Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fenestra Rosa

 I am postponing my planned post as mentioned last week, but will do it next week.  There was a lot of interest in my Fenestra Rosa quilt and I had a lot of fun designing and making it.  It was for the Hoffman Challenge 2013 and won "Best Use of Challenge Fabric."  Below is the challenge fabric and for me it was love at first sight.

2013 Hoffman Chalenge Fabric
I am reposting the photo of "Fenestra Rosa" below so you can follow what I say about it.

I saw an Internet photo of a rose window from a European cathedral, which was the inspiration for this quilt.  I lost the photo and have never seen it again, but developed the design on Adobe Illustrator by starting with the large, circular window and building out from there.  As my ideas coalesced I decided it was time to try my hand at stained glass technique and what you see is what I did.  It is basically machine appliqué with with bias strips to cover raw edges.  I had fun making two kaleidoscopes from the fabric.  Can you find them?  There were so many interesting motifs in this fabric that I was able to use parts and pieces throughout the quilt.

Fenestra Rosa
The following problems and solutions are not necessarily in the order they occurred!

Problem #1.  I worried throughout the construction process about the way the edges would come together about 1/3 down from the top where the background meets the arch.  I marked and measured at every stage and was gratified that it followed my plans perfectly.  There is your TIP right there!

Problem #2.  I wanted a lattice on the bottom so I quilted it on black fabric and began to fill the centers with turquoise thread painting.  I may have marked it sloppily or it became distorted with the quilting.  Doesn't matter.  It looked awful even though I had previewed on a tester piece.

Solution #2.  I ripped out the stitching, but the fabric was destroyed after so much needle punching.  I finally took the rotary cutter and slashed off the whole bottom section, batting and all.  I made sure there was at least 1/4 inch of fabric on the top with which to attach a new bottom using "Quilt As You Go" technique (Amazon has several books on this technique).  I quilted the lattice over challenge fabric using the stained glass technique and then attached it to the top.  In order to avoid any gap between the two battings I butted the edges together and secured them with iron-on Batting Seam Tape.  The backing fabric is seamed together, the front raw edges are covered with a  1/2" black strip, which is securely quilted.  It looks better this way than it ever thought of looking before.

TIP:  Don't give up when things don't work out.  Set the quilt aside and turn your creative brain waves loose on the problem.  I guarantee you will come up with something.  If you are a quilt groupie it may help to share the problem and get suggestions from others.

Problem #3.  The challenge fabric is so pretty and vibrant, but it needed taming for use as the background.

Solution #3.  I put a layer of black tulle over the top background, and under the lattice at the bottom.  It tones the bright colors down just enough without detracting from its beauty.  As a result the stained glass window glows in contrast.

TIP:  Tulle is cheap and can be a useful addition to a quilt.  A dark color tones the colors down and is invisible over dark colors.  A light color lightens color and is invisible over light colors.  A neutral color doesn't change color tone, but can be used to corral a multitude of tiny pieces until they get quilted down.  Once quilted the tulle does not detract or distract and can be seen only if you look very closely.

Problem #4.  Making the binding strips.  That's a post for the future.

Problem #5.  The binding.  I didn't realize I had a problem until it was mentioned on the judge's evaluation.  I will share my findings on that problem next week.

Happy stitching.


  1. I think your quilt is absolutely beautiful. Please don't overlook that the judge's provide "feedback" on a process that is also based on all of the spectacular quilts in a particular category. While it can be painful to some, the feedback that those judges take time to provide can help us all to improve our skills. It doesn't mean your quilt isn't spectacular, but that the judges saw some things that can be improved from their perspective of seeing many amazing quilts, over the years. And, as the judging process is all relative, your entry could be an award winner but in the particular pool, even award winners get constructive feedback. We can't improve our skills without good constructive feedback. And we can't have amazing quilt shows if quilters like you are not willing to enter and share their quilts.


  2. What a fantastic design! And congrats on the win. I think Hoffman really likes more creative uses of their fabric than just finding a strategic place for it and a good coordinating set of fabrics. And they seem to like well done little pieces. And you have it all.

    1. Thanks for the great comment. I hope others will read it. I agree totally and I always take the judges' comments to heart, and I view them as a step on the path to improving my skills. I have since rebound the quilt and plan to enter it in other shows. We'll see what happens!

  3. Such a lovely quilt. Thanks for sharing your techniques for resolving the problems you encounter. Great learning experience for all. I love the name of your quilt as well. Very apropos.

  4. Stunning, stunning quilt!! I love kaleidoscopes, real and in fabric. I took a class with a Paula Nadelstern-educated and approved instructor, and loved it. The use of the tulle is "genious"! It makes the central rose window appear to be backlit from the sun! Love reading about your process, problem-solving, and tips. mmm! Lovely.

  5. Congratulations! Your quilt sure looks like a winner to me.

  6. Oh my - this is a fantastic piece - love it! GREAT work!

  7. This is wonderful! I've never used tulle on a quilt yet, but will have to try that out now. I really like the differentiation it made in this case. You're right about it letting the rosette of the window really pop out!