See Rock City - A Quilt Story

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See Rock City (2013) - quilted by Chris Ballard


I've always loved barns, especially the slighty derelict versions that lean and sag and proudly show their character/age.  

I love the stories and imaginings of events and situations those barns have witnessed (and survived).

I love the juxtaposition of rural and urban where "mall sprawl" has crept close but not yet gobbled up farmland.

I've been a liberated, free-piecing quilter for quite a while now, but I'd never done any "wonky houses" (they just didn't intrigue me quite enough).  

But, when the "lightbulb" went off and I connected the idea of free-piecing "houses" with free-piecing "barns," I was hooked.  

Mixed in with this ongoing thought process were Lynne's blog posts as she created her Four Seasons quilt.

Eventually, I decided to create a series of 12 unique barns using a variety of sky and ground fabrics to represent the look and feel of each month where I live near Memphis, Tennessee.

Little did I know how those initial decisions would manifest themselves . . .

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Free Piecing Thoughts

I've lost track of how many times I've been asked if I would develop "a pattern" for this quilt?

Reality check:  Trying to create an actual pattern for a project like this one would be the total antithesis of free piecing.

Process notes, yes - but a pattern, never.

Even attempting to explain early into the project using spoken words, scribbled sketches, facial expressions, and hand gestures, it was almost impossible to adequately describe the ideas and vision I felt in my heart and saw inside my mind.

Free pieced work can be silly or serious, incorporating elements from many other forms of quilt making including "liberated" and "improvisational" styles.

Sometimes termed "winging it" or "quilting without a net," it is very important to understand that free piecing does not mean haphazard, careless, or sloppy. 

Free piecing is messy work - lots of scraps everywhere.

And free piecing takes waaaay more background fabric that you might think (plan ahead or plan to go scrappy).

Here's my overall "take" on the free piecing process:

The first phase is coming up with an idea (or an interpretation of an idea) that means something to YOU, that you connect with on multiple levels, and that you know without a doubt you must act upon.  This decision cannot be forced, coerced, or demanded.  The idea will most often find its maker, not the other way around.  

Warning:  the concept may arrive in layers, so be prepared for the original idea to evolve along the way.

Next, it is time to contemplate, consider, research, gather fabrics, sketch ideas, and make notes to yourself. (Note:  weeks or months can and probably will be involved here.)

At some point, you will need to take everything from above and set it aside (literally and figuratively).  After taking a few deep breaths and a giant leap of faith, simply begin to work.  

Cut, stitch, change your mind, cut and stitch some more, edit, refine, walk away, come back, change direction(s), cut and stitch, stop and listen (to yourself and your work), cut and stitch, revise, re-arrange, cut and stitch. Repeat, in any order, as needed, until you are utterly satiated and content with your work.

For me, this is the best kind of pattern process. 

It is open-ended, unrestrained, and joyfully dependent upon individual interpretation.

It demands mental/emotional/physical involvement in every decision, willingness to wait and listen, and interaction from before the beginning to beyond the final stitches. 

Best of all, free piecing fosters the creation of a unique, deeply personal piece of art.

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Detail photos of twelve See Rock City barns

See Rock City's Evolution

The links below will take you to the various posts shared during the creation of See Rock City.

November, 2011 - Lightbulb moment (see "Why" above)

January 1, 2012 - Initial blog post

January 8 - January barn reveal

January 10 - February barn reveal

January 11 - March barn reveal

January 13 - April barn reveal

February 1 - May barn reveal

February 17 - June barn reveal

February 21 - July barn reveal (later destroyed by fireworks)

February 25 - August barn reveal

March 1 - July barn re-build reveal

March 7 - September barn reveal

March 26 - October barn reveal

March 28 - November barn reveal

March 30 - December barn reveal

April 16 - Preliminary layout reveal

April 20 - January and February barn upgrades

April 24 - Flimsy reveal

[Flimsy and back handed off to Chris for quilting]

May 23 - Phase II announcement

[Flimsy and back retrieved from Chris for re-design]

June 2 - Blue Skies Part I

June 4 - Blue Skies Part II

June 10 - Phase II's  Row 1 reveal

June 16 - Phase II's Row 2 reveal

June 20 - Phase II's Row 3 reveal

June 25 - Phase II's Row 4 reveal

June 27 - Back and label reveal

June 28 - Flimsy reveal (Phase II)

Insert long pause here
(due to Chris'a  knee surgery/recovery and the fall holiday season, not to mention life in general).

March 9, 2013 - See Rock City has returned home!!   Fabulously custom quilted by Chris Ballard

Quilted Month-by-Month Reveals ~ 2013

March 13 - January

March 14 - February

March 15 - March

March 16 - April

March 17 - May

March 18 - June

March 19 - July

March 20 - August

March 21 - September

March 22 - October

March 26 - November

March 27 - December

March 28 - The Back Story

March 29 - Finished Quilt Reveal

April 1 - Presentation of Custom Award Ribbons

April 6 - Official Photo Shoot (Dandridge Equipment, Somerville, TN)

June 24 - Notification that See Rock City has been juried into AQS Grand Rapids 2013

August 14-17, 2013 - AQS Grand Rapids semi-finalist

November 1-3, 2013 - Davies Manor Quilt and Fiber Show (Memphis, TN) - BEST OF SHOW
(Two different links)

December 17, 2013 - Confirmation received - See Rock City will be included in the 2015 Quilt Art Engagement Calendar (published by AQS)

February 24, 2014 - It's official - See Rock City is going to AQS Paducah !!!!

April 24, 2014 - My copy of the 2015 Quilt Art Engagement Calendar arrived - See Rock City is featured during my birthday week of September 21 !!

July 2014 - Book proposal submitted to AQS

September 12, 2014 - Julie and Larry visit Rock City, Lookout Mountain, GA -- near Chattanooga, TN (inspiration for my quilt's name)

January 14-17, 2015 - AQS Albuquerque

April, 2015 - Manuscript and 18 quilts for the book hand-delivered to AQS in Paducah, Kentucky

July 29-August 1, 2015 - AQS Syracuse