In the fall of 2014 I was approached by a friend to sew banners for their daughters wedding the following June. They were to hang on the outside of the church at each side of the stairs. Both approx. 4.5 feet wide x 12 feet long! What an honor! Lots of emotions: pleasure that she liked my quilting enough to want my work; gratitude for her confidence in me; trepidation that I would be able to do something of this magnitude; and absolute joy in being able to contribute to the wedding! In the interest of keeping this a manageable length; below is a general idea the sequential steps to create the banners. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
I’ll start at the end…I created 3 banners: two smaller ones and one larger banner. They were designed with a story:
The story starts at the top of the 2 (left) banners with the White column and the Dark Grey column representing the separate paths of each person to where they meet each other (at the bottom) and become ‘a couple’.
It continues to the banner on the right, where the patchwork at the bottom represents the blending of the individual pieces of themselves; transition to the top symbolizing the couple weaving a beautiful, new, and strong future together.
Across all three flows the spirit of faith and love forming a labyrinth-like swirl signifying their spiritual growth together and ending in a heart expressing the love at the center of their relationship.
It was an amazing project!!! Yes, it was at times exhausting, challenging, and nerve wracking. But, those moments were just that – moments. Every night I was filled with excitement for the next day, eagerness to figure out the next step, and joy at handling beautiful fabrics. Since it was such a big endeavor I tried to think things out methodically and take one step at a time:
- First, I created some prototype designs out of fancy papers to show my friend possible options and get a better idea of what she liked.
- Then, my friend and I shopped for fabric together. Originally we thought to buy light gauzy fabrics that would float but I was worried they would just blow around into people’s faces and tangle up. Instead we chose beautiful brocades, silks, satins and velvets in gold, silver, grey, maroon, white and cream.
- I tested each fabric to verify no water spots by spraying water on a grid of swatches.
- The ‘his/her’ banners on the left were first.
- I hand drew the pattern shapes onto the Kraft paper
- Then I laid out the backing fabric.
I started cutting out the fabric per the patterns and placing them on the backing.
- Sewing was done in layers with the columns, edges and semi circles sewn together first.
- Then the white and beige shapes at the top were appliquéd on followed by the flowers at the top left and bottom right.
- The ‘his/her’ columns were stippled while the rest of the base shapes were topstitched along the seams.
- All other appliqué came later in the design process.
- At this point I moved upstairs and took over our dining room to have more space and light for sewing.
- Handling all the fabric to be able to sew free motion, or appliqué was a big challenge. I had to roll it up at top and fling the rest over my shoulder so I could move it around and through the sewing machine neck and under the needle. I held up the fabric through most of it.
- The bigger ‘together’ banner was a different construction. Since the base of this banner was the patchwork at the bottom and weaving at the top, I did not need pattern pieces.
- I started with the weaving at the top – cutting strips, weaving and sewing them down to the backing.
- My sister came down to help me with the patchwork. We cut out MANY triangles of different colors freehand – changing the dimensions, shapes to fit against each other, and changing the colors and fabrics to look good aesthetically.
- It took me most of the week to sew the triangles. These were done with a baseball stitch.
- Beige at the top and taupe across middle came next and are heavily stitched.
- At this point I figured I only needed the ‘main’ swirls that would cross over all the banners to help tie it all together with a romantic theme. This was a bit tricky as I had to account for the space that would be between the left and right sides and estimate how to ensure they would still line up when hung.
- I wanted to portray something spiritual and something romantic. I played around with ideas in my journal with swirls and hearts. Nothing seemed to be right. My husband actually suggested the idea of starting with a swirl that transformed into a heart.
- I cut and sewed them down. Before doing any more sewing we hung the banners in my backyard to test things thus far. It was the first time seeing them hanging and I discovered 2 things:
- You couldn’t see any of the heavy stitching in the appliqués at the top which I’d done in white. I had to go back and layer more stitching in taupe, grey and silver.
- I needed ‘something at the upper left of the big banner…it was too bare. I had planned on a flower peeking out from the beige but it wasn’t enough.
- The big grey swirl was a beautiful fabric with a lot of pattern so I decided to just sew this down on the edges.
- The big maroon swirl is a gorgeous silk that I heavily stippled with micro stippling. This took a lot of time and my husband had to stand and hold up the banner for hours to relieve the weight to allow me to move the fabric in order to stipple. I added a little ‘Love’ secret message!
Almost done! I completed with the final appliqués: top left flower on the big banner; and small flower at bottom of little banners.
- The final step was finishing the edges. Rather than do a hem, I elected to serge the edges: it was faster, stronger and straighter.
How long did it take? I gave myself 3 months to make these by planning on working weekday evenings after work. This was a good plan but I hit a snag in month 2 where I didn’t work for almost 2 weeks, so in month three I also had to add every weekend, all day until 11:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
What did I do for the first time? I decided to keep a journal of the project. This is a big deal for me – I am not good with keeping up with a journal – I enjoy writing when I do it but just don’t have the commitment to writing every day. I have to say that keeping the journal was a great idea: I didn’t write every day but when I did I poured out my feelings; wrote down the things that went right and the things that went wrong. I included pictures; made notes; tested design ideas and wrote a lessons learned at the very end. I also documented voicemails and kept letters from very thoughtful people after the wedding. I still enjoy looking through the journal and I will definitely do one again for larger projects.
What did I learn? I learned I CAN do work like this. My skills improved everyday and with it my confidence. I learned that 4 months would have been better than 3. I learned that certain fabrics are not conducive to quilting. I learned that I need to ask for feedback, help and support – I can’t thank my husband and sister enough for giving me all three.