Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Baby M's Chicago Skyline

Get ready. This is a long one. Because, you know, one of those secret projects that couldn't be revealed. Until now. Baby's not here yet, so I don't really know his initial. M is from his last name, but the baby shower has happened, so I can share. Yippee! 

This all started with a question to Baby M's parents about colors and possible theme for a quilt. They said the nursery is neutrals, with tan walls, black and white furnishings, and pops of color for decorations. They also said maybe buildings for a theme, since they have lived in some of the largest cities of the country. They currently live in Chicago, so I took that theme and ran with it. Here it is: my sort-of Chicago skyline--an abstract, with some well known buildings and the elevated train (the "L"), not necessarily where they are really placed, but in an arrangement that pleased me.
All washed--looks wobbly, but that's just from the hangers and breeze.
So now that you've seen the big reveal, I'll share lots more photos, with a visual tour of the process.

I started with the fabric you can see at the bottom of the quilt and in the backing here:

Here's a close-up:
It's from the Robert Kaufman Let's Go line. I found it online and was immediately smitten because it was in colors I was looking for and even more important, the cars, trucks and bicycles were all in the right orientation for a city street--no upside-down vehicles--so they'd fit perfectly at the bottom of a row of buildings. 

After looking at oodles of photos of the skyline of Chicago with labels of major buildings, I drew a plan on graph paper. 

You can see in the photo above that I've labeled and listed some of the buildings. The numbers at the bottom are planning for the amount of yardage for the vehicle and background fabric. I think. I can never tell from my scribbles. While waiting for my fabric order, I colored in the drawing and started planning the scale and piecing (those numbers are along the side of the photo, with each square of graph paper equaling 2 inches). The numbers along the bottom and in the body of the quilt drawing correspond to buildings and background pieces, which I may or may not have attended to while actually piecing. 

When the vehicle fabric arrived, it was time for a trip to the fabric store for fabrics with building-ish prints and colors that coordinated with the vehicle fabric. I was thrilled with my finds. I had a few pieces in my stash that worked, too, so in no time, I was all set to dive into piecing. 

I started with the Willis (formerly known as Sears tower) section of the quilt. There is another building in front of it (Board of Trade--the gold one) and to keep things easy where there were tricky seams, I freezer paper pieced parts of them where they overlapped.
 Here's a close-up of the front of that part:

And that section, finished:
 Then it was time to plan the next section:
I planned window color and placement.
Those copies to the left are just to cover the fabric.
And another section done:

It took a little time to plan the next section of the quilt. I had trouble at first getting the proportions of the windows of the CNA building (the red and white one) the way I wanted at first, and I did redo some of those seams to make the windows narrower. I also had to plan that building so that I could later fit the "L" in, which required some partial seams. I designed the building so I could remove a few stitches to insert the L train during the last phase of sewing.
Headed to too much white
Ready to move on
Moving on, I forgot to take some photos, but all went well, with more freezer paper piecing where buildings overlapped.

The last big building was the John Hancock, recognizable for it's distinctive X's in the structure. I tried out several blackish/grayish fabrics
but suddenly realized that the blue/teal print was the perfect value and repeat of fabric use. I again used a slice and insert method--combined with freezer paper piecing to keep it neat.

Then it was time to add the L train and do one more slice and insert of the rail. Using the 1/2 finished rail kept the integrity of the building design--no windows or structural elements were distorted. And the last step was adding the street at the bottom. This whole process was so satisfying, and I'm thrilled that it turned out as I envisioned it. 

For the quilting, I stitched in the ditch (-ish, I sometimes get a little off seamline) around each building, and then followed windows, quilted abstract windows and other building-ish lines. In the background (both the street and the sky) I did long wavy horizontal lines. Chicago is The Windy City, but I wanted just a decent breeze.

Here are the Stats, and then I'll finish with some close-ups:
Pattern: My own graph paper doodle based on photos of the skyline of Chicago.
Fabrics:  A variety (sorry, I'm not good at keeping track of them) plus the car print from Let's Go by Robert Kaufman.
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 
Thread: Superior-- Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut in White Linen for quilting. Unknown black hand quilting thread for stitching binding to back.
Binding: 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back
Size: 56 3/8 inches tall by 52 1/4 inches wide. 54 inches by 50 inches after washing.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for walking foot quilting.

So, now, some additional photos taken indoors (on our bed) because the weather is dark and yucky.
The major buildings from left to right are:
311 S. Wacker (green check)
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower--black squares)
Chicago Board of Trade (gold plaid) 
CNA Center (red/white--the real building is distinctively red)
Either Chase or One Prudential Place (I never did decide, although it lacks the top of Prudential, but it's the teal one with blue windows) 
Two Prudential Plaza (the navy one with the pointed roof) 
Crain Communications (formerly known as the Smurfit-Stone--shorter red building), 
Aon Center (gold with long gray windows)
John Hancock (black with X structure)
And then, of course, the "L" train and track

Blogger insists on turning this photo sideways. Oh well.

I hope you enjoyed seeing this quilt as much as I enjoyed making it. I think graph paper is my favorite way to plan a quilt and seeing this quilt come to life from the paper was such a satisfying experience. Perhaps it will inspire you to interpret a favorite skyline as a quilt. I hope the little guy this quilt is meant for will have fun with his own version of "I spy" with the buildings of Chicago. He even has an awesome skyline view from his nursery window.

I'm linking up this week with Kelly at My Infatuation for Needle and Thread Thursday, Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Whoop Whoop Friday, at Wendy's Quilts and More for Peacock Party, and Michelle at From Bolt to Beauty for Beauties Pageant.

(I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 


LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

That's such a fun design, Janine! I enjoyed reading about how you figured it all out. Sounds perfect for that family!

Kathleen said...

I am so impressed! It is such a wonderful quilt and so creative. I love that you took liberty with the skyline but got the essence of perfect. You should be pleased and I am sure they are in love with it!

Vicki in MN said...

Wow Janine, just wow!!!

mebaker said...

What an amazing quilt! I love seeing photos of different stages of piecing. What a lucky baby to have such a personal treasure! Amazing! Thank you for sharing.

Sandra Walker said...

I have gone back and forth, reading, re-reading, re-examining, marvelling, drooling over this exquisite quilt! From the fabric choices that are just so perfect (I'd be doing a happy dance myself) for the buildings, to tiny yet so important details like those teal x's and narrowing the windows, to that L train, and marrying the backing with the lower front, and then the quilting...I stand, again, mesmerized and in awe of another of your creations. Thank you for the plentiful photos, and for showing us the process. We both share a deep love and respect for how quilts evolve from our brain cells through graph paper and puzzling stages to finished product. What a treasure, and much larger than I thought from the first photo. Isn't Hobbs 80/20 a great batting for flat yet loft where you want it and quilts like butter? Just so very wonderful all around!

Gemini Jen NZ said...

I love that with quilting we can make bespoke items that are unique one-offs - this is very, very cool - well done!

Louise said...

Oh. My. Goodness! This is just sooooo creative, Janine!! I love it! I love that they are real buildings, that you included the L, and how perfectly you handled the overlapping edges. Having spent a week in the boat docked downtown, I'm pretty sure this was our exact view! Even if it wasn't, this now my official version of what I remember the view to be, it's just THAT compelling :) Fantastic job!

Linda said...

I saw your post yesterday but had too many interruptions, so I saved it for savoring while drinking my coffee this morning, because I love it when you say "long post". Your method of quilt creation is so interesting to me, and it is my dream to be able to plan a quilt that way.
So the quilt is just outstanding. I can't say enough about it. All the fabrics are just perfect, and the fabrics on the Willis and the green checked building to the left of it are my favorites. I also love the teal accent you made on the John Hancock - not sure how you magically picked it. And the L is so cute!
The quilting is great (I'm running out of adjectives). By the time I reach the quilting point, I just want to get it done. You took time for quilting to complement each part of it. It is a masterpiece. It is worthy of a quilt show, but the little boy whose room it will grace will be the greater purpose for it. :) Did the parents just go crazy?
Nice job my friend. I'm inspired to hurry up and get into my sewing room.

Linda said...

I forgot to mention how much I like the vehicle fabric and am going to look for some of that for my littlest grandson. And the background fabric too - it is perfect. Again, running out of adjectives - lol!

KaHolly said...

JeanneMarie, this quilt, and your process, is totally amazing! I can’t imagine how many people you will inspire with this incredible post!

Mari said...

This is so, so cool, Janine! I recognize all those buildings, and I knew it was Chicago right away. What a labor of love this was! But it turned out so great, and the cars fabric is perfect, too (if you have ever driven in Chicago.) I would have been tempted to keep this for myself after all that work, and after it turned out so wonderful. Congratulations on the finish, and to the happy little family!

Home Sewn By Us said...

Hi Janine! From the first photo showing all the cars, I knew this was going to be a fun post to read. Could that fabric BE any more accurate for Chicago traffic?! I work on the North Shore (Glencoe) although I live in Wisconsin so I see that traffic and similar cars every day. And the fabric for the Willis building - holy moly, that is just PERFECT. Baby M is so lucky to have such a talented and creative Grandma (?? not sure if that is correct). Wonderful, wonderful quilt and story to go along with it. Happy Holidays to you and your family. ~smile~ Roseanne

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

What a phenomenal baby quilt!!! That is just the best! Thanks for sharing your process.

Marie said...

Wow it looks great! And the car print just adds a touch of baby feel so the quilt does not look too grown up. Thank you for sharing the process as well.

KatieQ said...

I absolutely love this quilt. Although I am a New Yorker, born and raised, this quilt really captures all of the images I have of Chicago. I love the train and the traffic. The fabrics you chose for the buildings are perfect. They have a wonderful textured look and point out the great indivduality of the architecture.

QuiltGranma said...

Wow! Amazing achievement! Hope they treasure this accomplishment of yours! Definitely one of a kind and an inspiration to the rest of us!

Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty said...

So. Much. Fun! This is sure to be a cherished gift. : )

Kathy@KayakQuilting said...

Wow! I love this! It caught me eye first as I love Chicago. I really enjoyed reading the process you went through to design and make this amazing quilt. Impressive!!

Barbara said...

Love the Chicago skyline quilt. I lived there back in the late 1970s. What a wonderful keepsake!