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The Epic Elephant

I have made a lot of quilts in a lot of sizes using a lot of different techniques in my 25 years of quilting. Since starting my quilting business 2 ½ years ago I generally quilt 5-6 quilts for customers and 2-3 Quilts of Valor each month. In May I was asked by a customer to make the Elephant Abstractions quilt by Violet Craft. This became my one and only project for July. Karen grew up in Adams, now lives in New York State, and wanted to have this quilt made for her grandson. I contacted Violet Craft to obtain permission to make this pattern and receive payment for doing so. In a few days I received a very nice email allowing me to do so since the customer had purchased the pattern.

The first thing I needed to do to start this project was copy the 97 paper piecing patterns onto 8 1/2” x 11” foundation piecing paper that is similar to newsprint. If I did this project again I would look into having the copying done at Kinko’s as the pieces were all on 11” x 14” paper and many had to be taped together. The process was a bit time consuming.

For the next nine days I worked on stitching the 97 pieces that would make the elephant. Each piece contained between 2 and 15 pieces of fabric in varying shades of grey and blue. Luckily all of the fabrics were marked with a name such as Earth, Coin, Ozone, Coal, and Wedgewood. Once I got into a routine the piecing went smoothly but still took longer than I had originally estimated. I was hoping that I could construct this quilt in about 35 hours but it took 50. I spent 6 hours just tearing off all of the paper pieces!

The original pattern measured 54” x 60”, but the customer wanted the quilt to be larger - 70” x 96”. By adding three borders to the top and bottom and one border to the sides, I could make that happen. I planned to add a 2” solid black border, a 6” red print border, and a 10” black print border. I found the perfect elephant-looking print fabrics at Heavenly Treasures in Pawnee City during their going-out-of-business sale.

One of the best parts of making a quilt is planning the quilting designs and I started working on that aspect as soon as I knew that I was going to make this quilt. Pinterest and Google were great inspiration, as well as a quilt made by Victoria Findlay Wolfe that I saw at the Iowa Quilt Museum. I needed designs for the three borders, the elephant, and the background, and I wanted them to carry on the elephant theme. I ultimately decided on 1” piano keys for the black print border, paisleys in the red print border, and square-in-a-square in the solid black border. I stitched squiggly lines in the elephant with ribbon candy and wishbones highlighting the trunk. I stitched pebbles in the background dividing the space by echoing the seam lines.

This was a fun, intense, time-consuming, and life-consuming project. My mind was always thinking about the elephant! When making something for myself I rarely do a project from start to finish without working on something else in between. But this project needed to be completed in July so that I could get to other customer quilts in August. I was so glad that I had previous experience paper-piecing so that I didn’t have to take time to learn a new technique. In the end, I was happy to have the opportunity to make this pattern. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the process. Would I do it again? Probably. It sure is a cool quilt when it is all finished!

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