Wednesday, January 20, 2016

35 Sisters (aka "The Bridge")

Our submission for the QuiltCon 2016 Charity Quilt Challenge is complete and has been shipped off to Pasadena!

35 Sisters
Back view! 
When the color and challenge themes (Improv with Intent) were announced for this year's QuiltCon Charity Challenge it seemed like the perfect opportunity to represent our fair city! Pittsburgh is well known for the beautiful golden steel bridges that surround the downtown skyline. Three of the most iconic of these bridges are affectionately termed "The Three Sisters". 

For this challenge we expanded an image of one of these sisters to quilt size (70"x90") and then deconstructed it into 24 manageably sized blocks. Guild members were then given these block images along with packets of fabric that were no bigger than fat eighths (and were in fact mostly small strips) and instructions to improv piece their block using the image portion as a reference point (meaning no pattern or template was to be used). In the end the blocks were put back together to reconstruct the bridge in its entirety. The final effect is a cool, impressionistic image of the bridge which is at once cohesive and also evocative of the individuals who contributed to the effort. 

We were lucky in this endeavor to have had Sherri Lynn Wood visit us while we were working on this project to lead a workshop on improv piecing. Many of the members have expressed their gratitude for this opportunity, and we all agreed that the concepts and skills learned during the workshop were instrumental to our success with the challenge. 

Initially, many of us felt nervous and apprehensive about the project. How would it turn out? Would it look crazy? What if my block doesn't look like her block? What if the lines don't match up! How do I even do that curve?! However! Many agreed in the end that it was a very freeing experience to shake off all the rules, lay the apprehensions aside, and just make. Many are even asking when we can do this again! 

Overall, the experience really brought us together as a guild. We are, as of this blog post, a guild that is thirty four women strong. We named this piece "35 Sisters" as a nod to both the bridge itself and the hands that constructed this version of it. 

Ultimately this quilt will be donated to charity, but, as of yet, we have not identified which charity. We would like to donate it to an organization that can perhaps auction if off to raise proceeds to maximize its potential impact for the greater good. If you are interested in receiving this donation please contact the guild via email.

The quilt will be hanging at QuiltCon in Pasadena, along with many amazing entries from other MQG chapters from around the world, February 18th-21st. After it arrives back it will be on display at The Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival (March 4th-6th in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center), and we have submitted it to the Three Rivers Quilt Show (March 17th-19th at The Circuit Center) as a group entry. 

Many thanks to all of the guild members who contributed to this effort, especially the QuiltCon committee (Amanda, Lauren J., Gerry, and Michele) for their organizational prowess, and to Nicole for her incomparable quilting. 

UPDATE: This quilt was donated to the Heinz History Center, a local affiliate of the Smithsonian, in 2017 where it may be displayed at a future date. 

Here are some closeups of the quilting (front and back):


  1. I'm trying to create a similar smaller project as a gift to our outgoing guild president from other BD members over last 2 years. Having never done this, any words of advice? Would be appreciated.

    1. Hi, Liz! This blog hasn't been moderated regularly, and we apologize for not answering your question before now. If you are still curious, please reach out and we can help!

    2. Can you share the original image you used on this project?

    3. The member who created the project would be the person to ask and she is no longer part of our guild, sadly. Any photo you have taken yourself or have permission to use would be suitable. We divided the image into blocks and then each person improv-pieced their own block. We assembled them after all of the blocks were complete. Good luck with your project!