Pattern Name and Designer: Clava Quilt by Miss Makes
Size Made: Throw
Materials used (fabric, notions, kits, etc.): Kona cotton in Bone. Dyes were indigo, soda ash, alum, thiourea, iron, madder. Thread was Cotton + Steel Quilting thread.
Modifications: Added sashing around the moon motifs to make them stand out more
I fell in love with the simple astronomical design of the Clava quilt, and decided it would be a perfect witchy addition to my house. But it was a daunting undertaking - I’ve never made a quilt from a pattern before, just simple square designs. And also pieced circles?! Witchcraft!
I couldn’t just let the circles challenge me. After spending the summer experimenting with natural dyes from plants on my property, I was in love with the idea of dying the fabric myself. Delicate shades of yellows, and a rich indigo blue was the vision in my head. I prepped the fabrics for dying, and cut it into three pieces. The plain Kona in Bone was going to be my full moons, so that was set aside. I split the remaining yardage in two, almost 3 yards, to be indigo dyed while I set the the other aside to receive an ombre of yellows.
The first dip of yellows in my dye bath of rabbit brush had a subtle variation, but I needed more definition. I treated the top third very briefly in Thiourea to lighten it slightly, which brought out the brightness of the yellow (and smells just how you think it might). I dipped the rest in a very diluted solution of iron to ‘sadden’ the color and make it less intense. I was still not feeling like the last color was quite distinct enough, so it was back to the dye bath - with a pinch of madder to warm it up. Finally - three very distinct but coordinating yellows!
The indigo vat also took some time. I was trying to reach that deep midnight blue, but each time you shove three yards of fabric into the vat, no matter how carefully, you bring a lot of oxygen along with it. For those unfamiliar with indigo dying, the process requires the liquid to have as little dissolved oxygen as possible to make it go! I lost track of how many dips it got, but the color got more and more intense, with the delightful subtle variation that always comes with natural dying.
After all of that it was time to cut the pieces out! The Clava Quilt has two options for construction. Sew everything in half circles and cut off the excess, or cut pieces in exactly the finished size. The advantages to the first are many, easier to cut and keep track of, easier to sew. But, after putting all the work into the dying, that fabric was precious and I also wanted to have a little extra in case I made fatal mistakes with any of my cuts. So I cut exactly the size of the finished blocks.
The pattern does call for one to cut out strips, then sections, then actually cut the parts of the circles. This is brilliant! It lets you get very nice straight sides, and when cutting several layers at once you can get smooth curves and not spend hours and hours making cuts! I would definitely use this method again.
I was intimidated by actually sewing the circles, and cut a few practice pieces from other fabrics. Fortunately, it was actually quite easy after the first couple of passes! If you have experience sewing curves on garments you won’t have any trouble with these circles. They also pressed out beautifully into excellent semi-circles when ironing, with only two pieces in each block it was very quick and satisfying to cruise through the round seams.The only big change I made to the pattern was to add sashing between the rows of moon motifs. After my parsimonious cutting there was a fair bit of indigo fabric left, so I did some math and used almost every last scrap to edge the large strips. I feel like this lets each row stand out more. Gotta let those moons shine!
I’m thrilled with the outcome of this project, even as it’s been months in the making! Once I sat down to sew I was able to fly through the construction phase. The instructions were clear and simple for even a quilting noob like me. Now I face the other quilt question - what to use as my backing fabric? I saved all my cutting scraps, and made some squares and triangles. I think I will try to incorporate some classic style squares into the back - and not let a thread of this precious fabric go to waste.