Back in December, I got a message from Jessica McRorie, a friend from college. She told me that she is now working in law enforcement and asked if I was interested in creating a commissioned piece inspired by the Biblical Deborah. When I asked her what about Deborah inspired her, she said “We both are ladies of law enforcement. Although she was a judge she also started a rebellion and led an attack on the man who oppressed her people. She is clearly intelligent and a leader and knows when to follow and when to break the rules.”
I love this take on Deborah and was excited to get started. Thankfully, she wasn’t in a rush to get the piece because it took me several months to find the time to sit down and create a couple sketches. She chose the sketch on the left below and I went to work. Once I found the right fabric, I pin basted it and used a yellow chalk liner to create an X from corner to corner (below right).
I was then able to use those lines and my walking foot on the sewing machine as a guide and stitched black squares every half inch, stopping several times to make sure the piece was still square.
Once I had finished the black squares, I no longer needed the yellow chalk lines and tried to brush them away. Unfortunately, I received an unwelcome reminder that you should always test your marking lines on your fabric before using it on the real piece. The yellow didn’t wipe away the way I expected it to. A little water didn’t help, either, so I looked online and reached out to my brilliant SAQA friends for help. There were several suggestions, so I created the sample piece I should have made before using the yellow in the first place and tried to remove it using Better Life Whatever cleaner, dish soap, vinegar, and Zout. The Whatever cleaner seemed to be the best at first, but it didn’t completely remove the yellow from the full piece, so I then moved to Zout and put the piece in the washing machine.
After the first time through, the yellow was almost gone but not quite. A little more Zout and hand washing got out all of the yellow except for a little in the center square. Thankfully, the design called for a red square to cover that anyway. Lesson learned! Test the marking chalk first … and never use that yellow chalk again!
With that crisis resolved, I could move forward to the next element – the red flames. I purchased three different red threads: a top stitching thread, embroidery thread, and a regular all-purpose thread. A quick sample piece with the different threads told me that the top stitching thread gave a beautiful bold line that I loved! But when I moved to the real piece, I ran into trouble again. The thread kept breaking. I went back to the sample piece and it worked great. But every time I tried it on the real piece, it pulled and broke.
After hours of changing needles and tension, and lots of reverse sewing, I finally gave up and moved to my second choice thread – the all-purpose thread. It didn’t give as bold a line, but it did create a line without breaking.
Next, it was time to cut the piece to size and add a binding and hanging sleeve.
To complete the feeling of the flames breaking out of the rigid lines, I left the top right corner open and added wire inside the binding to help the ends stand up straight. As a last finishing touch, I added red wire to the top right, extending the flames beyond the edge of the quilt.
Jessica came to pick up the completed piece on Friday and I hope she is inspired by Deborah when she sees it hanging in her home.