Monday, November 03, 2014

I took a chance. I almost didn't. But on the last day possible, I submitted an entry for the Houston Quilt Show (IQA). I figured even if it didn't make the cut I could say that I entered the Houston show at least once in my life. Lucky for me, because my quilt, 'Three Brains', was accepted as a finalist into the juried show. I'm still in shock. It's the first time I've ever entered a quilt at Houston. I've had quilts hang in the show before, but they were always part of a special exhibit, never the juried show.

The story behind this quilt:

I've had two different cancers five times: ovarian cancer at the age of 18, and recurrent skin cancer throughout my late 20s and early 30s. What should have been the 'easy cancer' to treat - the skin cancer - had occurred a total of four times within three years. After the fourth occurrence, I transferred to MD Anderson for treatment. The first thing they did was to send me for a brain scan to make sure the cancer had not spread to the tissue in my eye as the skin cancer was very close to my right eye. Luckily it had not spread. I continued treatment at MD Anderson, undergoing four surgeries to remove the cancer and repair the area near my eye.

On one of my yearly check-ups, I happened upon the records department and had them send a copy of my brain scan. It arrived at my house within 2 days (MD Anderson is very efficient!) and as soon as I started scrolling through the images I knew I had to turn it into a quilt.

I even had the fabric ready to go. Several years before I had gone to a Jinny Beyer seminar with my mom in Hilton Head, SC. I bought several of her palate fabrics while there and I knew just which ones I wanted to use.

My original idea was to make four brains and arrange them Andy Worhol style.  But after completing two of the brains and attending a Hollis Chatelain class in which she gave feedback on her student's work, I changed my mind. She suggested turning one of the brains upside down in order for the brains to relate to each other better. And she was right. I went home and decided to complete a third brain. The entire quilt consists only of 7 fabrics (6 Jinny Beyer palate fabrics and one Michael Miller fairy frost).

Then life got in the way (aka, a baby girl) and this project got put aside for several years. After my daughter started sleeping through the night, and I had a chunk of free time at the end of the day, I pulled it out again. I went through Leah Day's 365 quilt designs to find several designs that would work with it, spent several days doing test swatches, then held my breath and went to town, one brain at at time.

This was actually the first free motion quilt I had done on my Bernina 430 (as a side note, I do not have the BSR, so this was all done without a regulator). I found that the stitches kind of regulated themselves when I followed one piece of advice from Leah Day's website: leave your feed dogs up.  Yes UP! Even though I used my hopping foot, I left the feed dogs up and it gave me a bit more control while free-motion quilting.

As for the background, I struggled with what to do. I actually completed the quilting on one and a half of the backgrounds, didn't like it, and picked it all out. I finally decided what design to use, and that I would do it on all three backgrounds. I sketched out the design, transferred it onto each brain background with a Clover Hera marking tool, and stitched away. Oh, by the way, I did the background quilting upside down!  I had to do a lot of 'traveling' on the background quilting and was using a thread color that matched the background, so it was very hard to see when traveling back over what I had already quilted. So I ended up turning the quilt over to quilt on the back, which was a contrasting color to the thread. It turned out great.

I decided to face the quilt, but to give it a professional look I also fused a cotton canvas fabric to the back of the quilt prior to facing it.

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out! And over the moon that it showed in Houston this past weekend.


P.S. - Checkout another quilt I have in Houston this year in the 'Inspired by the Beatles' special exhibit. The challenge was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America. My song was 'A Hard Days Night'.


  1. I was just thinking about doing an x-ray quilt, great job! Congrats on getting into Houston. And love your Beatles quilt, I did the wild swinging/singing bird "And Your Bird Can Sing". Such a cool project.


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