Naturally Wisconsin Maple Leaf Quilt


My maple leaf quilt is finished!

If you haven’t seen my previous posts about this quilt, it’s the result of a collaboration with Milwaukee fabric designer Allison Bielke and AIGA Wisconsin (a graphic designers’ association). The AIGA and Allison organized a fabric design challenge—members were asked to design a print centered around the theme of Wisconsin’s natural beauty. We chose about half of the submitted designs and had those printed on fabric by Modern Yardage, a print-on-demand fabric company. That’s when my part of the challenge began: Designing a quilt using the selected prints!

My objective was to create a quilt that: a) showcased the fabulous prints in the best way possible, b) worked with the “Naturally Wisconsin” theme of the contest, and c) was an example of modern quilt design, which I thought would most appeal to AIGA members (and of course is what I wanted to do anyway!)

I quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to be easy meeting all of those objectives! For one thing, I don’t use a lot of large-scale focus prints in my quilting—and I’m not sure I’ve ever made a quilt almost entirely from focus prints (and 15 different ones at that). There’s a reason, after all, that quilt fabric lines usually include just one or two focus prints, complemented by lots of blenders and geometrics. And you guys—so many directional prints in this quilt. Arghghghg. : ) I had to plan very carefully as I was cutting and sewing and I admit I screwed up the direction several times!

I ended up using a classic maple leaf block, with strategically-placed negative space blocks to give it a more modern twist and to give the design some movement. The background solid in this quilt is Kona Smoke, a taupe that nicely complements the color palette Allison selected for the contest (all submissions were subject to a limited palette). I finished off the quilt with some diagonal wavy line quilting to heighten the “leaves falling” atmosphere of the quilt. (Is this wavy line quilting getting to be too much for you guys? I feel like I might have returned to that well a few too many times lately, but I really do love it, and it’s just so easy using stitch #4 on my Bernina 750!)

The back is mostly coordinating Cotton + Steel prints, but of course I had to piece in a maple leaf block in reverse (background solid for the leaf, prints as background).

This was a fun challenge to meet, and these Wisconsin-inspired prints were a joy to sew with, directional or not! I’m just in awe of how much creativity and design talent is out there—I wish every one of these peeps could have a fabric contract. Here are just some of the amazing prints I got to use in the quilt:

“Robins” by Emily Balsley
“Nature in Wisconsin Wood” by Cristina Rivero
“Blueberry Patch” by Sarah McMahon
“Cranberry Bog” by Sarah McMahon
“Big Buck” by Holly Kowalski
“Hodag” by Raymond Mawst (Not familiar with the Hodag? Here you go!)
“Bees and Zinnias” by Mary Roley
Unfortunately, none of these prints are available for sale at the moment, but that could potentially be in the works and I’ll update you all if it happens.

We are looking for places to display this quilt in Wisconsin over the next year, so if you Wisconsin folks have any suggestions, we’re all ears. It will be exhibited at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design this fall, and I’m going to try submitting it to the Wisconsin State Fair and the Wisconsin Quilt Expo as well. I’ve never entered a quilt in either of those venues, and I’m not sure the skill level of this one is up to their usual standards, but I’m hoping the Wisconsin focus and the specialness of the fabric design collaboration will be enough to get it in.

I want to thank Allison Bielke and the Wisconsin AIGA for including me on this fun project! I love fabric, I love design, and I love Wisconsin, so it was pretty fabulous to work on something that included all of those things. : )

14 replies
  1. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    Beautiful quilt. I love how the design allows for the larger scale prints to be showcased. Excellent choice in quilting, it gives such a great texture to the quilt.

  2. Angie
    Angie says:

    I live in Wisconsin too, so can appreciate the prints! Love your choice of the maple leaves too. Stitch #4 is a go-to stitch for me too…what length and width do you use?

  3. the momma
    the momma says:

    What a fun project for you!! The first thing I noticed when I saw your quilt top was what a great job you did keeping directional fabrics going the right direction 🙂 Any tips?? I'm fixing to start on some wonky stars, and lots of my chosen fabrics are directional. Elizabeth Hartman says not to keep them 'directional', but rather radiate them out from the center. I'm not sure if I like that idea or not 😉
    (It doesn't matter a bit if people are tired of the wavy stitch – it's not for them! Do what YOU love 🙂

  4. Kathelle - Strandom
    Kathelle - Strandom says:

    Beautiful quilt, I love how the use of negative space and the odd leaf going the opposite direction. I think you fulfilled your criteria very well. I'm a fan on the wavy quilting too! Those fabric designs are incredible, so much talent 🙂 Kathelle x

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I love up here in Crandon, 30 minutes east of Rhinelander (aka Home of the Hodag). We don't have any fancy museums or anything, but they might display it in the library or the court house. The quilt looks beautiful & I think the maple leaf block is perfect for our state! I would love to see those fabrics up close, too. I sure hope you can get it up here! If you need a contact, let me know. I'll help if/ where I can!

  6. Michele S.
    Michele S. says:

    What a lovely finish! It's maple syrup season here in New England too – yum! I appreciate you posting about your struggle with large scale prints, especially directional ones – a very relevant topic for me this week! I finished a quilt with wavy lines last week and thought I'd place them diagonally to "change it up" 😂😂😂 never tire of it! Of course they should accept your beautiful quilt and many many congrats to the fabric designers!

  7. Wendy Franczak
    Wendy Franczak says:

    This is beautiful, I hope these prints go on sale! Dates for the Sun Prairie Quilt Show will be announced in the next few months. We'd love for you to show your quilt there. Sometime in March 2016.


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