The Burnsville Town Center Photo Quilt
The Reason We Live in Yancey County
Town Center Quilt main
The Burnsville Town Center Quilt
Depicting the four seasons in Yancey County seemed like the obvious theme for the quilt. I’ve always liked the name Princess SummerFallWinterSpring from a childhood memory and decided to use that sequence to present the seasons. The advantage to this was the two green seasons ended up on the ends and I could sandwich the black and white History part between the two seasons where the blending of color and imagery would work the best.
After experimenting with many quilt blocks, I decided to use the sixty
degree diamond because it makes three shapes: the tumbling block which
produces an optical illusion, a star, and a hexagon (which is the tumbling
block without the defined diamonds).
I decided to focus on circles as a secondary theme in the quilt since I was using the four seasons which return in an endless cycle. I was happy with the way the double star circle worked in the Summer section, and the way the circles continued to appear, though subtlely in Fall and Winter. The spring circles helped tie the imagery of the whole quilt together. The tumbling blocks falling away into the mountains in spring hint at the return to summer. Here the primary focus spots are depicted as black circles, the red line shows the path your eye takes through the quilt, with the suggestion that as it exits on the right it returns on the left. The blue circles are the secondary focus spots.
I spent more than a year shooting the pictures for this quilt. Once I had the pictures (I used a Nikon Coolpix digital camera), I used CorelDraw to design the quilt. I would place the pictures on the page and move them around on the computer screen until I was happy with the design. (For those of you with a technical bent, the final total file sizes added up to 35.5 gigabytes. I had to buy an external hard drive just to back up the files as they wouldn’t fit on a DVD.)
Once I had settled on the design, I printed it out and stared at it for a while. After I had showed it to many people, I had it printed on fabric. Then I changed my mind about the design. I felt it wasn’t strong enough so I redesigned the entire quilt and had it printed again. This is typical artist angst. I have the original printouts and must now decide whether to go ahead and make them into seasonal quilts, cut them into smaller pieces and make small quilts to sell, turn them into clothes, or just put them in my cedar chest.
To print the fabric, I export all the unique shapes and images as 300 dpi TIFF files and burn them onto a CD. I then send that CD along with a list of the files and the exact physical size of each one to Chris Moore (the printer) in New York. Sometimes I upload them using FTP. When I do this, I convert the TIFF files to JPG files at the highest resolution. The files are quite large and so cannot be emailed as attachments.
He then takes my computer files and prints them onto 100% cotton with a huge inkjet printer made by Mimaki. Only instead of printing with ink, he prints with fiber-reactive dye—the same dye with which commercial yardgoods are printed. The fabric he uses has been pre-treated with a special chemical to take the dye. After printing, he steams the fabric to set the color, then he washes it. The result is colorfast and machine washable. The level of color and detail is the best I have found and is the reason I use this process.
I did have to print some last minute pieces on my home printer. For
that I used pre-treated fabric sheets made by EQ.
After each section of the quilt was pieced, it went to Rachel Reese
to be quilted. It took her 40 hours to quilt the entire quilt.
For some quilts she can stand on the opposite side of the table. There are handelbars on that side of the machine as well and a laser light that can be guided across a pattern laid out on the white surface. The pattern is slipped beneath a clear plastic sheet. While the quilter guides the laser light across the pattern, the machine stitches the pattern onto the quilt. You can buy patterns or draw your own. This feature was not used on the Town Center quilt, however.
For the Town Center quilt, Rachel drew freehand with the machine directly
on the quilt as she went.
More than once I had to undo what I had just spent 3 hours doing because
once the quilt was rehung on the design wall it puckered, or wouldn’t hang
straight and I would have to remove stitches, repin and resew. In some
places I had to unquilt the quilt and cut away the backing and batting
to help reduce the bulk. The transition pieces were all quilted separately
so that when they were sewn onto the quilt everything would still be quilted.
This was necessary because once the quilt sections were sewn together they
were too big to get under a sewing machine or back onto the long-arm qulting
After I had all the edge pieces sewn to each section, I checked the height of the quilt to make sure top and bottom edges were even. When they weren’t, I had to trim one of the sections—a very scary endeavor. My thanks to Barbara Bradley who helped me measure all the sections and gave me the courage to trim them.
I think I fretted almost as much about whether the quilt was going to fit together and hang straight as I did about the design itself. When a quilt is quilted, it draws up an unpredictable amount and I knew the sections would not match exactly. However, they matched so closely that I was greatly surprised. It is a testimony to the thoroughness and evenness of Rachel’s quilting, and possibly to the wonders of computer precision.
Eventually the quilt became too big for me to put it on the design wall
and at that point I had to move construction to the Town Center where I
could lay out the entire quilt on tables to work on it. Even though I knew
how big the quilt was, the first time I actually saw it all laying out
on the tables, I was flabbergasted.
I appreciate all those who volunteered to help with the quilt and who shared so many wonderful stories and so much rich history with me. I hope the quilt will play a small part to remind us of our rich heritage and encourage us to honor and preserve it. If we protect and nurture the mountains, they will protect and nurture us.
website and images copyright 2006 Barbara Webster. All
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No reproduction, in any form, may be used without the prior written consent of Barbara Webster.