Last spring, my “sewing sister” Sandra in the UK and I decided to tackle The Secret Garden, an appliqué pattern by Esther Aliu, as a challenge project. I started a bit earlier and so am “ahead” of Sandra, but this quilt is so delicious to make that I am a bit envious that she still has a ways to go.
The FMQ is now finished; 13 months from start to completion. What a journey this one has been.Secret Garden is based on the book by the same name, and has wonderful story blocks which were so very fun to make (really, I want to start it all over again!). And yes, I had to read the book first.
When approaching the FMQ on a quilt I always think about whether the quilting or the quilt pattern is the star. With a detailed applique, the answer is usually THE PATTERN. I don’t want fancy FMQ stealing attention or competing with the applique. This means using matching or neutral threads for quilting.
My Secret Garden is raw edge appliqué, 94″ square. I used echo and McTavishing for the applique sections background in a 50 st white So Fine poly thread.
I started it at 75% of the pattern, planning to make a wall hanging. Fate intervened and a friend saw my progress and fell madly in love with it. She wanted a queen size quilt and now it has been expanded by adding a series of 6 borders. Hubby just laughed and said that every time I shrink one, someone wants it bigger. He may not be wrong. 😉
At the time of the request, I agreed and then was prior to falling ill to an autoimmune disease. It has been a challenge to keep going with it at the larger size, but like anything else, one just keeps going until the finish line is reached.
To construct the project, I started with a length of the periwinkle Moda grunge and 5 coordinating batik fabrics that I picked up a couple years ago hoping to find a good project. I just loved the fabrics, which meant it had to be a special project. And yes, this was special! I added a layer cake off of solid batiks and a couple stash fabrics along the way.
Each project, I select one block as my “guide” and complete it. I put it at the top of my design board. This reminds me of my primary color scheme (I can get off track!) The guide is used to check for color compatibility through the project as I bring in new fabrics and threads. Our quilter brains can wander a bit! The guide reminds me of my original vision and keeps me from dallying too far afield. For a complex project like Secret Garden, it is essential.
The story blocks.
The Key Block
The Lock Block
The Harper Block. This one confused me a bit, as there is not a cat in the book! But decided to use my daughter’s cat as a model for this block.
The Robin Block
The Center Block and interior border.
The first of the 6 borders is a narrow framing border in the blue grunge, FMQ with a simple swirl in soft gray 50 wt Magnifico. The second border is quilted with lots feathers in the same soft gray.
And now I am sad that this beautiful story quilt will go live somewhere else, which is not the first time that this has happened. I may have to make a story block or two, or three, or all four for myself! I am also glad that I waited until I had several years of doing applique and Esther’s patterns (2018 was the first year!) as this is an intensive and detailed project.
Have I loved every single minute of making this? Yes, yes, and oh my goodness Yes.
Happy quilting, Lennea