My #100DaysOfQuilting project Quilt Stories uses quilt blocks to explore & share the stories behind my fabric designs, my life and other stories of quilting and craft
connected to that through places, history, colour and more! It’s a quilt-as-you-go project that will eventually become a patchwork quilt – you can read more about the project over here and here.
This second block is created from my Everything Eurovision fabric collection, using the ‘Take the Mic’ & ‘Hearts & Stars’ designs. The block is a simplified Log Cabin (well Log Cabin-ish – more on that below) which I wanted to use because of it’s connection to Liverpool (the hosts of Eurovision 2023) and involves mummified cats from ancient Egypt! Read on for stories behind both.
The story behind the fabric design…
The story behind the Everything Eurovision collection isn’t quite as deep & meaningful as my previous And Breathe Seaside block, but at the same time I am so happy to have brought it to life.
There have been very memorable Eurovision moments in my life, and while I’m a long time fan, my brain refuses to hold on to a majority of Eurovision facts and so I will never claim super fan status & I’d be pretty crap in a Eurovision quiz! (To be fair I think this has a lot to do with how my brain engages with music & performance in general, I know what I enjoy listening to but can I remember acts or song titles? Nope!)
I remember being extra excited in 1997 as it was hosted in Ireland and Boyzone were heavily involved, plus my German exchange partner was arriving on Eurovision day and I thought it was going to be even more fun watching alongside a friend from another country. Turned out she wasn’t that bothered about it! But it was still a brilliant night, and the UK won, so still counts as a pretty epic Eurovision year in my books 😝
Thankfully a few years later at uni I got to do the Eurovision with friends from different countries bit. My Icelandic friend, Drífa, and I decided to put on a charity Eurovision night in the Student Union (coincidentally that year it was hosted in Kyiv, Ukraine after their 2004 win). We didn’t sell many tickets in advance & had tv issues (biggest drama!!!) but still ended up being the busiest night in the SU that term – which was mostly thanks to the sports teams that showed up & went along with the Eurovision craziness!
And when I was pregnant with littleun (2015 when Austria hosted) for the first half of my pregnancy I was experiencing severe fatigue, but despite this hubby & I decided to go ahead with a night away in Weston-Super-Mare for my birthday that we’d planned pre-pregnancy. And by the miracle of Eurovision I managed to stay awake right to the end of the show!
So when I started with pattern designing, creating something Eurovision inspired was on my list from fairly early days as it’s brought me so much joy over the years!
Considering two of the most memorable Eurovision moments involved big moments for the UK & Ukraine, it does feel very fitting that this is the year I’ve created my Eurovision inspired fabric.
Originally I thought it would just be a single design, but when I started I really wanted to created designs that went from OTT cheesy Eurovision – which is the ‘Everything Eurovision’ design, to something that was much more subtle and might not be so obviously Eurovision until you look up close, and I think ‘Take the Mic’ is that side of it.
Colours was a whole other thing to navigate! I knew I wanted to use the colours from the flags of the 37 participating countries for 2023, especially as I love the idea of people being able to mix & match the different colours & designs to make something patriotic.
However, when I tried to add colour to the patterns I was not feeling it at all. I do love bright colours – but a primary colour palette is not my thing (which is surprising as my bedroom as a teenager was full on primary colours!!!) These days I mostly like working with secondary colours & the ones in between. So I decided to temporarily ditch the flag colours, design with a fun palette that felt like me, and then reverse engineer into a flag version I was happy with. And that actually worked!
What I love most about this collection is that it’ll hopefully have a very long life because I can revisit it before Eurovision every year. A lot of my designs get created & then I move on from them (although I love that doing this #QuiltStories project I get to revisit them all) but with the Everything Eurovision collection I have a annual reminder to come back to it and do something fun with it!
The story behind the quilt block…
Zoe from Margate Girl shared the simplified Log Cabin block as part of our Quilt Club, and when I heard the one possible story of how the block design came to be, and it’s connection to Liverpool (which is hosting Eurovision 2023), I knew I would be using it for the first of my Eurovision blocks.
The factual bit of this story is that in 1888 an Egyptian farmer happened on a tunnel filled with hundreds of thousands of mummified cats from ancient Egypt. It doesn’t sound like cats had a great life back in Ancient Egypt, only living for 6-12 months, at which point they were killed, mummified and sold to pilgrims as an offering to Osiris (Egyptian god of the underworld) & Isis (Egyptian goddess of healing, protection & magic). When locals made this discovery, as there was very little in terms of precious metal found with them, they decided to try and sell the cats to make money, and eventually someone realised they made very good manure for farming. On realising this one merchant sent an estimated 180,000 mummified cats by steamer to Liverpool, where they were sold on the docks on 10th February 1890.
Although the cats mostly ended up fertilising farm land in the North West, farmers wives would have probably been involved in de-mummifying the cats – many featuring a log cabin style design. Considering these are also likely to have been women who created quilts, it is suggested it was the design on the exterior mummified cats that inspired this quilt block.
However as Log Cabin quilts seem to appear in English quilting from around the 1830s, and became wide spread in the United States in the 1860s, it’s probably just a good – but fictional – story rather than what actually happened!
Saying that the cats with log cabin patterns arriving in Liverpool bit is true, and there’s nothing to say that the Log Cabin design doesn’t have roots in ancient patterns passed down through the ages, even if the mummified cats didn’t actually start it all! And it is such an interesting story – and reflects that a lot of the history of quilts isn’t all that cosy – I wanted to include it in my own #QuiltStories.
Making the block…
As you might be aware this block is only the second in my #QuiltStories project, and only the third block I’ve made… EVER. My approach seems to be decide on the fabric I want to use, decide on a quilt block that has a story to fit and then figure out the rest as I go along.
This block is actually a simplified Log Cabin. As you’ll notice from the ancient Egyptian cat’s, an actual Log Cabin pattern is has many more thinner strips to the design. I imagine at some point I’ll come back round to doing a Log Cabin with more pieces.
I knew I wanted to use the recently announced Eurovision 2023 brand colours – pink, yellow & blue. And as Log Cabin blocks tend to have a light and shade aspect to them, I decided to interpret that by using the more dense ‘Take the Mic’ fabric on the left & bottom, and the more open ‘Hearts & Stars’ on the right & top.
Part of figuring out the rest has been realising I’m making 15cm quilt blocks with 6” (15cm) samples – so where I need a piece of fabric that is the full length of the block I can’t actually do it (Now I’ve realised this I have started ordering longer/bigger pieces when I do a Fill-A-Yard, and if I didn’t have as many designs to sample at once then the standard 8” fabric on Spoonflower would be fine)
However it does feel like part of quilting history & culture is working with whatever you have access to, so editing my block design to make it work with the fabric I have actually feels very fitting for this project & for generally getting started with quilting.
In short, I feel like my tendency for naïve optimism, generally being up for giving stuff a go and preferring to learn by doing is a VERY good fit for quilting!
So that’s why it’s Log Cabin-ish as instead of the left most blue panel being full length, I did the four outer panels equal length. Which I will not be doing again!
In hindsight I realised I could have just made the left panel (which as one piece would be 17cm long including 1cm seam allowance) by having a 12cm panel + a 3cm panel (14cm + 5cm inc seam allowance) which would have worked fine from my 15cm square of fabric.
However having four equal length sides meant some very tricky stitching. I now understand more about how blocks are stitched together and built up in a really logical way (which my brain very much appreciates & enjoys) and stitching the four outer panels together was not straight forward at all!
As I said I love learning by doing. So I got it done, but now I know I’d do it differently in future!
Once I’d quilted the block to the wadding, to add the embroidery template, I printed the lines of the hearts on tracing paper. I cut around the hearts, starting from the largest, drawing around each on my block with heat erasable pen as I went along. I used the transparency of the tracing paper to keep the smallest heart centred. It feels like a very crude method, but it did the job – and I feel like I’m less of a perfectionist with quilting than I have been with past embroidery projects, which I think is probably a good thing!
log cabin-ish block
Fabric Name – ‘Take The Mic’ and ‘Hearts & Stars’ from the Everything Eurovision collection (The Unicorn Factory)
Fabric Details – 2 patterns in 3 colour ways – Pink, Yellow & Blue
Fabric inspiration – Eurovision Song Contest
Block Name – Log Cabin
No. of pieces – 9
Block History – Appeared in English quilting around the 1830s, widespread in the US from the 1860s with stories connected to Ancient Egyptian mummified cats brought to Liverpool in the 1890s
Embroidery details – Whipped back stitch, 2 strands
Embroidery colours – Blue – DMC 820 / Pink – DMC 600 / Yellow – DMC 742
Follow along with my Quilting Stories...
I’ll be sharing the quilting blocks and the stories behind them as I finish each one. If you’d like to come on this adventure with me then best ways to follow along for the 100 days and beyond is to get email updates and look out for Quilting Stories emails…
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