CHQuilts: February 2024

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

I completed my first Judy Niemeyer project

Star Baby quilt

Thanks to the generosity of a quilter friend, I just finished the piece to the left, a challenge that could potentially take my quilting to the next level.

This quilt -- Star Baby – was designed by Judy Niemeyer, a well-known and loved quilt designer who has taken foundation paper piecing to almost impossible heights. This technique is where fabric is sewn onto a foundation paper which is later removed. At the very least, it encourages perfect points and matching seams. And it is all about precision.  

I have tried a few paper pieced projects and did alright with them, but I can’t say I am really comfortable with it – yet!

Niemeyer is arguably, one of the best quilt designer/paper piecers I’ve ever seen. Her work is exquisite. Her designs are often best of show winners.

I knew a Niemeyer quilt project was way beyond my skill level, so, I’ve been content to challenge myself in other ways, always learning new skills and practicing those I still need to perfect.

Bali Wedding Star block

But a few weeks ago I ran across the photo of a quilt I just fell in love with. I don’t remember where I saw it, but I knew that one day, I would have to make it.

It is a Niemeyer creation called Bali Wedding Star and was designed several years ago. There are lots of examples of this design on Pinterest. It is a variation of the Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern. An example is at right. This is just four blocks. Imagine the beauty of an entire quilt made of these blocks.

Inspired, I did a little research, scouring the Internet and You Tube for all I could find on Niemeyer, her website Quiltworx, and this quilt pattern in particular. One day, I will make this quilt.

What I learned with all my internet sleuthing was that I was correct to believe that a Judy Niemeyer quilt really is out of my league. I still see myself as a newbie, despite quilting now for nearly 30 years. I take it slow though, learning as I go, making perhaps one quilt every year and always one at a time. But each new skill just makes me want to go further. From what I can tell, quilting is an endless endeavor. There is always something new.

My path has taken a turn

One day not too long ago, I commented on a post by a quilting friend on Facebook who I actually went to high school with, Jane Schwab Coons.

Jane and I may have shared some classes but we weren’t close friends in school; so I’m not even sure we knew each other beyond passing in the hallway between classes. Who can remember; it was a very long time ago? But for several years I’ve enjoyed being her Facebook friend. She has been quilting for 44 years, has worked in the quilting field, and has does beautiful work. She teaches, and has guided students for most of her quilting years.

“I love all things quilty,” she says, adding that she especially loves gathering and sharing all quilt-related things. She taught herself to work on a computer early on as well, and uses it for designing. She is also a long arm quilting pro.

I told Jane that I was smitten with Bali Wedding Star, but knew it was way beyond me. She responded by saying she had an easier Judy Niemeyer quilt kit that she wanted to send me, as a gift. She said it had been lying around her studio for a long time and it would be beneficial to her to do some purging. She messaged me to say that she had mailed a box to me, and to let her know when it arrived.

When it came a few days later, I was flabbergasted. Not only did she send the quilt kit she described, the one I just finished that is pictured above, but she sent another one as well, along with some other Niemeyer patterns. I felt like it was Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. I messaged her right away to thank her and tell her I couldn’t wait to dive into it.

And dive in, I did. I watched You Tube videos on how to read Judy’s patterns. They are like little booklets, even for this relatively simple beginner pattern. It is called Star Baby and is basically a mini Lone Star pattern. I’ve always admired the Lone Star because of its significance to Native Americans.

The Lone Star stands for honor and generosity, important virtues among the beliefs and traditions of the Lakota (Sioux) people. The image of a star quilt serves as a reminder of the significance and honor that comes from giving to others. It is often given to honor individuals at birth and other milestones throughout life. It is so fitting that Jane sent me the mini version of this pattern. I see it as a testament to her own generosity. I am grateful.

As I began looking at the directions, I was pretty intimidated. Not only is Niemeyer a fantastic designer, but the way she designs the instructions to make her quilts, she has to be an organizational genius. She covers every aspect of making the quilt, breaking down each pattern into sections, taking one step at a time, and including tips that she has perfected on her own quilting journey.

So after just one small project, I have joined countless other “Judy Junkies,” who are enamored with the work Niemeyer produces.

As for my journey, I did OK with my project. I botched the color placement. I should have used more contrasting colors next to each other. But frankly, I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing. I was just thrilled that it worked out. I was so worried about following the directions that I didn’t even think about how it would look. So, now that I got my feet wet, I’m sure I will do better next time.

I see more foundation paper piecing in my future. And, I can’t wait to get started.