The Hallelujah! quilt is now completely finished! I finished it in time to hang it in our church the Sunday before Christmas.
Some notes on the process… my original idea came last year as I sat in a beautiful cathedral for a performance of Handel’s Messiah. I wanted to try to do something that would evoke the baroque beauty of the cathedral–the ornate over-the-top painting and carving and details everywhere. In my original idea I wanted to do a whole cloth silk quilt with ornate machine quilting and machine lettering.
I thought about this quilt a LOT before I was brave enough to start it. By that time, I had decided to hand-stitch the lettering, and to include 4 large circles that would offset the verses. I spent a lot of time thinking about which words I would include. The Hallelujah Chorus repeats phrases and words, and many times they actually overlap in the singing. In the end, I eliminated most of the repeats, except where I thought they were needed for emphasis.
When I decided to hand-stitch the lettering and the four large circles, I decided that I needed to do the piece in panels, because it is much easier to hand-stitch a smaller piece. For the most part, the seams are unnoticeable. Once I had all those panels finished, I carefully assembled them and put them up on the design wall. That is when I started thinking about adding more circles. It seemed more in keeping with the way I currently work. Once I auditioned a few, I actually liked the way they looked And so about 50 circles were added to the piece.
I decided to use wool batting. My way of constructing a quilt sandwich is to use 100% cotton batting and to use steam to “stick” the layers of cotton together. But now I was using “silky” fabric and wool batting. There was no sticking going on there! I decided to hand baste it. I was able to do this on my cutting table. And I was very pleasantly surprised that there was actually no slipping of the layers going on. The hand basting held everything together very nicely through the embroidery of all 50 circles, and then through the machine quilting.
In between here, you might remember, the Juki quilter went on the blink. This was anxiety producing, but it actually gave me no option but to hunker down and get everything embroidered while I awaited the Juki’s return.
And then it was time to quilt. Now, I had been doodling quilting designs for almost a year. But you know…QUILTING is different than doodling. I knew I wanted to include feathers and cross-hatching. And some sort of background fill. Many of my sketches included a lot more design elements. In the end, I decided to only use 3 quilting designs since the circles were filling in a lot of space.
But I don’t know how to explain this except to say…I DIDN’T KNOW. I started putting feathers where there was space, and tried out some crosshatching, and then some pebble filler. I outlined all the lettering as I went along. But somehow I didn’t know that I would need to put quilting everywhere–between all the lines of words and between each word! I think I would have been overwhelmed if I had realized that this was what I needed to do.
In the end, I enjoyed every minute of the quilting. It took three concentrated days. Each day I would take the quilt and put it on the design wall, and mark where I though I could fit another feather or some crosshatching. I took it back to the machine and put those feathers and crosshatching in place. And then I filled in with endless pebbles. When all was done, I found the perfect piece of golden brown fabric for the binding, and after it was applied, I soaked the quilt in cold water to make sure all the blue pen came out, spun the extra water out, and then blocked it on my design wall.
In the midst of the quilting, I listened to the Hallelujah Chorus. It is such a magnificent, complex piece of work. My quilt is a very humble homage to Handel’s work, and beyond that, to bring honor and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.