January 2012
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Winner Best Literary Fiction Blog - 2008
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The Sisters Quilt – A Collaborative Effort

Some of you may remember back in October 2011 that my sister, Paula, came out to visit me in California. During that visit, we put together two lap sized quilts – one for me, and one for her. These quilts were made up of blocks we had both made over the course of a year. This idea was born during the weeks I spent in New Hampshire following my sister’s surgery for colon cancer.

We were inspired to make a collaborative quilt (actually TWO quilts) using the book by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran called Collaborative Quilting: Talking it Over. We established some “rules” for our block construction: they had to be a size divisible by three (to make construction of the final quilts easier), we had to use bright colors, and the blocks needed to be liberated trees, stars, and houses (or a combination of those images).

During the year we spent making blocks, we did not share what we were doing…which made it REALLY fun when we got together and started putting everything together. As much as we were alike, we discovered we were also different. I saw houses and trees differently than how Paula saw houses and trees. Our choice of fabric varied wildly. We also found that in putting together our quilts, we had a different vision of how blocks went together. The result was two very individual quilts even though they used blocks made by each of us. This week I finally finished the quilting of my quilt (Paula is still working on hers). All photos below are clickable for a larger image.

The finished size of this lap quilt is a generous 53″ X 67″. Much of the quilt is constructed with scraps. The blocks are all different sizes…so in putting them together, Paula and I had to create “filler blocks” which included rectangles of fabric as well as some pinwheel type blocks. If you look carefully, you can see that there is a letter “P’ and a letter “W” in the quilt…which is, of course, our initials!

The back of this quilt is pieced. Both Paula and I made letter blocks to spell out sisters on our quilt backs. We also made a large star block (I made Paula’s and she made mine) for the back.

The label is hand embroidered and “framed” using some colorful ribbon.

Here are some more photos of the quilt draped:

I quilted this quilt by doing a very free-form outlining of the houses and trees, and using a meandering stipple over the rest of the quilt (except for the borders which I straight line quilted). I am still working on my free motion quilting skills, so the quilting is not perfect – but I liked how it mimicked the folk artsy feel of the quilt.

I used a variety of fabrics for the border, including a Kaffe Fassett orange stripe and a Kaffe Fassett flower print. I bound the quilt with a Kaffe Fassett purple stripe.

In the end, I have a fun, happy, very bright quilt which I treasure because my sister and I made it together. This was a fantastic experience. I promise to post photos of Paula’s quilt when she finishes it. Until then, here is a shot of it in progress last October:

We are already planning our next collaborative effort!


  1. January 27, 2012    

    Oh, that’s gorgeous! I know you’ll treasure it when you use it.

    • January 28, 2012    

      Thanks, Kathy!

  2. January 27, 2012    

    Love love love! I want to get back into quilting so bad. Can’t figure out how to read, quilt and blog at the same time, but there’s got to be a way…

    • January 28, 2012    

      You can do it, Suey (I do!!!!). I rotate through my interests. Sometimes I just spend a couple of hours on a Saturday quilting, then sit and read a bit later in the day. And you don’t have to make huge quilts – a lap quilt comes together fairly quickly!

  3. Tui Tui
    January 27, 2012    

    I don’t know whether to laugh or have a great blubbery weep over this, Wendy. What a beautiful project with so much meaning in it. And the end result is just so joyful. Well done, P and W!

    • January 28, 2012    

      Tui: Thank you so much!! *hugs*

  4. January 27, 2012    

    That is just beautiful! What a wonderful memento you have made!

    • January 28, 2012    

      Jill: Thanks!

  5. Donna Donna
    January 27, 2012    

    I’m hoping that I can be part of the next collaborative project!! Maybe in April?? 🙂

    • January 28, 2012    

      Donna: Maybe we can PLAN it in April? It took Paula and I some concentrated months to make the blocks and then we used the whole ten days she was here putting them together…let’s talk!!

  6. paula paula
    January 27, 2012    

    Wendy your quilting is wonderful and the finished quilt fantastic!!! I still have to piece the back of mine and then get it quilted but you have inspired me to work on this one next!!! Well done sista!

    • January 28, 2012    

      Paula: *hugs*

  7. January 27, 2012    

    Those quilts are just gorgeous!! Makes me wish I had a sister!! What a great thing to share and do together!

    • January 28, 2012    

      Staci: It was wonderful. But you don’t have to have a sister to do a project like this – if you have a close friend, or someone who is LIKE a sister to you, it would also be a fabulous thing to work on together.

  8. Barbara Barbara
    January 28, 2012    

    Beautiful. very moving. I love the vibrant colors and the free moving quilting.

    • January 28, 2012    

      Barbara: Thank you!

  9. January 28, 2012    

    Oh Wendy! I love love love this idea and to think of the memories that these quilts will provide. Love! My mom just got a sewing machine so I’m looking forward to some sewing dates with her. The end results in your quilt are just gorgeous!

    • January 30, 2012    

      Trish: Thanks! I think you will have a great time sewing with your mom…it is so much fun to share this with someone you love!

  10. January 29, 2012    

    This is absolutely fabulous. I so admire those who can make beautiful quilts, I can do simple things like curtains but quilting is beyond me.

    • January 30, 2012    

      Victoria: Thank you! If you can sew a curtain, I promise you that you can quilt!! Really!!! Try it!

  11. January 29, 2012    

    Anything that is inspired by Gwen and Freddy has got to be good and these are stunning.

    • January 30, 2012    

      Clare: They are awesome designers, aren’t they? Thanks!

  12. January 29, 2012    

    Simply beautiful!!

    I love looking at the quilts of others and imagining myself creating such practical works of art. I absolutely love the vibrant colors and varied patterns. Once I sit behind the sewing machine, however, I become quite frustrated 🙁

    I local quilting store has an annual Super Bowl fat quarter sale: 20 fat quarter for $25. I think I may go and perhaps get re-inspired for 2012.

    • January 30, 2012    

      Molly: I’m sorry you’ve found sewing frustrating 🙁 Have you tried taking a class? I wonder if you just did something really “liberated” it might help – this quilt was not really planned in terms of each block…I found myself just sewing strips together, designing as I went – and that is a very freeing way to quilt. BUT, you have to let go of perfectionism!!

  13. January 29, 2012    

    This is just such a striking quilt, and I love it, and the idea behind it. Thanks for sharing this with us! Are you planning on sharing a picture of your sister’s quilt with us when it’s done?

    • January 30, 2012    

      Heather: Thank you! I will definitely share my sister’s finished quilt with everyone…I’m bugging her to get it done!

  14. January 29, 2012    


    • January 30, 2012    

      Anna: Thanks!

  15. February 6, 2012    

    Fantastic, Wendy! The quilt turned out beautifully. I love the pattern and colors, but most importantly, the love shared between you and Paula. You two are very blessed!

    • February 26, 2012    

      A belated thank you for this lovely comment, Les! xo

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