This Prairie Braid quilt was begun after a color workshop with Heather Stewart of near London Ontario. You can learn more about Heather at her website at http://www.heatherstewart.ca/ Heather is a wonderful teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed the color workshop. The biggest take-away from the workshop was recognizing the difference between brown-based fabrics and white-based fabrics. It was something I knew subconsciously, but Heather brought it very firmly into my active consciousness. This quilt was made as a visual reminder of that lesson. All of the fabrics in this quilt are brown-based fabrics.
I love Prairie Braid Quilts and like to keep a stash of strips cut and ready to make when inspiration strikes. My preferred strip size is small -1.5 inches by 4.5 inches, with the braid finishing at 1 inch by approx 3 inches when assembled and trimmed.
The key is to separate the lights from the darks to make it easy to sew lights to one side and alternating darks to the other side. This photo shows one way I separate them with a tray.
Because this quilt requires pressing after the addition of every strip, I often will lay out the darks and lights on my ironing board, which I keep close at hand. The strips shown below are for a second Prairie Braid quilt I started this summer. It is not yet finished, but will be during 2012.
I find Prairie Braid to be a good portable project since it does not require a large workspace. I tend to cut the strips when I am cutting up scraps, so I always have the strips on hand for the next quilt. Although I have a wonderful sewing room at home, I tend to do a lot of piecing at our summer cottage where I have a small corner of the living room – just enough space to set up a sewing machine and ironing board. Using trays, it is easy to keep the project confined within a small space and then easy to pack up when company arrives.
Once the strips are assembled and trimmed, I lay them out on the floor and everyone gives me their opinion on the color distribution. My husband is good at noticing where there is more density of color and suggesting alternate layouts. After laying this out, I decided it would be too small and opted to add four more braids. Now it is big! Finished size is 94″ by 96″.
When it came to adding borders, I was amazed to find I had absolutely nothing in my stash that would work for this quilt. It is rare when I go to a fabric store to purchase for a specific project, but that is what I did for this one. I went looking for a dark olive green fabric which I was convinced would be the right choice. I live in the heart of Ontario’s quilting country – an area with many quilting stores and an extensive selection of fabrics. I could not find any olive green that worked with this quilt. I took the top with me and in most stores, the staff got highly involved, giving opinions and pulling bolts. Despite all of their recommendations, I ended up choosing a brown fabric. The print resembles a roughed-up suede and has a bit of green, gold and dark red mottled tones mixed with the brown. I am pleased with how well it complements the top, providing a negative space to rest the eyes from the busy centre of the quilt. I am also surprised that the borders ended up to be brown rather than green. Sometimes the quilt just tells us what it needs!
This quilt was quilted with a dense meander in the center. Because it is so busy, there is no point in doing an intricate design. It would never be seen. In fact, quilting it was very difficult because the tan thread blended so well with the lights, I could hardly see where I had already quilted. I chose the tan because it blended both with the dark fabrics and with the light fabrics. The plain borders are a better canvas for custom quilting, so here I quilted a fern leaf pattern, in keeping with the woodsy autumn colours of the quilt.
Because the strips all have bias edges, keeping the quilt square is a something I need to be constantly checking. Using pins and rulers, I focus on keeping the borders square and then work in any excess fullness in the center where I meander. One of my favorite tools is my laser level which I use to check the square of the quilt while it is still on the frame.
The border was done freehand, using the chalked markings as a guide.
Removing the markings is fairly easy. I just use my Art Gum eraser and a lint brush.
The quilt will be bound by hand since this quilt will likely be entered into a fall fair competition. For the purposes of my goal accomplishment tally, I am considering this quilt done, even without the binding. I will finish the binding over the next week while I am a passenger on several long drives and while waiting for relatives at an airport. I can hand bind a quilt at 48″ per hour, so I figure this one will be done with about 9 hours of hand sewing.
Goal Summary: 51 projects complete and one more to go to reach my goal of 52 done. One thing I have learned while completing my last few projects is that my body is not designed for extended stand-up quilting. The final project will be something small, something I can complete while sitting in a chair!
Update – Fall 2012: I did enter this quilt in a few local fall fairs. It won Grand Champion, Machine Quilting at the 2012 Drayton Fair, Grand Champion, Machine Quilting at the 2012 Arthur Fall Fair and Best of Show at the 2012 Fergus Fall Fair. It went on to OAAS District 7 competition where it won first place. It now goes on to the OAAS provincial competition in Toronto at the February 2013 OAAS convention.