collage quilt step by step

Sassaman Quilt 2016

I finally had a little free time after all the design projects to fondle some actual fabric!! So I wanted to dive  in immediately. So I get out my collection of “orphans”, these are shapes and templates left over from other projects which I file away in baggies for just such an opportunity. I peruse my collection to find the shapes that interest me and that I think will play nicely together.

Sassaman Orphan Shapes

This is when the play begins. I “Ouiji” the shapes around and let them start talking to each other. Eventually, a composition begins to settle in, but not until lots of options have been tried.

Sassaman Shape Shifting

It is a stream-of-consciousness exercise as I listen to the conversation of shapes. I really enjoy this part of the process, as I have very little idea of where the shapes will take me. But part of the trick is starting with shapes that speak your language… shapes that are personally meaningful. You may have noticed that there are shapes that have become a regular part of my design vocabulary, spirals, dandelion leaves, bugs, blossoms, etc. These are motifs that I have collected over the years and that I can use in any combination. I am always on the look-out for new shapes that will work for me.

Sassaman Quilt Top

When the composition is finalized I make a tracing to record the arrangement and then applique each shape, starting with the back most pieces. Each piece gets finished with embroidery and the background behind it gets cut away. Then I pin baste with batting and backing.

Sassaman Quilting

The first quilting I always do is to outline each shape in the ditch with 12 wt. topstitching thread using my open- toed walking foot and a long stitch length. Each brand of 12 wt. thread gives a slightly different look and performs a little differently. For this outlining, Sew Sassy by Superior supplies the nice heavy outline that I really like.

Sassaman Bury Thread

Because I want these nice outlines to start and stop cleanly, the threads at the beginning and end of each stitched row must be tied and buried on the back side of the quilt. This job is made much easier using an easy-threading or self-threading needle. With these needles the threads simply snap into the eye from the top of the needle. This can be an extremely tedious job, but I love it… very meditative and also a nice time to listen to books-on-tape.

Sassaman Quilting Detail

After the quilted outlines are done the other quilted details get filled in, like the extra stitching on the flowers and the echo quilting on the cloud.

Sassaman Golden Threads

In this case, I was not satisfied with basic quilting. The quilt was not dramatic enough, it needed some punch and “attitude”. So I decided to quilt over the whole piece with a series of spiky brambles. But first I needed a guide, so I drew the guidelines on Golden Threads tracing paper. The paper was pinned to the quilt and stitched through, again with 12 wt. thread.

Sassaman Golden Threads 2

The stitching perforates the paper, making it easy to tear away. Now I have a baseline to build from. I echo quilted very closely on either side. Then I added the brambles with a simple blind hem stitch. I think this final addition makes a world of difference. The final piece is 17.5″ X 19″.

Sassaman Quilting Detail

15 Responses to “collage quilt step by step”

  1. Jan says:

    I’ve always loved your quilts! They’re very inspiring.

  2. Mary Helen in OR says:

    Thank you so much for this great post. It instantly transported me to the class I took with you in Portland, OR. What FUN that was for me. Spiraling brambles and overlapping decorative stitching was the theme then as well. I’m still learning to use the Sew Sassy in my machines but will not give up. I’m going to be the boss of the machine (to paraphrase Rosalie Dace).

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      I say the same thing to my students. You want to be the boss of your machine, not the other way around. I don’t know what kind of machine you have, but it took me a while to learn if you use a walking foot on a BERNINA 830 or 880 that you need to push the manual thread button and then the automatic threader button for the machine to use this thread.

  3. Diane Evans says:

    Jane — This is SO informative. What brand and weight thread do you use when you stitch with the Sew Sassy? I just bought a whole bunch of it and can’t wait to try it out.

    This quilt is beautiful — another masterpiece.


  4. Justine says:

    Thankyou so much for sharing your step by step process. It’s so informative and inspiring.

  5. Sue says:

    Wow! Thanks for a great informative post! LOVE the end result.

  6. Elizabeth Baker says:

    Jane, another vibrant quilt from you! One of these days I hope to be able to take one of your workshops. In the meantime, how do you get the graduated stitch in the flower petals? My old machine had a dial I could turn as I sewed to change stitch width, but my new (10 years old now! ha ha!) computerized machine only has set stitch widths. Seems like I should have figured this out long before now, but I guess I never really needed to do that. I love the look of the graduated stitching and would really like to try it myself.

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for your note! All of my BERNINAs have had a stitch width knob that I can turn as I sew and change the width gradually. It’s one of my favorite features. But for the petal centers I am using a sequential decorative stitch, that almost every machine has. it is the little pointy oval or leaf shape.If you look carefully on the unstitched flower you will see little white dots that mark the starting point. I start there and stop when I get to the center. My machines also have a button that enables me to start at the beginning of the sequence and to just sew a single unit. These are really usefull and I use them all the time.

  7. Diana says:

    Your stitching always takes my breath away..not to mention the designs themselves. What weight thread do you use for the applique because it doesn’t look as heavy as 12 wt.? I just love how you use non-conventional stitches for any part of the process.

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Thanks for your comment. I use anything from 50wt to 28wt for my embroidery. This piece has mostly 50wt.

  8. Sharon Leahy says:

    You piece makes me smile. And thank you so much for the generous sharing of your technique. I spotted the bramble immediately in the first photo and was intrigued by it. A very clever addition!

  9. Wendy says:

    Thank you so much for showing how you made this quilt. The design stage is very interesting, but the construction stage is interesting too. I’m sure I will return to this post when I start my own mini quilt for an upcoming 12″ x 12″ challenge. I love your fabrics, and even have an apron made from one of your prints.

  10. Bonnie says:

    I love this quilt in every way… the process you use is one I would like to learn to emulate. One question I have is, how do you achieve such beautifully round shapes? Do you use circle templates? a dressmakers curve ruler? I see how perfectly rounded your shapes are and I would like to know how you got them. Thank you for generously sharing your techniques. I wish I could be in Asilomar right now in your class! Maybe one of these days I can do it.

    • Jane Sassaman says:

      Bonnie, sorry for the delayed answer. Things get discombobulated when I am on the road. Sure I have lots of tools for making curves but I rarely use them. I get perverse pleasure from making divine curves freehand.

  11. Helen LeBrett says:

    Jane, your art work always amazes me!! This is my first time on your blog, but I have enjoyed your fabric designs for years. This one is just lovely too!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

Leave a Reply