At the Junction

It’s February which means it’s almost time for QuiltCon, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual show and convention. I thought I’d share the backstory of, “At the Junction”, which will be on display in Nashville.

Back in May, I took a Free-Form Blocks workshop from Sujata Shah at Quilted Strait. We explored Sujata’s method of cutting several layers of fabric to construct a variety of unique blocks.  I was looking for some faster improv techniques, as well as to spending  time with Sujata and her gorgeous, colorful quilts. Her book, Cultural Fusion Quilts: a Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions, is a wonderful resource if you want to learn more.

Sujata Shah showing cutting techniques

The first day I used a wide variety of solids to make some of the sample blocks. The second day I decided to limit the palette, thinking I would make a baby quilt out of the blocks I had created in class. (Apologies for the poor indoor lighting, but this is how my design wall looked at the end of the second day.)free-form blocks workshop

However, the block that captured my attention was this one, so when I came home, I separated these out and they became the starting point of a new quilt.beginning of At the Junction by Marla Varner

(Not to worry…all those other blocks found their way into pillow covers, placemats and table runners and they gave me lots of free motion quilting practice, too!)pillows from free-form blocks Marla Varner penny lane quilts

free-form placemats Marla Varner penny lane quilts

I decided to go with the primary colors and kept making blocks (they were rather addictive and I needed some improv therapy time). Before I knew it, the design wall was full. This was the end of September and I began to think it might be possible to make the QuiltCon entry deadline of November 30.At the Junction all the blocks pieced Marla Varner penny lane quilts

At this junction (see what I did there?) I needed to make a decision whether to square these blocks up before assembling or to do my usual  freehand cutting and puzzling the units together. It had grown larger than any of my other improv pieces and I knew it would be a challenge, but my cheerleaders over on IG encouraged me to not take the easy road!

I pieced it in sections, adding a “safe zone” around the edges so that I wouldn’t lose any of the blocks when I trimmed up the finished top. At the Junction in progress Marla Varner penny lane quilts

Of course, that became harder as the sections got bigger. The final few seams required crawling on the floor, all my cutting mats and some painter’s tape to hold the pieces in place. (In the bottom left corner is a laser square that was a valuable addition to my tool chest!)cutting the first long seam at the junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

By the middle of November, I had the top pieced, basted and ready to quilt. This was the largest quilt I have machine quilted and I had doubts about tackling it on my domestic machine. Originally I planned to quilt it about half an inch apart, but before I knew it, I started quilting much closer than that!At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

It was a lot of wrestling and wrangling, and some long hours at the machine. It took almost seventy hours to quilt and I used ten different colors of Aurifil 50 wt. The thread colors graduate and overlap from lighter to darker shades.At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

The dense quilting made blocking essential and the laser square was a big help during this step, too. Soon the binding was attached and all I needed was a sunny day for photos! Well, that didn’t happen, but I did get my entry submitted.

That looming deadline sure helped this quilt get finished! It was challenging and I spent way more time on the floor than was good for this old body, but it helped my skills evolve. I love this quilt and it really felt good to finish a large quilt…it’s been awhile.

I’m looking forward to attending QuiltCon, meeting up with friends and being inspired by all the modern quilts on display. Maybe I’ll see you there?




24 thoughts on “At the Junction”

  1. Marla, Thanks for posting about your process behind this quilt. Those were perfect three days hanging out with you. When I wrote the book, I knew modern freeform blocks could be, and you really topped all of what this block could be. I know it is a stunner. It is going to stop everyone in their track. Have a great time at Quiltcon. By the way, I know a thing or two about being on both knees with every cutting mat on the floor! It was all worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sujata, for all your encouragement. I’ve had several readers express interest in buying your book, so hooray for that! I am ready to make a couple of baby and lap throw quilts that won’t be so hard on the body before I tackle basting my next big quilt. (I have two of those waiting in the wings.)


  2. OMG, Marla, I’m in LOVE! This is beyond stunning. You know how much I love improv and there’s something about plus signs that I can’t get enough of. So, to see them paired is a thing of beauty! And that quilting was well worth the 70hrs. Hope you treated yourself to a good massage after this one 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Shannon. It was a challenge to freehand cut those longer sections, but I love the way it turned out. I haven’t spent much time machine quilting since I finished that one and I probably won’t do another one of that size the same way again, but I do love the texture. I’ve been treating myself to lots of hand quilting since then!


  3. Marla, it’s great to see it finished and a lovely reminder of the studio tour you gave me and Gail Newman when it was in progress. Your work is creative and beautiful to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog and leave a comment. As you might have noticed, I hadn’t posted since last May, so I need all the positive feedback I can get!

      That was so nice of you and Gail to stop by for a visit and to chat about quilts. It gave me a little break from the quilting!


  4. Thanks for all the info on this lovely quilt. I saw it on Instagram and wondered about the colour of your quilting threads. Interesting that you used so many shades. I loved this block in Sujata’s book and your interpretation is so different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thread choices were difficult for this one because I didn’t want too dark of a thread on the light areas or too light on the dark fabrics. The color also changes horizontally across the quilt, so how the threads look on one side is different than they appear on the other. Lots of times when I can’t decide, I just choose more!
      One thing I like about Sujata’s book is that there are so many different ways to use the blocks once they are pieced. Her method helps you create the blocks quickly and then you can design your quilt any way you like!


  5. I have the book and am making a quilt from it now. Working on the border now. Your quilt turned out beautifully. Kudos to you for getting all those blocks to fit together! Love the glorious colors on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I checked out your quilt and it sounds like you are asking some great questions. It will be interesting to see what you decide about the borders.
      Puzzling different sized pieces together is a lot of fun and cutting without rulers is my favorite way to roll.Playing with the colors was my favorite part of the process!


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