I remember, over a year before that, when I stumbled upon Rachel's blog and do. Good Stitches for the very first time. I loved the concept and I knew that it was something I needed to join. I contacted Rachel and she explained that she had just started the Love Circle and they were all full, but if there was more interest then she would start more circles. Then, just a few weeks later, she told me that she thought she might have enough people interested to start another circle but would I consider being the circle leader. I jumped at the chance and the Hope Circle was born.
Rachel created this wonderful group that has been bringing joy to my life for over a year, so I should be the one thanking her. So I immediately emailed all of the other circle leaders and asked them if they wanted to join together to help thank Rachel properly. Of course they all said "Yes!" In fact, some of them had been formulating similar thoughts in their heads too.
We created a secret group on Flickr and started discussing ideas for the thank you quilt we wanted to make for her. And Holly had a fantastic idea to take our quilt for Rachel one step further. She suggested that we open the project up to all of the members of our Circles to allow all of those other people who love Rachel and do. Good Stitches as much as we do to show their appreciation.
As we talked about design, Michelle mentioned that Rachel has an affinity for the Japanese + & X blocks and these blocks could be used to make a great scrappy quilt. Since these blocks would be in so many hands (and built from so many stashes) we needed something to make the quilt cohesive.
Then, Alecia had a brilliant idea. Rachel loves Anna Maria Horner, in fact the background of the original DGS Button was from her Good Folks line, so we decided to use that line as the inspiration for the color palate of the quilt. We opened it up to anyone who wanted to participate in our circles. The instructions were simple; make one Japanese + & X block using Amy's tutorial, use Good Folks if you have it - if not, pull fabrics from your stash that compliment that color palate, then send your block off to your circle leader.
We set a deadline of two months for the Circle Leaders to collect the blocks from their Circles. The Circle Leaders would then assemble the blocks into a strip of ten blocks (any more or less could remain loose so I could create additional strips or augment shorter strips) and send them to me by the start of the New Year. Although, Rachel did give some of us quite a scare when she posted this! We almost thought we were done for! Thankfully, she decided to go with scrappy triangles. Phew!
In January, beautiful little packages began to grace my doorstep. And as I would open them I would squeal with delight. I never in a million years thought that I would be able to work with such wonderful blocks as these. They were all breathtaking, surprisingly coherent and each quite unique like their makers. I am still amazed at how beautifully they all work together - kind of like do. Good Stitches, don't you think?
I collected the last blocks right before my LAMQG retreat and set quilting this as my main goal for the weekend. The first night of the retreat I pieced together some of the shorter strips to get them to ten blocks across and I pulled out my own AMH stash and started making the last blocks needed to round out the final strip.
The next morning, when I was working on the layout, I quickly realized that some of the strips were slightly longer than others, one of the challenges of having this project pass through so many hands. Thankfully, Ramona had a brilliant idea. She recommended offsetting each row slightly and to stop worrying about aligning the blocks. It was a stroke of genius and totally helped me get outside of my own box, since I have a thing for lines and symmetry. I dashed for my AMH stash and added chunks to the ends of each of the rows, alternating side to side to even everything out. And the quilt top was complete.
The backing fabric was thoughtfully donated by Alecia. She selected the most gorgeous print from the Good Folks line. I made my quit sandwich before dinner and mused over how to quilt it.
Initially, I intended to straight-line quilt her, on the diagonal, perhaps, through the middle of the Xs. I thought that would be the perfect compliment to these scrappy blocks. But, with offsetting the strips, this suddenly didn't seem the right way to quilt it any longer. Many of the women at the retreat were admiring this spectacular quilt, even threatening to steal it away, when Jamie (the fastest stippler in the West) offered a trade. She wanted to get her hands on this puppy and hates to straight-line quilt but she wanted her own gorgeous Drunk Love-Inspired quilt, straight-ligned so she proposed a trade. She would stipple Rachel's quilt if I straight-lined hers. Wanting to make Rachel's quilt only the best, most special quilt in the world I wholeheartedly agreed to the trade. I knew Jamie's work would make this quilt even more beautiful.
Jolene (who generously contributed to help purchase the batting) reminded us that Rachel loves black and dark gray so I picked out some Kona Coal for the binding, thinking that a solid would be the best way to showcase this lovely. And I used a Gutterman 100% cotton variegated thread in Raspberry to quilt it, which was graciously donated by Mary Catherine, along with the fabric for the binding. I attached the binding but left finishing the binding hand for later, planning to take the hand sewing with me on another trip.
But there is icing on this cake. Oh yes! Fate was on our side, and literally two days after our quilt retreat, none other than Anna Maria Horner herself was speaking at our monthly guild meeting. Seriously? We couldn't have planned this any better. Latifah and Alissa told AMH about this quilt and after the meeting I was able to show it to her and have her sign it for Rachel. She was touched by the story behind this quilt and even mentioned that the print on the back was her favorite and she was sad because she didn't have any left in her own stash.
I finished up the binding by hand on my recent trip to Denver and even had a chance to do a little photo shoot in the freshly fallen snow to help showcase it's brilliance even more before washing it up and secretly sending it off to it's rightful home.
Seriously, I am in love with this quilt. It was a labor of joy and thanks. Usually, I'm not much for scrappy quilts, but this quilt changed me forever. I want one of my own. Even my husband, who isn't much into quilts absolutely GUSHED over it. Every single person constructed their portion of this amazing quilt with so much consideration and love and it just radiates through the entire thing. I can't speak for everyone involved, but I know that helping to create this masterpiece for such a wonderful woman as Rachel has given me so much joy. I only wish that we all could have been there to present it to her in person so we could thank her for all she's done first hand.
Thank you to all of the amazing women who helped me spearhead this project:
Natalie of the Love Circle
Alecia of the Faith Circle
Jolene of the Joy Circle
Michelle of the Bliss Circle
Katie of the Peace Circle
Holly of the Inspire Circle
Mary Catherine of the Grace Circle
Kay of the Cherish Circle
Leigh of the Harmony Circle
Deborah of the Trust Circle
Ronit of the Empower Circle
I loved working with all of you on such an amazing project.