"She seeks wool & flax, And works willingly with her hands" ~ Proverbs 31:13

May 26, 2015

Shades of Alabaster {An All White Dear Jane Quilt}

Shades of Alabaster

Quite some time ago, October 2013 to be exact, I started a Dear Jane quilt.
My adventure into Jane started with signing up for a technique class taught by Aunt 'Reen of Aunt 'Reen's Place who was teaching a 13 month class at my local quilt shop, Kelly Ann's Quilting.
I chose to do that quilt in modern bright fabrics.

A few months into the class, Aunt 'Reen encouraged us to come up with unique ways to use the Jane blocks either in a quilt or another unique item. I really wanted to make a unique Jane quilt, preferably something that hadn't been done before, but was having trouble coming up with something new or different.  There have been so many Dear Jane quilts made over the years, I began to question if it was even possible to come up with something unique. I contemplated my options, but it seemed that everything that could possibly be done with Jane had already been done. 

Then on a drive home back to Virginia from a visit to my parents farm in Missouri, I was reading random blog posts while my hubby drove. I came across Molli Sparkles blog post entitled, "No Value Does Not Equal Free".  When I saw the all white Trip Around the World that Molli had created, I knew exactly what I wanted needed to do for my unique Jane Quilt. I had never seen Jane done in white and was sure if I added some white-on-whites and off whites to the mix it would be something I would enjoy working on and it might even turn out okay.

I pulled all the whites from my stash, got as many whites as I could from local quilt shops and finished off the mixture with some online purchases.

Once I had all the white, white-on-white and off white fabrics I needed, I chose 64 of the 169 center Jane blocks. In choosing which blocks to include I wanted to be sure that most of the techniques we had learned and used in class were included in the quilt.

There are Traditional Pieced, Foundation Paper Pieced, English Paper Pieced, Reverse Applique, Piecelique and Hand Applique among the blocks I chose to use.
Shades of Alabaster - Quilting Finished, Ready for Binding
As I started working on the blocks this white Jane began to consume me. I put aside the modern, bright Jane I had been working on and it still lays in the state I last left it with blocks joined into rows waiting for the rows to be sewn together to finish the center and a whole bunch of triangle blocks left to make. I will soon return to finish it.

Modern Bright Jane - Started Oct. 2013
The Jane blocks so much fun to make they are absolutely addicting.
For the background fabric of every block I choose to use Arctic White Essential Designer Solid by Free Spirit Fabrics.  Choosing to use a solid white as the background fabric combined with a white-on-white or off white fabric for the focus fabric in each block made working in all white much easier than I had anticipated.

Four of the 64 blocks

Once the top was completely sashed I put it up on the design wall and it took my breath away.
It reminded me of a vintage wedding gown. I was in love and could hardly wait to start free motion quilting.

Top complete on the design wall

When it came time to sandwich and begin quilting, I was really nervous about using my usual sandwiching anchors of safety pins to hold the layers together. I had found that the quilt top fabric tended to get caught in the hinge of the safety pin and then it would either rip the fabric or leave a gray smudge that I had trouble removing.  It was at this point I ordered some Pinmoors and flat head straight pins. I had seen Leah Day use and recommend them and thought this might be the solution to my safety pin issues.  Be still my heart! I could hardly believe how easy they were to use and there no troubles with snags or smudges.

Sandwiching with Pinmoors
I could hardly wait to get the sandwich together so I could get started with the Free Motion Quilting (FMQ), my favorite part of the whole process.  I used a floating darning foot on my Husqvarna 875Q with 100wt. Superior Silk Thread on top and 50wt. Aurifil thread in the bobbin. The silk thread gave me the ability to quilt some very delicate and intricate designs into the small 4-1/2" squares that I wouldn't have been able to do with my normal 50 wt. thread choice.

The first step in my FMQing process was to FMQ all the stitch-in-the-ditch work along the sashing and border. Once all the ditch work was done it was on to the individual blocks. I stitched in the ditch all of the seams in each block before stitching the designs within the block. 
Some of my favorite blocks

 Finally it was time to stitch the one-inch outer border. My original thought was to stitch feathers in the outer border, but with it being only one inch wide there just wasn't enough room to do what I had in mind. It seemed that curly cucumber vines might be just the thing for such a tiny space.

Because there was already so much going on within the quilt I chose to use the solid Arctic white fabric as the binding, machine stitched on the front and hand stitched to the back.

 The saddest part of the photo shoot is that photos don't even come close to doing justice to the sheer beauty of this quilt.

Indoors I just don't have the lighting to make her show off properly.

Outdoors the bright sun washed it out and took away from the overall design.

 Throughout the entire process of piecing and quilting I played with ideas for a name for this white wonder. I had so many possibilities to chose from, it wasn't an easy decision. 

Alabaster stones range in color from snow white to light brown, exactly the range of color I had used in this quilt. Often Alabaster is also used as a reference to purity, which takes me back to the feel of a vintage wedding dress. Combined, these facts brought me to the perfect name for my white Jane...."Shades of Alabaster".

The astounding part is the honor of having my quilt chosen to be a part of the exhibit, "A Virginia Tribute to Jane Stickle," at the Virginia Quilt Museum, Curator Doreen Johnson.
The exhibit runs from May 5- July 4.

With my quilt, "Shades of Alabaster", on exhibit at the VA Quilt Museum
The crazy part, even after all the hours of work required to finish such a small piece I'm now collecting whites to make the full Jane Quilt in all white. My goal is to have 225 different white fabrics and to finish by December 2017. 

Quilt Details & Stats:

Quilt Name: Shades of Alabaster
Finished size: 41" x 41" (Before quilting the top measured 43" x 43")
Quilt Pattern: 64 of 169 Blocks from Jane Stickles original quilt aka Dear Jane
Fabric: 46 white, white-on-white and off-white quilter's quality fabrics
Batting: Heirloom Perimum 80% Cotton 20% Poly
Piecing Thread: 50wt. Aurifil White #2024
Quilting Thread:  Top Thread - 100wt. Superior Silk Thread
Bobbin Thread - 50wt. Aurifil White #2024
Quilting: Free Motion Quilted using my Husqvarna 875Q Domestic Sewing Machine

 Hours to complete: 400+

Thank you for stopping by and letting me share my quilting adventures with you!
God Bless & Happy Quilting,
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