Every quilt tells a story. From the rolling diamonds and waves of triangles and squares – this denim quilt has a tale to tell. The patches of blue make up The Storm at Sea block, and it is one of my favorites. It is a traditional block that is rooted in the Bible passage Jesus Calms the Sea, Mark 4:37-39
Years ago I decided that I HAD TO MAKE a denim Storm at Sea quilt. There is something about denim – with its comfortable and durable feel – that speaks to me, like quilts do and like the sea does. Lets face it, there’s nothing like an old, worn-in pair of jeans and the quiet calm of waves. Nothing says blue more than the ocean and the sky! I decided, in my undeveloped quilters haze, that I would combine my love of denim with my desire to create a perfect Storm at Sea quilt.
“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat,
so that it was nearly swamped” – Mark 4:37-39
That’s when the storm started brewing and my obsession for the perfect bands of blue began. Nothing – nothing at all – motivates me more than the thrill of the hunt.
At the time I had small kids. It was easy to take their old worn out jeans, clothes that they were out growing quickly and slice the legs right off. With the help of a rotary cutter I could slice off the bulky seams and stack the leg segment into a pile easily. I had my own worn out jeans too. Yes – even the funky old ACID washed jeans that were in style at the time would work!
But it wasn’t enough. At times a panic would wash over me and I would begin to feel desperate to find just the right thing. I was sure this was a feeling that only more experienced quilters could relate to. At that rate it would take me YEARS to collect enough fabric scraps to complete my perfect storm quilt. I had to get creative – I had to put four to the floor and find what I needed.
I found new places to get denim: Yard Sales, Flea Markets, and Thrift Shops. I stopped at nothing. I’m sure that family and friends could tell you of my frantic pleas “Don’t throw those out! I want them for my quilt”. And while I’m confessing – YES – it was me who took those jeans I thought you didn’t wear anymore. The phrase “Beg, Borrow, and Steal” wasn’t beneath me during this crazed period in time. I suppose it was the beginning of my quilt and fabric obsession.
Before long I was on my way to a nice collection of cut off legs (Sorry, it sounds a little creepy when I put it like that). I washed, cut, sorted and stacked them by color – but something was missing. All of the old jeans I had collected were faded and worn. They were mostly mid-range and light hues. I was missing the DARK blue I needed for the DIAMOND blocks.
The hunt wasn’t over yet!
The seas were beginning to get rough. It was time to pull out the stops, to do the unthinkable. Do you want to know how bad I wanted those dark blue scraps? Bad enough to take them right out of my own drawers, new – not yet broken in yet. I had to sacrifice them. In the end, I got those dark scraps and I was feeling pretty good about it. The sea’s had begun to calm – or so I thought.
“Peace, be still. And the wind ceased,
and there was a great calm.” ~ Mark 4:37-39
As is usually the case, just when you begin to think the roughest part is over; you realize there are obstacles that you hadn’t considered. It wasn’t until I began to cut the pieces for the segments of my denim quilt, that I realized what I was into. These pieces are SMALL and DIFFICULT to cut and sew!
In a Storm at Sea, the illusion of waves is created by the scale and values in the shapes that make up the units. The storm at sea block breaks down to three simple units.
- A diamond rectangle block.
- A square-in-square
- A small square with corner triangles
The diamond is the same height as the square-in-square and half of the width. The Square-in-Square is twice the size as the small square. The small square is the same width as the Diamond Rectangle and half the size of the square-in-square block. Got that? It’s all about ratios. (Quilt math!)
I learned pretty quickly that working with denim has its challenges. For one, my scraps were of varying weights. Some were heavy and stiff and others were thin and soft. Also, there were places in the Square-in-Square block that had 6 pieces sewn together, and that made the seam allowances bulky. I realized too, that denim frays when it is cut. If I were to do it again – I would allow for a ½” seam instead of the traditional ¼”.
I love the different patterns that come together using those three basic blocks. Take a look! I loved the way the quilt was coming together, despite the challenge in construction.
On my quilt I chose to use batting and a paisley, bandanna printed denim fabric. This quilt is not only durable – its heavy! If I were to do it again, I would forgo the batting and just use the backing. Because of the bulk on the seams I had to avoid quilting over them (Broken Needles!). I quilted it in waves about a half inch away from the diagonal lines. The quilting compliments the pattern.
Finally, I was done. I love this quilt so much. It is my picnic – take along quilt. The simple straight geometric shapes and monochromatic palette of this pattern are simple. Yet when put together tell a story of rolling waves and starry skies. Its calming and I love the story that this quilt tells.