The Tiles of San Giovanni…..

Well, after many months (7 to be exact), I have finished my Roman tile quilt, now named “The Tiles of San Giovanni”.

If you are new to this journey, here are the posts in order of appearance…..

Part 1 – Roman tiles on my mind

Part 2….the day that math let me down

Part 3….Roman Tiles – part 3.

So, where we left off, the interior tile work was well under construction ….IMG_4758

….although I still hadn’t decided exactly where it was going from here!!

I really liked the greyish fabric and thought that it would be good to use in the thin outer rings but I only had a small amount of the fabric left.  I looked online and traveled to a local-ish store that has thousands of bolts but couldn’t find anything that came close.   I actually did buy two fabrics that looked perfect in the store but were completely different colors when I got them into different light…..grey’s are bad that way!!

So I did the next best thing and decided to just use what I had and figure it out if I did run out!!   The wonder-under was trimmed with TINY margins and the pieces were tightly placed on the fabric…..


….and look, there is a bit leftover!!

At this point, I was ready to start thinking about the background……IMG_4869

….but there was one thing that had been bothering me.   Look at the top and bottom of the circles on the right.   do you see my problem?   My pattern had been off by about 1/2 inch and the outside rings butted up against the edge of the fabric.   There was NO room to add a border or anything else!!

Now I have always said that my mantra in life came from a “Calvin & Hobbes” cartoon with the statement that…..”A day without denial is a day you have to face”.   But I had denied it long enough and it was time to tackle the problem before I went any further.

After much pondering, I decided to remove the two outside pieces that were touching the edges and fuse down a small strip of fabric on the edge and then reapply the outside circle.IMG_4919

Amazingly, it worked and now you cant even see that it was mended!!

Next I had to think about what would go in the outside background areas.  In the original tile floor there were lots of new patterns in the background…..


….and I was originally planning to do that, but I just never could get excited about it.   Then I was showing it to a quilting friend one night and as we talked about it, I realized that I really wanted to keep the background simpler and just do 1 inch squares.

I found two lovely fabrics that would provide all of the squares that I could want.  Both were gradations, one from black to brown and the other from green to red and the variety that they provided was perfect.

I started each section by centering the first square and drawing lines out from it…..IMG_4875

I kept adding lines at 1-1/8 inches until I had the entire area filled up……


And then I would start adding the squares…..


…..trimming them down as the approached the curves…..


As soon as I had done a couple of sections, I could see that this was the perfect way to enhance the center tiles… seemed to make them just pop off of the quilt……IMG_5010

I added a narrow border and started the quilting process.  The quilting was kept simple, just echoing all of the “tiles”.  I chose to do a knife-edge finish and, voila…..the quilt was finished……


I do have one issue with the construction….since I used a LOT of fray check, the quilt has become very stiff, and the quilting process has left observable needle holes in the background fabric.   I am hopeful that those will fill back in as the quilt is used.

But, overall I am VERY happy with the quilt and feel that it is a wonderful reminder of the feelings that I had on that sunny day in Rome!!!

Roman Tiles – Part 3

Back in August (wow….4 months ago) I posted about starting a new quilt based on a tile church floor from Rome.   The last thing that I wrote was that I wasn’t happy with the background fabric and that I was going to start over.   I finally got around to it again and here is where we are now…….


Now that is a loaded question.   I don’t WANT to start over but  I know that I will be happier with the project if I do, so reluctantly I chose the “yes” button!!

Since I had a chance to make it even better, I decided to start with the background fabric, this time using a PFD (Prepared For Dyeing) cotton and a new pot of paint…..


After it dried, there were a few whiter spaces that needed to be painted so I used a sponge and added more color.  This was the final product…..


With the first version, I was using freezer paper patterns to lay out the quilt but had a fear that, since I hadn’t laid out the ENTIRE pattern, I would get to the last corner and it simply wouldn’t fit.  So I used this reset to do it right.   I drew out the entire pattern using white pencils and was pleased to see that it would fit well on the background…..


I started again with the center circle and then added the first corner piece…..


My plan is to work the one round in each of the corners and then go back a fill in the rest of the sections.  So, here goes…….

I added the other three corner circles, fairly pleased with how it was looking…..IMG_4522

But, when I got it up on the wall I could see that the bottom left circle was too dark and would get lost in the background fabric.   I peeled off some of the darker fused triangles, replacing them with lighter colors.   I was happier with the result…..


….but it really started to look good when I added the first circles of “setting stones”…..


The bottom right circle is the same color as the others but apparently had more light from the nearby window!!!!

It was about here that I went to the Houston show and came back with my newfound desire to focus on the details of my work, so I made some decision which have slowed the project down a great deal but which I hope will help the overall design.  My original idea was to fuse all of the pieces onto the background, set it up for quilting and use the quilting to hold each of the pieces down.  But then I got to thinking that I really wanted to “tiles” to float on the background and for the background to recede.  If I quilted on TOP of the tiles then the edges would be receding too.   So the decision was made to stitch each of the tile pieces down first and then just do the quilting on the “grout” portion.  It has taken an amazing amount of time to stitch each of those little pieces down but I am still happy that I have made that change.

At one point I had thought about getting all of the pieces fused in place before I started the sewing process but had noticed that some of the smaller ones were starting to peel off so I stopped and sewed them all down.

During this sewing process I started noticing that some of the fabrics were already beginning to fray so I decided to prolong the project further by painting around EACH and EVERY piece with Fray Check.  Fortunately it was something that I could do at night while watching TV with Michael……IMG_4544

So now I have stabilized every piece that was already fused down and I am ready to tackle the inner circle of each of the larger circles.   I am going to make my life a bit easier and go ahead and paint fray check around each piece edge BEFORE it is fused to the top and I will also force myself to persevere and sew each section down as I finish it.

More to come….and hopefully it wont take another FOUR months!!

Roman Tiles – Part 2 (or….the day that Math let me down)

As I ended the last blog, I knew that I would never have the patience to paper piece a large quilt so I wanted to look for other options.  I wanted to do it in a way that I could enjoy the creative process rather than struggling with the construction aspects.  I knew of one way to do it……FUSE IT!!!

The first step was to find a background fabric that would act as the “grout”.  I knew that most of it would be covered up by tiles so I didn’t worry a lot about the quality of the fabric that I was using.  I didn’t have a piece that was the right color,  so pulled out a basic white fabric and planned to paint it greyish.   I do not own any fabric dyes but have old pots of “Set-a-Color” fabric paints (bought on a clearance sale for about 50 cents each).  Many of them are so old that they have to be re-hydrated before use!!    I did have a large, fresh bottle of white paint, so I mixed up my paint pot, using the undyed fabric to sop up some paint that had spilled…..IMG_3535

I plunged the fabric in and let it soak up all of the color.  When it came out and was heat set and washed, I was happy with how it looked…..


Now when I picked this piece of fabric (or rather 2 pieces of fabric)  I knew that it was going to have to be seamed to make it the proper size.  Once again, because it was going to be completely covered with tiles, I didn’t worry too much about this seam.  However, I didn’t want there to be a ridge, so I actually just used a small strip of Wonder Under and fused the two pieces together.

Next I needed to pick the tile colors.   I had originally thought about bright colors, but as I looked at the inspiration photos, I realized that I might want to go with more muted colors.   I pulled a few fabrics from my stash…..Picture1Well, actually I pulled a few TOO many!!!

I finally started thinking about the actual design for the quilt, and after much trial and error, came up with this basic plan……


The black strips are bits of fabric that I have hanging on one side of my design wall and I grab them when I need to define a shape on the wall so that I can better visualize the size that I will be working with.

I started with the center circle, deciding to use this photo as my starting point……


Now comes the sad Math realization.   You see, I LOVE Math…..I loved it as a kid, I loved it in High School, especially Calculus class which is where I met my sweetheart for life (but that is another story).  I even sometimes do Algebra problems for the fun of it!!!   But, when it came to trying to divide this circle into 26 parts, it was just too hard to do.   As I mentioned in the last post, the tools that I had were not detailed enough to allow me to get the results that I wanted.  I even tried calculating the Circumference of the circle…….circumference-formula-using-radius

….and measuring the outside edge of the wedges that I needed…..IMG_3553

….but I just couldn’t get the wedges even.

I thought that I had it one time….


…. only to realize that I had split the circle into SIXTEEN wedges rather than TWENTY-SIX……sigh!!

OK….Math had let me down, so let’s move to the Financial world.   I pulled up Power Point and set up a Pie Chart that had 26 sections of $3.8462, and voila…..


….I had what I needed.

It was then a no-brainer to draft the circle…..


I used a piece of Freezer Paper to draft the design on and then had the idea that I could use the freezer paper to mark where the design was going on the background.


I picked a fabric and made a start…..IMG_3567

When I stepped back from fusing this first set of triangles, I was thrilled with the way things looked but it started me re-thinking my plan.  First of all, I really liked having a lot of the grey fabric showing and simplifying the pattern made it even nicer  (ie….no small triangles in each of the grey triangles).

I moved to the first corner, laid out my freezer paper pattern and started placing the next set of fabrics onto the base……IMG_3569While doing this, it hit me that since I wasn’t going to completely cover the base fabric, I was going to have a problem with the places where the previously fused “seam” was located.   I was not going to be able to cover it up and I was afraid that it would mar the look and the structure of the quilt top.

SO…… I started over!!!!


More to come…………………

Roman Tiles on my Mind

Before I get into the creative process of my newest quilt attempt, you need to hear the story behind the inspiration.  For that, I take you back to September of 2010, when Michael and I had the opportunity to spend a month in Rome.   Here is the story of this inspiration……

The second stop of the day was going to be the Church of San Giovanni in Laterno and the “Scala Santa” (more about this below).     The only problem was that the Holy Stairs closed at noon and it was already 10:50 so I knew that I needed to hurry. I jogged down to the Metro station and hopped onto the train, thinking that the metro station was right across the street from the church.  Unfortunately, this is what I saw when I got up to street level…..

_9279870Now, if I had of looked UP I could have seen the top of the Cathedral, but since I didn’t do that, I went back into the underground station and came up on the other side of the street, but still no church!!!  I walked a couple of minutes and then FINALLY looked up and saw the cathedral….

_9279872  ….on the other side of the wall around the city.  So, I hurried thru the portico and up to the cathedral.  I walked inside but couldn’t find the Holy Stairs and finally read in Rick Steve’s book that the stairs were in a building on the side of the church.  I started on the right side, but finally found out that they were on the left side of the church.  I got there about 11:40. 

Now about these stairs…..they are called “Scala Santa” and according to tradition, they were brought  to Rome in 326AD  by Saint Helen who was Constantine’s mother.  It was believed to be the stairway from the palace of Pilate in Jerusalem which Jesus was supposed to have traversed several times on the day of his condemnation.  It is comprised of 28 marble steps which have been covered with a walnut wood frame to protect them.  Tradition says that that you can only ascend the stairs on your knees and this is what I wanted to do!!!


I was one of the last to be allowed on the stairs before they closed for lunch.  It was quite painful to climb them on my knees, but was a wonderful, worshipful experience!!!

Now that I had accomplished my goal I returned to the church that I had madly rushed thru, opened the door and saw this…..


How did I miss this!!!!

I was in quilter’s paradise and proceeded to take 92 photos of the tile patterns on the floor, while two ladies sitting on a bench had a good laugh at me as I dutifully photographed every inch of the sanctuary.

The designs were magnificent……

_9279857 _9279841 

Now, fast forward to today……

These tiles have stayed in my mind for 7 years now and I kept trying to figure out a way to piece them.  I decided to do a test and see if I could do it so started with one of the simpler designs….._9279825

First I needed to draft a good circle and split it into wedges.   I knew that I needed some drafting tools and started looking at various quilting supply sites but then had a thought to check the local hardware store.   There I found the circle drafter and spinning protractor…..


I also needed some heavy, large format paper to use for drafting and was happy to find bulletin board paper (used by teachers).   It was perfect!!!

I started playing with my new tools to draft the circles…..


Now let me say that the design of the circle creator is not wonderful and I had to be VERY careful to keep it in place….


Then came the problem of trying to split it into a series of even wedges.  I tried using the extended arm protractor but couldn’t get the measurements accurate enough but after MANY trial and error attempts I finally had a pattern that would work…..IMG_3422My original thought was to paper piece the design and I made a start…..IMG_3432

….only to find out two things…. First of all, I HATE PAPER PIECING (I already knew this but had hoped I could do it anyway), and secondly, I realized that it was going to be almost impossible to keep everything lined up perfectly.

So, I went back to the drafting table and reworked the pattern.   After a BUNCH of attempts, I ended up with this sample….IMG_3435

Even though I like how this looks, I knew in my heart that I would NEVER have the patience to paper piece an entire quilt top!!! 

So, on to the next idea……and the next blog……