I give you "Call Me Imelda"...
This is my third "theme" quilt and each one has gotten progressively more involved! Here is my process for making this "shoe lover's" quilt!
The center panel was bought while we were on vacation in North Myrtle Beach last November. I had decided that I wanted my Aunt's theme to be either "shoes" or "convertibles". She loves convertibles and currently drives a black 45th Edition Chevy Camaro convertible! It is a GORGEOUS black muscle car with red, blue and white touches. I couldn't find anything at all in fabric that was in a "convertible" theme. Every fabric I found was child-like cars, trucks, etc... nothing adult and classy!
When I spotted this shoe panel I KNEW it was just what I was looking for. The shoes weren't too childish or too Victorian, but just RIGHT...the kind of shoes my Aunt actually wears! I bought the blue herringbone fabric and a striped fabric from the same line along with the panel. Often times, the shops in South Carolina have a different stock than are found here in Pennsylvania and I wanted to be sure I had some matching fabrics before we went back north. The brown, red, cream and black materials were found at my favorite quilt shop when I arrived back home...after I had designed the quilt and knew approximately what I needed in fabric.
Speaking of designing...
To this day, my Dear Aunt stores her shoes in their boxes with a description on the end of the shoe box so she can find them easily. It is necessary as she is a real shoe hound, lol. Hence, "Call Me Imelda". I designed a series of "shoe boxes" around the center panel. But, shoe boxes alone would be too "blah". What it needed was an embroidered shoe on top of each box! As you can see, my Aunt's quilt is somewhat different from my initial draft. That is the way I usually design a quilt...a basic idea that changes and solidifies over the course of construction as I tie all of the theme strands together.
Putting together a selection of shoe embroideries that all "went" together was tough. It is amazing the number of machine embroidery "shoes" on the internet. Many of them were too childish, too Victorian, too stylized, etc. I wanted something that looked "real" just like the shoes on the panel. I purchased a large selection of shoes...some of which I didn't end up using as I refined her quilt to just a selection of "dress shoes".
Once I found the appropriate embroideries, I then had to change the recommended threads to match my color palette. The black alphanumerics are the Coats and Clark embroidery thread codes that I chose as a replacement for each color block of the shoe. That was also a long process as not only did I want the blocks of colors to flow together nicely within the parameters of the shoe, I wanted them to flow together well with the overall colors of ALL of the shoes on the quilt. I didn't want too much of any one color to dominate and I wanted the colors I chose for each shoe to be something I felt a real designer would put together.
Finally I had to change the size of almost every shoe to try to get them all around the same dimensions so the "perspective" would be right. It took a lot of "playing" and embroidered "samples" of each and every shoe before they were all about the same.
First, I made a "mock up" of a shoe box with scrap fabrics and marked off an area for embroidering the shoe above the box.
Once I was sure of the colors and size settings I drew the unfinished block outlines onto a piece of cream fabric with an erasable quilting marker. I also marked the dimensions of the area where the shoe would be embroidered on top of each shoe box. That was probably the biggest pain of the whole quilt! Cutting separate pieces of background block for each shoe box would mean lots of wasted fabric as the hooping process for embroidery requires a minimum size of fabric to be hooped. I didn't want to waste any fabric, so I drew all 12 background blocks on one large piece of fabric. I located the center for each shoe area and then began the embroidery. It was a long and laborous process!
I moved the hoop around the fabric as I moved from one shoe embroidery location to another.
When they were all done I simply cut the background blocks apart.
I then used heat resistant template material to cut out the boxes from the red, brown and blue fabric and used a smaller template to cut out the box tops.
Using a starch process I appliqued a shoe box beneath each embroidered shoe, taking care to have four of each colored box, and also made sure to alternate colors of shoes within each set of boxes. For the lid of the boxes I used the striped material from the fabric collection to make variations that would represent numerous manufacturers of shoes.
Then I embroidered labels with a font that looked close to something printed by hand and appliqued an appropriate label to each box.
I used plain black sashing to form a window-pane design around the Shoe Shop window.
I planned out several more borders to make the quilt more of a "snuggle size", with a focal embroidery in the center of the top...
...of the largest border. Again, I had to change the threads of the original to match the colors of the quilt. The "coat of arms" of the top embroidery pays homage to Imelda Marcos of shoe shopping fame, the impetus for the quilt name "Call Me Imelda"!
Finally it was a flimsy!
I knew I wanted a shoe in the four corners, but I wanted something that was more of a "redwork" look...something closer to a single line quilted design.
Once the embroidery of the four corners was finished, I chose a stipple quilting around the top and bottom focal embroideries, the corner embroideries and the center shoe box of each side. I used a grid quilting around the other eight shoe boxes.
Next came a "rope" effect quilting on the top and bottom large brown borders. The quilting picks up the rope design in several of the box tops.
The "shoe sale" theme of the center panel dictated a "sales tag" theme for the narrower side borders.
I wanted to do a petal pattern on the red border to pick up the "flower" on several of the shoes, but it just didn't "pop" enough.
Fortunately, an online class by Cindy Needham taught how to use "scribble" quilting to push down the background and make the non-quilted items really come to the foreground. Perfect timing. It took me six hours per side to do all of the scribble quilting around the petals!
To make the petals "pop" even more I added a tiny button to some of the "flowers"...intended to pick up the tiny buttons on the panel boots.
In the center of each red border is a "feathered crown" embroidered quilt motif. Unfortunately it is impossible to see on the red border unless the light is hitting it just right. So this is a picture of the embroidery on the back of the quilt.
Lastly, I quilted a simple vertical line on the herringbone border and folded the backing around to the front as my binding. I had originally planned to use the striped fabric as my binding, but the quilt called for something more "sedate and refined" and the plain black binding doesn't detract from the quilt's focus.
The label was the final step of completing the quilt. Now I just have to wait (impatiently) until Christmas to give it to my Aunt, and hope I don't "spill the beans" in the interim! I can't wait to see her face when she gets her own quilt to snuggle under.