When Julie contacted me to be on the team of testers for her free-pieced barn building project, I was very excited. I love free piecing and the inherent character that results from quirks when sewing without a template or precise measurements. I have made many quilts with free pieced houses on them, but not a barn, so this was new focus for me.
Julie gave us few directions: "Create a free pieced barn that reflects the area where you live using the book's process note drafts for reference, fabrics already in your stash, and your own design sensibilities and skill sets." She also asked that our piece measure around 24 - 26 inches. That dimension was the challenge for me. All my house pieces were much smaller.
I chose to depict the barn that is attached to my home. In the coastal town of Belfast, Maine, nearly every home that was built in the mid to late 1800s has an attached barn. It doesn't matter if the home was a sea captain's mansion or a humble worker's house, it will have a barn. These homes and barns are in town, not in the country. Friends have referred to the barns as city barns. Some barns are large, but none are gigantic. Ours is big enough for a horse or two and a wagon or work supplies. The floor of our barn is well trampled, with dented wide boards. The hay mow clearly was used for storage.
|( Our lot is narrow. I had to go to a window of the building next door to get this photo, hence the strange angle.)|
I divided my sketch vertically and horizontally to identify sections that would be easy to piece together. This was my map throughout the process. It helped me to see what shapes I needed to cut and also reminded me of important steps like connecting background and the side of the building before raising the roof, especially if an overhang is needed. The actual quilt piece did not turn out looking exactly like this, as I made changes as I went along.
When I sew buildings, I usually begin with windows. This allows me to set the scale of the rest of the building.
|Barn window, Barn doors, hay mow door|
As you can see the barn and house have clapboard siding. I really wanted the texture of clapboard, especially on the barn. I sewed together narrow strips of alternating fabric to achieve that effect. I sewed all these strips to make a large unit and then cut the sections I needed for the barn from it. I used a subtle stripe for the siding of the house. I wanted the barn to stand out, not the house.
|the masking tape marks the potential boundary of the piece|
|barn and attached house (or is it the other way around?!)|
|Finished piece - waiting for quilting by Chris Ballard|
I used a bit of artistic license. We live on a hill overlooking the harbor. Our real view is at the other end of the house. The above would be our view if our neighbor's building weren't in the way.
Although I titled this blog-post "A City Barn in Maine", the title of the piece is "just-Spring" after e e cummings' poem "in Just-". When I made it I was thinking Spring, especially mud season. That truly is a season in Maine which I feel should be celebrated rather than dreaded. Winter has lost it's icy grip, buds are swelling and of course the world is "mud-luscious" and "puddle wonderful." Windows and doors are open whenever it is warm enough, neighbors re-appear from indoor hibernation, and birds readily announce their presence. This train of thought was what prompted the choices of the fabric strips of the ground.
Julie provided each of us with sneak peeks of our finished quilts once Chris Ballard worked her quilting magic. But, we still have to be VERY patient and wait to see them for real. They will come home sometime towards the end of the year. In the meantime, YOU might be so lucky to see them in a special exhibit featuring the BUILD-A-BARN gallery, at AQS Chattanooga (September 14 -17, 2016), AQS Des Moines (October 5 - 8, 2016 ) or at the Davies Manor Quilt Show in Memphis (November 4 - 6, 2016).
YES, YOU CAN DO IT, TOO! Some lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Julie's book, BUILD-A-BARN, No Pattern Construction. Leave a comment on this or my next posting. I will select via random drawing on Saturday, JULY 2. Be sure you are a reply commenter (or provide your email address) so that I can contact you if you win. (No-reply comments will be disregarded.)