Buffalo Garden DIY garden art

Our garden quilt

My wife and I created Covid-19 winter garden project

Our collaborative COVID winter garden project

Fist was a rough sketch for each.

My wife, Leslie, and I took on a winter project to keep us busy during the cold COVID quarantine. She wanted to make a quilt for our guest room bed. She had the idea and vision to make it a garden-inspired quilt. She’s made quilts before – everything from king size, to baby size – and t-shirt quilts to fine art-inspired quilts.

This time, her idea required me and my (unpracticed) illustration skills. So she deemed this one to be a team effort. I was game. I learned a lot about quilt making!

Leslie’s Flower Quilt

The idea was to have six panels, plus two pillow shams, each with a flower from our garden. She started off with creating the backgrounds of green ground and blue sky with all batik fabric. Each panel is 35″ x 21″. The finished quilt is a 85″x85″ (give or take) queen size.

Then it was transferred, by hand, to a full size pattern – numbered with colors noted.

This is an applique quilt, so the flowers were sewn over the backgrounds.

One of the “limitations” was trying to keep straight edges on the illustrations where we could. Machine-sewn curves is not her forté, so I made the illustrations a bit angular.

I stared with doing a small rough on an 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper in proportion to its final size, using reference of flower photos and illustrations found online.

Next, I freehand drew them on actual-size rolled brown kraft paper. I made adjustments along the way to accommodate quantity and sizes of pieces (bearing in mind she had to sew each piece!), what colors were being used, where it hit on the green/blue divide in the background, and making sure they all looked relatively uniform in the way they filled the space.

The drawings were the easy part…

The drawing pieces were transferred to iron-on sheets. Then cut out, then ironed on to fabric, then reassembled on the blue and green panels – then peeled from the iron-ons. Then reassembled and ironed onto the fabric.

The kraft paper pattern pieces were traced onto sheets of iron-on adhesive. Then she ironed the color-coded and numbered adhesives onto the batik fabric, cutting out each individual piece – accommodating overlap on each piece if it went underneath another piece.

Then, like all those people doing COVID jigsaw puzzles, we recreated the illustration on the blue and green quilt panels – in reverse! That was a brain teaser. The backs of the iron-ons had to be peeled–and the pieces placed exactly–so she could iron them in place. Next she sewed the outline of each individual piece. There were lots of pieces.

Once all the individual panels were done, they were bordered by a thin coordinated color batik fabric. Then they were sewn together with thicker borders between each panel. THEN they were sandwiched with the backing and some cotton filling.

It was sent out to a quilter with a longarm sewing machine for the final quilting pattern of vines and leaves over the top of it all. That’s all done by computer with pre-programmed patterns to chose from. Leslie sewed the final edge binding by hand.

Here’s the first quilt Leslie made. She tracked down the pattern after having seen a similar one in a friend’s house in Portland, Maine. It’s based on artist Joseph Alber’s Homage to the Square.

I had helped only with the measuring and cutting of the first quilt she made. That was an experience. I’m used to DIY projects with lumber, drywall, plywood, things, that, when you cut them measure the same as after you cut them. Fabric isn’t like that. Each time you measure something to make sure it’s the right length, or even to make sure something is square, it’s not the same the second time. It’s math, but with a lot of –ish‘s.

She mentioned she may want to display it outside during Garden Walk Buffalo next year, let’s hope it doesn’t rain!

Below are all the separate panels and the finished quilt. Our next winter project is now to redo the guest bedroom to match the quilt. Wish us luck.

Here are some past DIY projects I’ve made

Most winters I do a basement garden art project. Here are some of my past projects:

Jim Charlier is an advertising designer/photographer/crafter with a serious gardening problem. He's co-written a garden design book featuring the funky, quirky and fun gardens by the gardeners of Buffalo titled "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" (BuffaloStyleGardens.com); he writes a long-standing garden blog (ArtofGardening.org); led the largest garden tour in America, Garden Walk Buffalo; has written for, or provided photography for dozens of magazines and books; has made presentations and participated in panel discussions on garden design and garden tourism nationally and internationally.

3 comments on “Our garden quilt

  1. Amazing collaboration! Just beautiful. And now, through the rest of your lives, you’ll say, “Remember the year we made the flower quilt?” rather than “remember the years of the pandemic?” You certainly have something special now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s just so stunning! You two work well together!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Liddie

    Just want to say how very impressed I am with the stunning beauty of this award winning Quilt. I will definitely be sharing this story with my quilt friends. I love gardening and in arizona it is definitely a challenge. So I admire your posts, they give me hope.


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