What do you get when you combine Rush and...um...quilting?
I have wanted so badly to post about this earlier, but I couldn't because it was a surprise. It was a present for a Rush fan [by the way, for those of you that might be unaware, Rush is a band] that started off as a little spark of a how would I...? moment and turned into a project that I worked on almost rabidly for the better part of two weeks. And I might have let out a few gleeful giggles when it was all finished.
I mean, it's a Rush logo. On a quilt.
To piece the top, I used Photoshop to pixelate a jpeg of the logo, then traced around the pixels to map out the blocks. I assigned a finished length of 1.5" to each pixel, so two pixels would be 3", three would be 4.5", etc [my printer was running out of ink, whoops]:
I wasn't sure if this would work or not, but it totally did. It ended up having the photo mosaic effect of being unrecognizable close up, but when you step back a little bit or look at it through a camera lens, suddenly the image appears. And now I want to use this method over and over to make quilts out of pictures, logos, designs, everything.
The back features a block with another Rush detail. This was the first time I pieced something with curves and I just kind of winged it with a Microsoft Word printout as a template. After a little frustration and multiple seam rippings [mostly due to my
All those puckers went away after quilting and washing. I love when that happens! I did free motion for the quilting and used a nice crisp black solid for the binding.
I stuck the star off center and about two thirds of the way down. I don't know, it just felt right.
Bin-basted quilt sandwich!
And a gratuitous cat/quilt picture.
So for those of you interested, here's a more in-depth tutorial of how I went about making this quilt top, and how you can use it to make your own. It's a little time consuming and tedious, but it's not hard and you don't have to be a graphics wiz or Photoshop genius to do it [I'm certainly not].
Tutorial: Design Your Own Quilt Top with Photoshop
First, choose your design [duh]. It could be something original or something you get online. I would recommend using images that are very graphic and only have 2-4 colors/tones in them, otherwise the design might become too muddled and unrecognizable. Think of something you might be able to screen print or stamp. Then find the highest resolution jpeg of the image you can [thanks google!].
Open it in Photoshop. Go to Filter --> Pixellate --> Mosiac. Set the cell size at the biggest number you can and still have your design be recognizable. Mine was 26, and it made my image 30 tiles high not including borders. If you don't have Photoshop, there is a pixellate function on Picnik that you can use for free.
Print out your image, scaling it to fill the page. Using the pixels as guides, trace around the design elements to create quilt blocks. The bigger the blocks you can make the easier the piecing will be. It will also help you further down the road to first divide the design up into 6-12 big blocks, then divide each of those into smaller units. I realized this about halfway through piecing.
Now it's time for a little math. Depending on how big you want your finished quilt, you need to assign a real-world value in inches to each pixel on your design. In other words, how big is a block that's 1 pixel by 1 pixel? I made each pixel-length on the design equal to a finished length of 1.5". My reasoning was that if the design is 30 pixels high and each one is 1.5" tall, the finished height of the design would be 45", plus any borders I add. That sounded about right for a throw-sized quilt. For the sake of your own sanity I wouldn't go any smaller than 1" per pixel. 1.5" was definitely small enough for me.
Once you know the dimensions of a 1x1 block you can start planning your cutting. It's not quite as daunting as it might seem. First figure out what the real-world cutting dimensions of 1, 2, 3 and 4 pixels are [don't forget to add .5" of seam allowance, which is .25" on each end!]:
1 pixel width = 1.5" + .5" seam allowance = 2"
2 pixel width = (2 x 1.5") + .5" seam allowance = 3.5"
3 pixel width = (3 x 1.5") + .5" seam allowance = 5"
4 pixel width = (4 x 1.5") + .5" seam allowance = 6.5"
and so on...
You might want to write these cutting dimensions down on a cheat sheet so you don't have to keep remembering: 1 pixel=2", 2 pixels=3.5", etc.
After you figure out which fabrics you are using where [I had a group of fabrics for each color area: tan/khaki solids, black prints & solids, and red prints & solids], start cutting strips across the folded fabric in the widths you just figured out. I started with strips that were 1, 2, 3, and 4 pixels wide.
Once you have the strips, you can start just lopping pieces off the ends in the increments you need them, again remembering to include the .5" of seam allowance. So say you look at your design and see you need a block that's 2x3 pixels. You can go find a strip that's 2 pixels (3.5") wide and cut a piece off one end that's 3 pixels (5") long. Cut more strips as you need them.
I started laying pieces out in the upper left corner of my design and worked down and to the right. I taped a vinyl tablecloth to the floor with the fuzzy side up so that the pieces stuck down as I laid them out. Once you get a good portion of the design laid out you can start sewing together. Start piecing the smallest pieces together first, always pressing and laying them back down in their spots so that you don't lose track of where you are. Keep building them into bigger and bigger pieces, until by the end you are connecting the 6-12 big blocks together.
I would recommend taking a picture of the pieces every so often in case something happens [thank you, Mr. Kitty, for having your 4am manic cat episode right in the middle of this project]. You'll have a quick and easy guide for putting them back where they go.
The most critical parts of achieving your design and getting all the lines to match up is to have consistent, very precise cutting and a consistent .25" seam allowance on every single seam. You might even want to measure your seam allowances every so often to make sure you're not drifting.
After you piece your design, decide if you want a border. I added more tan solids randomly pieced in a 4 pixel width all the way around. I kept the pieces the same size as the rest of the quilt to keep the design consistent and because I liked the patched-together look.
You might notice that there are three diagonal lines in the design, one in the "R" shadow, one in the "S," and one in the "H" shadow. I decided that putting in a little extra effort to piece a half square triangle for those three lines really went a long way in selling the design visually. For a second I considered doing it for the entire diagonal line of the "S," but then I thought that might be a little too much to handle, and there would be a good chance I'd end up crying in a fetal position in the corner.
Once you've sewn everything together and added borders, make the quilt sandwich with backing fabric and finish the quilt as you would any other.
Please feel free to comment with questions if you have any!