I saw the pattern for this quilt on Cashmerette’s instagram last year and immediately wanted to know more. I looked up the company that makes the quilt patterns, Haptic Labs, and saw that they have lots of different designs, from maps of neighborhoods and cities to bodies of water to constellations in the sky. I loved the Brooklyn map design a lot, but I don’t live there anymore so it seemed weird for me to make it while living in Los Angeles (if I ever live there again, you better believe I’m gonna be snatching up this pattern with the quickness). Months passed and I forgot about the quilt until Christmas, when I opened one of my gifts from Claire and found a constellation lap quilt pattern! I didn’t remember even telling her about the quilt, but apparently I did, and she didn’t forget! Good job, Claire!
The quilt pattern kits are equipped with a relatively vague instruction sheet (totally fine for someone familiar with quilting and embroidery, but I wouldn’t suggest this pattern to a complete beginner) and a quilt sized piece of durable paper with the quilt design printed on it that you use to guide your embroidery stitches. Once you have your materials together and have layered your batting, quilt top and quilt back together, you safety pin all the layers with the printed paper on top. Then, starting from the center of the quilt, you use embroidery floss and quilting thread to stitch over the design on the paper. Once a section is done, you very carefully tear away the paper to expose the fabric and stitching underneath. The paper is strong to hold up to all the handling that must be done, which unfortunately means you have to work pretty hard to tear the paper off of the quilt without destroying your embroidery. The pattern maker suggests stitching very taught so that you don’t run the risk of loosening up or your stitches when you pull the paper away. The overall process was simple and methodical once I got my embroidery mojo back. The stitching was made much easier with an embroidery hoop, and although it took time to unclasp the hoop and move it to the next section every 8 inches, it definitely saved me a lot of time, since free-stitching onto a project as big as this can get a little unwieldy.
Before starting the quilt, I looked for inspiration online from others who had already completed the project, and the overwhelming majority were made with white thread on a deep blue-hued quilt top to create contrast and emulate the night sky. They were beautiful, but our home decor doesn’t have a lot of dark colors, and I prefer pastels anyways. I took a risk and went way against the standard, choosing a natural organic cotton for my quilt top and a medium-tinted aqua cotton for the back. For thread, I thought it would be cool to do the stars of the Milky Way (which show up as a smattering of french knots on the quilt itself) in yellow and the actual constellations in pink. Initially I wanted the constellations to look like an ombre gradation, so I chose a few different colors of pink floss and divided the design into three segments. I don’t think the end result reads strongly as ombre but I still love the way the colors look together- the whiteness of the fabric allows all the embroidery colors on top to pop, and the darker colored quilting thread I used grounds everything visually.
When I first started the quilt I did not plan on embroidering the names of the constellations (none of the quilts I saw online labeled them, at least not for this particular design), and I thought that was so that the quilt would be usable on both the front and back- obviously backwards writing on the underside would make it look kind of weird. But that is NOT the case. I tried so hard to keep my embroidery stitches sharp and clean and accurate so that the back would look as good as the front, but after about an hour of meticulous stitching, I realized it was either an impossible feat or simply something that was not in my wheelhouse. I had never before embroidered something that was as clean on the front side as it was on the back, but for some reason I thought that since this was a quilt with an underside that would be seen, it was possible to make the stitches look good on both sides. Once I gave in and just concentrated on making the top look beautiful, the stitching went a lot faster and I realized that I did indeed want to include the names of the constellations. I am so glad that I did! I love how the quilt looks a little like a map of the night sky with the names on it, and I am hoping that eventually I will become a bit more familiar with identifying them in the wild. As for the back of the quilt, it is of course imperfect, but it’s got it’s own unique beauty going for it, in the way that the insides of things look weird and unique and ambiguous. I like it a lot more than I thought I would.
I have made a lot of quilts in the past several years, but this is the first one I have made using a pattern, and although it certainly wasn’t the typical quilt pattern I assumed I would be working with, I’m glad this was my introduction.
I could not be happier with the end result, and I love that I have some experience with hand quilting now. For the longest time I have wanted to make a large quilt for our bed, but I have only made quilts by machine that were smaller in size, so I was stumped as to how I would stuff an entire queen sized blanket under the standard sized arm of my machine. This is slightly embarrassing to write (cover your eyes, seasoned Hand Quilters!), but it honestly never even occurred to me that I could stitch the whole quilt by hand. It would take a lot of time, for sure, but probably no more than the 4-ish months that it took to complete this constellation quilt, and this required much more intricate handiwork than a simple running stitch. So, thanks to this beautiful little pattern, I am now inspired to try(curious) my hand at something even bigger!
(and PS thank you Claire for the beautiful pictures!)