think I cut enough for at least two quilts, but it was good to have the variety to chose from.

I know some people would throw the strips in a bag and piece them randomly, (I considered it) but I couldn't do it. I didn't do a lot of planning, but I definitely thought about what colours and patterns were going next to each other as I was sewing.

I cut muslin squares that were at least 13" on each side and sewed the strips to them. I didn't fuss a lot with keeping everything square and straight. This was a jumbled library, after all!

I made 24 of the squares. Then I chose the ones that I liked the best, trimmed them to 12.5" and put them aside (about 12 of them). I had drawn out a basic design for where I wanted vertical lines and where I wanted horizontal lines, so I started cutting up the rest of squares so I could get what I drew.

I cut some of the squares in half parallel to the stripes and I cut some of them in half against the stripes, 12.5" by 6.5" in each case. And some of the squares got cut into quarters, 6.5"x6.5". This gave me a bunch of "modular" pieces that I could play around with.

And I had fun making a couple different squares just to shake things up a little, like this diagonal square,
and this crazy quilt square:
First I laid them on the spare bed in the pattern that I sketched. Then I played around a lot. And I took photos to get a different perspective. And I even took some in black and white to see the light/dark balance. (That was pretty hopeless because the colours are just too scrappy.)
In the end I decided there was enough stuff going on in this quilt that I should keep it really simple. I ended up laying almost all the pieces so that the stripes went up and down, with just a few spots of horizontal stripes to break it up.

And then I sewed the smaller parts into 12.5" squares. And then I sewed squares together to make rows. And then I sewed rows together to make a quilt top. Basic stuff.
I found a nice book print for the back of the quilt, but it wasn't quite wide enough. So I used some leftover bits and sewed some more to make up a striped strip on the side:
I love the current trend of piecing the back of a quilt and/or using leftover blocks. (I can't quite say I wouldn't have been happy to find backing fabric that was wide enough, but I'm glad it worked out this way in the end.)

Then I layered it for quilting. I used spray adhesive for the first time since I hear it's much fast than pinning. It worked ok, but I definitely had some fabric shifting. That may have been "operator error" though, so I can't say I'll never try it again. It also wasn't the best choice for this project because all the squares were backed with muslin. The muslin adhered to the batting, but the wider strips would shift despite being sewn down. Using my walking foot helped a lot. I went with a thin batting because the quilt was feeling heavy enough with the extra muslin layer.

I quilted stripes about a zipper foot apart (a small 1/2", I'd estimate), following the direction of the strips. I really liked the feel and look of all that stitching, but it did take some time!! But all worth it. Here are a couple close up shots where you may be able to see the stitching:

I was lucky enough to find a long strip of leftover binding, I think from the crossed canoes quilt I gave to Isaac. It was about 50" short but I found an extra piece of the same fabric while cutting the strips and was smart enough to put it aside in case I needed it. So I cut some bias strips from it and added them to the binding I already had.
The binding fabric is a batik, which there isn't a lot of in the quilt, but I thought the subtle blues and greens were a good match. I stitched it onto the front of the quilt and then hand stitched it down on the back.

And instead of using a sewn-on label, I just used a fabric pen to write the information on one of the "book spines" on the back of the quilt:
And even though I wrote everything out on paper first to get it right, I later realized I forgot the name of the quilt!! So I added that to a "book" a little further down:
Here is the final quilt (45"x69"):
And here I am visiting with my cousin when I got to give it to her.
It was very well received! :) (I believe she said something about bringing it to the library and making all her coworkers jealous...)

This was a completely fun project all the way around. Easy but creative. The excitement of a looming deadline probably heightened the experience as well!


  1. Hi Christina, I am Karie Cross' mother. I think she goes to the same church as you? She sent me a link to this page because she said it combined two of my favorite things: libraries and quilts! It is a beautiful quilt. Well done! I've made a few quilts and had to smile at your comment that it usually takes about 3 to 5 years. That's about my speed too!

  2. Hi Pam. Yes we do go to the same church, although I'm not sure we've met. (Apologies if Karie says we have b/c I am terrible with names!) Thank you for your kind comments...I'm glad you enjoyed the quilt!


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