Monday, 9 March 2015

Jazz Hands Quilt - Philip Jacobs Fox Gloves Fabric

I fell in love with this quilt pattern 'Jazz Hands' from Material Obsession 2 by Kathy Doughty & Sarah Fielke. It's a fantastic book which has a wide range of modern designs based on traditional quilting blocks. In this book the two designers begin with the same starting point (the same block, the same fabric, the same technique & so on) and come up with two different versions of each quilt idea. It really effectively shows how one quilt block can be used with different settings/borders/colour choices etc to create completely different quilts.

Sarah Fielke's original 'Jazz Hands' pattern was (as the image above shows) quite bright and contains pretty much the full colour spectrum.

For my version I had already decided to work in a limited palette inspired by Philip Jacobs 'Fox Gloves' fabric in the grey/dark colour way as I was completely in love not just with the elegant design but the way the dusky pinks, olive, bluey-purple and creams work with the grey and black background.

I've been working on this quilt for about 11 months. I started last spring but finished this March (2015) as quilting isn't a very summery activity, and besides, there's so much else to do down here by the sea in the warmer months! I had already raided my stash for suitable fabrics but couldn't resist picking up some more at the April '14 Selvedge fair in Chelsea whilst on a day out with my Art College friend Jo. Here's a selection of the fabrics I had pulled out to fit the colour theme I was going for:

There's quite a lot of Kaffe Fassett Collective designs, plus the required stripes, spots and blenders. I added a few Tula Pink, Liberty, Art Gallery and Joel Dewberry fabrics, all cottons (note: I ended up not using all of them but as I didn't know exactly how each hexagon block would be put together It was useful to have a wide range to choose from).

The quilt is made up of 12 hexagon blocks, each consisting of 72 kite shaped pieces. The general rule was that the centre contained stripes leading the eye into the centre, the centre ring was a bold 'feature' fabric, the next ring was made up from two patterns complementing the centre and the outer points of the star were another dramatic fabric, followed by a gentle outer ring of a lighter or neutral coloured fabric. Of course I didn't always stick to this rule as it was really interesting to see how different colours and patterns affected the look of the hexagon.

I also did some fussy cutting to highlight certain parts of prints and play with the symmetry they created (such as the Tula Pink trees in the centre of the top right hex and the Liberty Ianthe print just visible in the points of the bottom right hex).

Some close ups of 'fussy cutting' to show off various patterns.

It was really fun to play with the different effects the prints and colours created, and I ended up with 11 full hexagons and 2 half hexagons (one hex was due to be cut in half at the top and bottom of the centre strip) for the final quilt. I could have gone on making hexagons forever, but only had enough backing fabric for the planned 12 hex quilt.

Here are the 11 complete hexes:

I tried various different layouts trying to get the right 'balance' in the quilt. Here are 2 of the many versions (neither of which are the final outcome), laid out on the floor with the framing strips to try and get the full effect:

Of course, Studio Cat had to give his seal (or sniff) of approval to the final layout:

Once I had pieced together the hexagons and framing strips in the same fox gloves fabric as the back I added a border made from the leftover dots, as per the pattern. Somehow it didn't seem quite right, so I added a second border of pale warm grey cotton which seemed to work. Here's Studio Cat giving a relaxed nod to the new addition pre-quilting. 

I had quite a hard time choosing a binding fabric, and after making an expensive mistake with a metre of green quilting cotton selected in a Canterbury fabric shop using just a small square of backing fabric as reference I took the part finished quilt and a friend (as a 2nd opinion) down to the gorgeous Sewing Space in Hythe where they kindly let me lay the quilt out on their workshop table whilst I pulled roll after roll of fabric off the shelves to find a suitable 'frame' for the finished quilt!

After narrowing it down to 3, including a fabulous but risky cobalt blue, I eventually played it safe with a black and dusky pink Michael Miller 'Garden Pindot' print, which perfectly matched the fox gloves fabric. I like making my own bias binding from strips of cotton instead of buying it ready made as it gives me so many more options, plus I made the binding extra wide for this quilt to show off the lovely dot design.

To finish it off, I fully hand quilted it in an amethyst colour Perle no 8 which matched the bluey-purple in the backing fabric. I followed the pattern for the hexies and the dotty border which basically echoed the outline of each ring of kites, and added an extra line of stitches in the thin border strips running up the centre of the quilt. 

(Apologies for the quality some of these photos - some of the close ups weren't taken in natural light)

I wasn't sure what to do for the extra pale grey border I had added, and after several ideas (including embroidered fox gloves) I went for the 'simple is best' approach and did evenly spaced chevron lines that mirrored the angles of the fox glove fabric.

The finished quilt:

We suspended it on fishing wire from the bedroom window of my friends flat to get a full, flat photo. The builders on the construction site next door didn't half look at us funny!

This was the first time I had used such complicated looking (but actually surprisingly easy) and small quilt blocks, a limited palette, fussy cutting and hand quilting so I learned quite a bit from making this one. 

Ps: Here's a great little blog post about why it is so Fab to live down here in the south coast beside the seaside!


  1. Your quilt is absolutely beautiful! Your fussy cutting is amazing and the colours so gorgeous. Thank you for the kind mention of The Sewing Space. We were happy to help! Angie

    1. No, thank YOU for having such a lovely shop and wide range of fabrics to help me find the right finishing fabric!