Introducing: “What the Hill?”


What the Hill

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I submitted five quilts to QuiltCon 2022 - and four of them came back as rejects. 

I had low expectations of any of them being accepted, so I was surprised in the best way possible when I found out that my Rockwood cover quilt was! 

But I’m not here to talk about Rockwood. I wanted to tell you about one of my QuiltCon rejects that’s very special to me.

What the Hill

It’s named “What the Hill?” and I entered it into the Appliqué category. Here is a little more about the quilt:

​​In October of 2019, I was diagnosed out of the blue with cervical cancer. Four months later following major surgery and a painful recovery, I was told I was cancer-free and would require no further treatment.

“What the Hill?” is representative of this period where my world turned upside down. 

The period from diagnosis to recovery was so short, I barely had time to process what had happened to me. I also wasn’t prepared for how complicated and challenging life after cancer would be.

This quilt represents the boulders, big and small, that I’ve navigated every day since October 2019. It represents the hills that feel hard to climb… and the ones that are starting to feel easier.

I’ve learned that physical, emotional and spiritual healing is not linear. But I’m grateful to still be here to experience all of it - the good and the bad. 

What the Hill

Am I sad this quilt was rejected? Meh. A little!

But I was able to create something meaningful, while also trying something that’s very different and new for me. 

And you know what? I LOVED IT. 

Raw edge appliqué was totally new for me and I’m so glad I went out of my comfort zone! 

Here’s a little more on my process of making the quilt: 

During QuiltCon Together last year, I signed up for one of Heidi Parkes’ classes called “Improv Wholecloth Appliqué”. I watched all of the videos and LOVED seeing her process, but I didn’t get started on a quilt right away! 

Heidi Parkes Class

If you have seen Heidi’s work (which I highly recommend), you will know that my quilt really doesn’t look anything like hers! Or like what she was teaching in that workshop.

But the fundamentals of improv and applique remain the same with my quilt. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about Heidi’s classes and I was really feeling a creative pull to make a quilt that:

a) Was a representation of my cancer/post-cancer journey

b) Had nothing to do with pattern writing (aka my job!)

c) Was something that challenged me 

I have a few Pinterest boards where I’ve saved pattern inspiration (meaning repeating patterns - not quilt patterns) as well as colour inspiration boards. I looked these over until I had a clear sense of what I wanted to create! 

I wanted to use all fabrics that I had in my stash already. Because I had used these fabrics during previous projects and quills, they represented my life before cancer. 

I wanted the quilt to be full of colour and life as well, as a juxtaposition to a lot of the darkness that I felt during that time. 

And also because colour is a perfect representation of different feelings and emotions. 

What the Hill

When it came to cutting, I had one major rule; no rulers or rotary cutters allowed! 

I really wanted to lean into the idea of improvisation and freeform shapes. I started cutting without any plan other than I knew I wanted a general shape that was rounded on the top with a straight, flat bottom.

I used my 8" Gingher Scissors (Canadians, click here) that I have used and loved for many years…and just started cutting! I started with a few shapes of each colour. 

What the Hill Cutting

What the Hill Cutting

I then began randomly laying out the shapes on this piece of Kona Snow fabric.

Colour and shape were in the back of my mind, but I really tried to let my gut and intuition guide the process.

Once I was happy with the arrangement (which I tried really hard not to fuss over too much!), I pin based each one of the shapes onto the fabric. 

What the Hill Basting

I used Aurifil Monofilament thread (Canadians, click hereto appliqué each of the shapes onto the quilt. 

This was a new product to me! As an Aurifil Artisan, I receive a kit of thread with a variety of different colours, weights and types of thread to try out each year. This Monofilament thread was included.

I had never tried it, so I researched it on their website. This is what I found: 

“Aurifil’s Monofilament Thread is 100% Nylon. Available in two colors (Clear & Smoke), it is the perfect choice for use whenever the stitches need to camouflage with the background of a project. Monofilament can be used as a top thread for many quilting techniques such as stitch-in-the-ditch, invisible machine applique, outlining, shaping and echoing applique, couching, and of course free motion quilting. The smoothness of the thread also makes it perfect for needle turn applique or EPP.”

Turns out, it was exactly what I needed! 

What the Hill Monifilament

I used a zigzag stitch with the Monofilament thread around each of the shapes to stitch them in place. 

Once I had the shapes stitched on, I spray-basted (Canadians, click here) the quilt. 

I used 50wt Aurifil thread in 2021 (Canadians, click here) for the quilting, as I wanted it to blend in with the background fabric to create a lot of texture without adding any additional colour.

What the Hill Aurifil Thread

I knew I wanted VERY tight quilting, so I had the idea to do matchstick quilting. 

I started with ¼” spaced straight lines, using the edge of my presser foot as a guide. 

Once I was finished, I knew that I wanted MORE quilting! I considered adding another quilting line between the ones that were already there (for ⅛” spacing), but I felt inspired to run the quilting lines perpendicular to create a grid instead.

There are two main reasons why I chose to do grid quilting: 

I love the order that comes from grids.

And I liked the fenced-in feeling (or even caged feeling) that the grid created. I felt like it added an element of feeling trapped, which felt very appropriate for this quilt. 

What the Hill Grid Quilting

What the Hill Grid Quilting

What the Hill Grid Quilting

What the Hill Grid Quilting Closeup

Will raw edge appliqué and teeny tiny 1/4” grid quilting become regulars in my work? 

Probably not! But I am SO pleased with the results and would 100% do it again! 

Also, if you didn’t already know, one of my favourite Instagram hashtags is #QuiltConReject. Take a browse through - you’ll see so many AMAZING quilts. I am shocked that some of them didn’t get accepted! 

Have questions about this quilt or about anything in the shop? Please reach out to hello@theblanketstatement.ca and we’ll help you out!