Jewel Boxes Quilt

The Jewel Boxes Quilt is done! I began this quilt, or I should say, I began the scrappy improvisation blocks for this quilt, during the first workshop I took with Denyse Schmidt. You can see my blocks from that weekend more in the second part of the write-up. In the class, we randomly grabbed and pieced small strips together using her paper bag piecing method. This is just what it sounds like, grabbing little bits of fabric from brown paper bags, with absolutely no thought as to what gets paired with what, or what color combinations result. (This is exactly why so many of the blocks you see from her classes have that beautifully random, “use what you have” homespun look.)

You may also remember that I painted a couple of these blocks in acrylics, and that painting is one of my very favorites.
As I pieced I became obsessed with grabbing the tiniest bits of fabric and sewing them together. I knew I couldn’t possibly sew an entire quilt this way, it would take years! I had brought thrifted men’s shirtings with me, some white and some with white background. Denyse suggested I treat those as solids and play with framing the little pieced blocks. She’s a smart one, that Denyse. That’s how this Jewel Boxes quilt began.

I came home from that weekend with only 3 completed blocks, and the beginnings of 3 more. Working on it became my last priority as other, more pressing
deadlines, came my way. Those blocks sat in a ziplock bag for nearly 2 years. Finally, the other day, I pulled them out and put them up on the design wall. Now
was the time to hatch a plan to finish them. It was hard to get back into the same “scrappy, improv piecing mode” I had at the original workshop, and I worried the newer blocks wouldn’t have the same feel as the original ones. In order to keep the whole wonky feeling, I had to be more intentionally random, if that makes sense. Hopefully it worked.


I decided it was more important to finish the thought rather than make a full-sized quilt, so this measures 45″ x 45″, with 9 blocks, more like a wall hanging. I also thought all the white space surrounding the jewel boxes would be perfect space to play with free-motion quilting, which I’ve been attempting more and more lately.
The quilt top was a cinch to sew together, these blocks sew up fast. I decided to do a paisley-isa shaped free-motion stitching pattern all over the white space, I have been doodling this type of shape a lot recently to build muscle memory and doing this really works! I like the curvy free-motion quilting against all the straight, wonky angular lines. It was only a year ago that I was terrified to free motion quilt and would do anything to avoid it! My advice is to JUMP IN THERE AND JUST DO IT!!! Also, the amount of quilting on this makes it stiffer than I would want a bed quilt to be. If I were making this to be used, I would have made larger paisley shapes with a bit more unquilted space. It’s perfect for a wall hanging though.
The back is pieced with three different fabrics.
Not sure where I will hang this yet, maybe the studio. It’s fun to look at. Another for the finished pile, which is finally growing bigger!
Jewel Boxes Quilt

  • mjb

    March 20, 2013 at 6:01 am

    I’m impressed at your fmq! Looks good 🙂

  • emily

    March 20, 2013 at 6:20 am

    blair, i positively adore it! the jewel boxes really do feel like jewel boxes. and i love how it’s framed in the whites. it’s just wonderful! filing this away under total inspiration.

  • laura

    March 20, 2013 at 7:19 am

    love it!

  • Natasha

    March 20, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Blair, it looks really great and consistently wonky. I really like it in the first picture against the grey shingles, they make the whole quilt feel very artistic. Your quilting choice is dead on, the paisley stitches add great texture to the stillness of the white and bring out continuity in the whole piece. I love it!! Have you read Sunday Morning Quilts? Those ladies talk a lot about slab piecing, the same type of random piecing as you did here. I find this type of piecework so freeing.

  • amisha

    March 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

    you know how i feel about that painting! 🙂 and the quilt is absolutely stunning. i remember when i took denyse’s class (oh my goodness… 4 years ago??) she was examining some piecing like what you have done here, tiny pieces, and she said “it’s wonderful- it feels so precious.” i was thinking of that when you called this “jewel boxes”– tiny precious patchwork treasures!
    you did such a beautiful job with the quilting, too!

  • Blair

    March 20, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Hey Blair! I love this and am feeling inspired by your post. I’ll have to get out the iron and set up the machine to see what can be done with vintage scrap from a Portland Estate Sale scrap pile. Thus far it’s been visited by a glue gun and an 8 year old making Ugly Doll outfits.

  • bj

    March 20, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Very pretty and I love the quilting design.

  • Kristen

    March 20, 2013 at 10:54 am

    This one is so beautiful! I’m inspired. 🙂

  • erin

    March 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I am so glad you finished this one. As I have already told you, it is downright gorgeous and the quilting is to die for. I think hanging it in the studio sounds like a perfect idea.

  • cinti

    March 20, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I love everything about this quilt. I think I will make one too, although I don’t tend to use light/neutrals so will have to glean those from friends.
    I feel a scrap swap coming on
    x Cinti

  • Jaime

    March 21, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Love it! I remember it from the workshop. I still need to finish mine. I feel motivated now. Thank you.

  • CathyT

    March 22, 2013 at 8:10 am


  • heather

    March 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Oh my gosh, this turned out so great! My blocked became pillow cover and I love them, but wow, what a beautiful quilt. Nice job.

  • heather

    March 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

    : > )

  • Cheryl

    March 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Nicely done.
    I have my blocks still from the workshop, but I only took it a month ago! It may be a while before I get to it, possibly years. For some reason I also grabbed the extra blocks that no one wanted. True orphans. I have a different plan for those.

  • Noelle

    March 27, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Blair, this came out gorgeous! I hope you are thrilled with it. It has inspired me to finish mine from that workshop!

  • blair/wisecraft

    March 27, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Thanks Noelle! I was so happy to move this to the finished pile, I'd been wanting to finish them since I came home from that class!

  • susan b.

    May 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm


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