My brother Rick and his wife Susan are trying to visit all of the National Parks. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel with them a few times and it’s always a fun time. So when one of my sewing friends showed me a series of blocks designed specifically for individual National Parks I just had to figure out how to make a special quilt with them.
I almost bought the entire set of pre-printed blocks, but the quilt would have been enormous, not to mention the $$, and still would not have had all the parks since they didn’t have a block for every park. So from the available blocks I chose places that my brother and I had visited together. Some of the blocks were for National Forests, Memorials, Scenic Areas, etc. as well as National Parks, so I was able to come up with a nice round dozen to work with. I ordered the blocks and when they arrived I was very pleased with the quality, colors and designs. (Note: Sadly the pre-printed blocks are no longer available, but you might be able to buy the artwork and print them yourself at Olde America Antiques.)
My stash still had quite a few fat quarters of shot cotton and I was able to find a handful that coordinated nicely. I purchased more shot cotton in a light cream color for the background and a blue that I didn’t already have for borders. Then I started designing a quilt in Electric Quilt 8. My friend Judy had recently finished a quilt using the pattern Sweet Life by Camille Roskelley in her book Simply Retro. (Another note: this is a great book, I think Judy’s done almost every quilt in it, and I’ve done a few as well.) The big blocks were perfect to incorporate my pre-printed blocks, and it was simple enough that the park blocks would be the focus. I just needed to tweak it to fit the pre-printed blocks and to end up with the size I wanted.
My first design had a large blue border, but once the blocks and sashing were assembled I thought it looked a little plain. So I decided to add a middle border of 1″ squares from the block colors. This sounded easy in my head of course, but the reality was much more complicated. I had to size the inner blue border just right to make all four sides have finished lengths in even inches. I wanted all the little squares to actually be one inch square. It worked out, but I’m not really sure how. And yes, of course Excel was involved.
Once the top was done, I knew that it was going to need custom quilting. I didn’t want the pre-printed blocks to have much, if any, quilting in them because I didn’t want any of the text to be obscured. That meant no pantograph. My friend Susan came to the rescue, offering to let me use her longarm again. Thanks Susan!! This was going to be harder than the Aussie Fabrics quilt that I had completed on her longarm previously, because those fabrics were über busy and these were solid, so the quilting was really going to show. Very scary. So with a lot of coaching and encouragement from Susan, I practiced for a bit and then jumped in. I opted for some echo quilting in the blocks, which meant ruler work (a first for me) and then a bit of freehand, and then more ruler work in the sashing. It took a couple days but eventually all the blocks and sashing were done. Susan was gracious enough to video me again, this time while I was doing ruler work.
That left only the borders. Due to space constraints, Susan’s longarm frame is only 5 feet. So no matter how I loaded the quilt I wasn’t going to be able to get to a whole side border. I decided to finish it off on my domestic machine with some opposing wavy lines. I found some great heat erasable markers from Madam Sew one of which was white, and gave myself some dots to aim for. I marked the outsides of each the waves and where the waves should cross. The quilt was heavy with minky on the back, but at least I only needed to get to the outside edges of the quilt.
I was really really happy with the end result. I know where all the flaws and boo-boos are, but I still really like it and so do Rick and Susan! Yay!