Just Listen + Hey Mr. DJ Pattern Release
This quilt top was a long time coming, somewhere in between Coachella, Lilith Fair, and Big Day Out. I originally created the Hey Mr. DJ block pattern last year, and went on to create my Hey Mr. DJ mini quilt. But like a good DJ, this pattern had another record to spin. The original quilt was quite constrained in palette and design, using a selection of Carolyn Friedlander fabrics and Kona White, with the four blocks set on the grid. I remember at the time someone even saying something to me along the lines [and I paraphrase], “Your quilts are always so recognisable with all that white background.” Two side eyes and pursed lips later, I knew an epic remix was needed.
I wanted to take this block to a place that was completely different than the original. As I started thinking about everything I wanted it to be, I knew I had to set some design parameters early on. First, no white, especially no Kona White. If there is one thing I do not want to be, it is predictable! That got me thinking about solids though, in that they still provided the contrast I feel this block needs. I decided to use a bold colour scheme in contrast to the original mini quilt. It’s rainbow, but each of the colours has a 50s Cubano vibe about it. It’s bright, but not cliche bright, if that makes sense to anyone but me.
For the inside of the headband and ear cups, I used a Friedlander Crosshatch in Charcoal as a subtle reference to the original quilt. That middle transition piece was the hardest fabric audition, with nearly every piece pulled from my stash. In the end, I selected a tone on tone grey silver from one of the Cotton + Steel collections. It has these dime-sized, reflective circles scattered throughout, which to me suggest highlights of a metallic reflective band.
My other design challenge was to leave the square blocks intact since they represented the pattern, but also making them feel like they transitioned from one to another throughout the quilt. There was to be no grid in this quilt, which instantly led me down the thought process of improvisational piecing. I rarely (if ever?) have seen paper piecing combined with improv: it seems like they would be at such odds with each other. However, that made me even more excited about mixing these two techniques in an effort to see what madness I could make of it. Challenge accepted!
The more I worked with transitioning these blocks from one to another, the more I started to see sound. There’s actually a really interesting phenomenon called synesthesia that speaks to this. I’m not claiming I have this ability (Mr. Sparkles rightly tells me I’m tone deaf all the time)! But when creating these blocks, my improv brain was imagining ways that sound could be represented through shapes and colour, all the while creating a unified movement throughout the quilt.
After all of the Hey Mr. DJ blocks were finished, I just started making little improv sketches with varying combinations of solid fabrics. I started with simple shapes like checkerboards, and soon moved on to tiny stripes, interlocking weaves, and complete scraptacular surprises. I played a lot (and nearly died) from curve frustration. In doing so I also discovered a marbling technique that I’m quite keen to revisit. One thing always leads to another, now doesn’t it? Another thing I learned about working with improv curves (rather, improv as a whole) is you never quite know what you’re going to get!
The title “Just Listen” was born about half-way through piecing the quilt top. I knew approximately where I wanted each block to be positioned in the quilt, but how they were ultimately to be connected was shrouded in mystery. Then I started to relax, thus creating with impulse and instinct. I knew if I was spending too much time thinking about any particular section, rather than actioning it, I had to just listen to myself and the quilt. Listen, create, connect. Listen, create, connect.
And so I did, until nearly the entire quilt was one. That’s when I realised how metaphorical this idea could be. Just listen: stop shouting over each other, and listen. Empathy, positive intent, connection. That’s the journey that this quilt wants to inspire. We all wear headphones of our own desire (political, moral, spiritual beliefs), but it’s the ability to connect to others around us despite these, that will truly make us a grand symphony of love.
You can purchase the Hey Mr. DJ block pattern below.