Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going Home

This is the story of my Navy quilt called "Going Home". It was made for the Thread Tails & Vapor Trails quilt contest honoring the 100th year of Naval Aviation. I found out several weeks ago this quilt had been accepted into one of 4 travelling exhibits that will tour the country in 2011. I found out today that it did not win a ribbon. But this quilt has been such a wonderful journey for me, I wanted to share. I hope you'll enjoy the story.
It all started last June when I decided to enter the quilt contest. Some of you may not know that Pensacola is known as the Cradle of Naval Aviation and is home to the Blue Angels. The rules were pretty simple, the quilt had to be 40" square and had to depict Naval aviation in some way. My initial thoughts were of water (Navy) and to do a pictorial picture of the sky and sea. This is my humble beginning.
I originally wanted to do a sunrise where the dark, gray sky is slowly turning pink. Since I had lots of squares left over from my Darth Vadar quilt years ago, I decided to use the same technique of small 1 1/2" squares. So I began cutting.
And I kept cutting and kept cutting. The water seemed pretty easy, I have a lot of blue fabrics. It was slowly starting to take shape. I didn't realize how many 40 rows is until I started laying out all those little squares!!
About this time, my friend Kim said, why don't you do a sunset instead of a sunrise? And she sent me a little goody bag with scraps. So off with the gray squares, on with the pink and purple. It did add a lot more color, but honestly at this point, I had no clue what I was doing.
I decided to start sewing the water together just to get it off the design wall and so I could move the sky down to reach it better.
Well, from a distance the water looked pretty good, but the sky was a mess. I knew I needed help. I immediately thought of someone who's work as a fiber artist was incredible. I thought that rather than get help from an artist, I needed someone who was first a quilter. Since I'm a native New Yorker, I decided to contact Diane Evans (also a NewYorker) and she so graciously agreed to help me. By this time, it was mid-July. This is the first picture I sent her.
I told her to be totally honest, and so began a week-long journey for both of us. I would take a picture and she would email me her comments. I would come home from work, and immediately after dinner, go to my design wall and begin the changes. I really can't tell you how many hours it takes to move around hundreds of little squares. But for one week, the pictures and the emails went back and forth from Pensacola, FL to Schnectady, NY. I can never repay her for her help, encouragement and friendship. Thank you Diane!!
It was at this point that I didn't think this quilt would happen. I was very discouraged. It didn't look like the picture in my head, and I just didn't like it. Diane and I both decided it needed more orange and less pink. Okay, the sky was looking better, but then I started having issues with the sun.
Trying to create a round object with squares of fabric proved to be very challenging. It seemed the better I liked the sky, the less I liked the sun.
This flat sun was almost the worst. But I decided that I needed to start sewing the sky together and get a better feel for where I was in the process. I also realized that I needed to have some reflection in the water.
So I started ripping apart the water to add yellow and pink squares.
At this point, I felt I had imposed on Diane long enough, and I ended my one-on-one with her. She said something to me that I kept thinking about. She said, "Keep going until your heart sings". Well, I sure wasn't there yet (even though I think Rodger approved), so I decided to call a friend of mine who was an art teacher. Toni also graciously agreed to help me. It was now early August.
I would take my quilt over to her house with my little basket of squares. She helped me tweak my sky and told me I needed more reflection in the water. In total, I ripped out 130 water squares!! She also helped with the sun. And I had added some planes.
At this point I knew that something very important was missing. My quilt didn't tell a story. While discussing my quilt with one of our attorneys at work, he gave me several ideas. Turns out Jason is a walking encyclopedia on aviation. I decided to change planes and chose the F6F Hellcat.
This plane was very important during WWII. I also decided to add a carrier. The early Hellcats did not have radar capability and had to land on the carrier before the sun went down. There was my story and there was the name.
Here's a close up of the sun and the planes. I'd also like to thank my friend Earle, for his help in making sure the Hellcats were in the correct formation.
And here's my quilt. Diane, my heart is singing. Thanks to all who helped me on this journey. Even though I didn't win a ribbon, I am honored that my quilt is hanging right now at the NAS Naval Air Museum. The Blues are performing their home show this weekend, and the quilts are being shown for the first time. I am also honored that it will travel around the country for others to see. The entire collection will be shown at Road to California show in January. You can go to and see all the quilts.

If you're still reading, I hope you've enjoyed the process.
Until next time,


Magnolia Bay Quilts said...

Amazing quilt, and what a collaboration of talent! I hope to be able to visit it in person next weekend. Congratulations on having it included in the traveling exhibit. I know people with enjoy seeing it!

Carla said...

You are an incredibly talented quilter, Karen. I loved this Veterans Day interesting to see your journey in making it SING! I wonder if the quilts will travel to Kansas City? I'd love to see them.

Terry said...

What an beautiful quilt and what an great story too! Congratulations! :0)

Lori said...

Wow! That is a spectacular quilt and is full of heart!!! How exciting to have it tour the country!!

Victoria @ BUMBLE BEANS said...

Fabulous!!! wow does that look great!

MamaT said...

Wow! That's all!

PaTcHwOrK jEnN said...

That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the story.

Sherrill said...

WOW, that is a GORGEOUS quilt! Just that you came up with that original idea is AMAZING to me--I have none of that original creativity! It's absolutely fabulous!

Vivian said...

The process of creating your outstanding quilt is a fascinating story, Karen. You must be very proud of the finished project. It's wonderful! I'm heading over to right now.

QuiltSue said...

It's a wonderful quilt, and thanks so much for taking us on your creative journey. I'm not surprised it's been chosen to be in the travelling exhibit. I only wish I could get to see it, but I don't suppose it's coming to the UK?

Aunti Nicole's Corner said...

Wow this is fantastic. The watercolor thing is harder than it looks. I appreciate the time you took getting it just right, it was worth it. What a treasure!

Trine said...

Hey, I read the whole thing, and it was educational as well as entertaning.

Love that the quilt has a story:)
I'll go to right away.

Happy quilting from
Trine (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Diane said...

Wonderful! It sure looks like a winner to me!

Becky said...

Karen, That's a great story for an outstanding quilt. It makes my heart sing with you! :)

Me aka Supermom said...

I have stumbled across your blog, happily. I love the story about this quilt, as well as the quilt. The Maine Quilt Show (which I am attending next weekend) is having this exhibit. As a navy brat, having grown up with a naval aviator (and lived in FL), I enjoyed this post.

Zibu said...

I found your blog through the 2011 Bloggers' Quilt Festival. This quilt is beautiful! I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of time you put into it, even after reading the incredibly detailed story of how the quilt evolved. Thank you so much for sharing your whole process - it is so easy to forget all those "missteps" (not quite, but I can't think of a better word right now) that we take along the journey to the finished quilt!
Congratulations on having your quilt go touring!