Getting Geared Up: A Little Steampunk Inspiration

Gearing up Quilt

Roots in steampunk

I started thinking about this quilt when we were working on an issue of Quilty that was to have a steampunk theme. I didn’t know a lot about steampunk so I surfed the Internet looking at images of paintings, garments, and all sorts of art that featured steampunk. There were so many pictures that included clocks, gears, and mechanical parts.

I still felt a little out of my element so I asked my son Elijah, who is an artist, to help me with a design for my quilt. I was attracted to all the things that had gears as a part of the design but I had in mind something simple; a Nine-Patch or Log Cabin or something similar. I have an embroidery machine so my initial thought was to embroider a clock face or some gears on my quilt.

Teaming up with my son

Elijah quilts a little so I thought I was safe in asking for his help. But no, rather than a simple block, he suggested a block with lots of curves to mimic the look of gears. My quick and easy idea had to be completely revamped, and Gearing Up, which appears in McCall’s Quilting July/August 2019, was the result. Using Electric Quilt software, I started with a Pickle Dish block. When I printed it out, Elijah thought we needed a little more to really convey the look of gears. He added the little “teeth.” I thought about applying the teeth using a Cathedral Window technique for a little dimension.

Lori says that her son Elijah FINDS stuff, and brings home all kind of treasures to upcycle. When he found the bike gears, he told Lori that fifth gear didn’t work, but for a piece of art, it was perfect. “I still don’t know which is fifth and was broken,” she laughs.

Lori says that her son Elijah FINDS stuff, and brings home all kind of treasures to upcycle. When he found the bike gears, he told Lori that fifth gear didn’t work, but for a piece of art, it was perfect. “I still don’t know which is fifth and was broken,” she laughs.

Once he starts a project, Elijah just keeps thinking about adding interest so he came up with the great idea to use actual metal gears on the quilt. We decided bicycle gears would be an appropriate size and they would be easy to clean so there would be no grease to harm the quilt.

“We had to clean the gears to get them free of grease. We dry-brushed the bicycle chain, but I actually washed the gears with dish soap,” says Lori. “The tree was Elijah’s vision. He said, ‘Mom, the chain is even the right color for the trunk—all rusty.’”

“We had to clean the gears to get them free of grease. We dry-brushed the bicycle chain, but I actually washed the gears with dish soap,” says Lori. “The tree was Elijah’s vision. He said, ‘Mom, the chain is even the right color for the trunk—all rusty.’”

Elijah brought me bicycle gears and a rusty bicycle chain. He took the gears apart and arranged all the parts for the leaves and branches of a tree and formed the bicycle chain into the trunk. We placed the parts on a kitchen towel. That tree stayed on the towel for several months while I contemplated the next steps.

I thought the added dimension of the Cathedral Window technique for the teeth would distract from the metal tree so I decided to appliqué them instead.

Next came the fun of selecting the fabric

Bohemian Rhapsody by Dan Morris Design, Avalon Decorative Filigree, and Ombre Scroll, all for QT Fabrics had great patterns to give the look of gears. One final fabric, the dark red Color Blends, also from QT Fabrics, completed a color palette in keeping with the steampunk theme.

I made the quilt top and quilted it with Gears by Anne Bright Designs, a perfect pattern for a steampunk quilt.

The next part was the hardest part for me

To be absolutely honest, I had a whole lot of help from my husband, Bake, from here through completion of the quilt. Attaching metal parts to a fabric quilt is not something I’ve any experience with. Elijah, Bake, and I brainstormed and decided to use super glue to attach all the metal pieces and parts to each other. It was slow going. I would glue a couple of pieces together and then let it set for twenty or thirty minutes.

Securing the gears turned out to be a challenge. A combination of super glue and fishing line did the trick. “Fishing line is much heavier gauge than monofilament thread, so it was strong enough to hold the gears in place,” Lori says. “I’m not a hand-stitcher, so I wanted to do as few hand stitches as I possibly could!”

Securing the gears turned out to be a challenge. A combination of super glue and fishing line did the trick. “Fishing line is much heavier gauge than monofilament thread, so it was strong enough to hold the gears in place,” Lori says. “I’m not a hand-stitcher, so I wanted to do as few hand stitches as I possibly could!”

When everything was glued together, I started attaching the tree to the quilt top. I used plastic fishing line (because it is strong and nearly invisible) and hand-stitched the tree to the quilt top. The super glue did not work totally but it held things together well enough to get all the parts sewn to the quilt. I sewed down each of the gears in three separate places so they couldn’t shift positions.

Adding stability to the quilt

I’d already suspected that we’d have to use something to give extra stability to the quilt because the weight of the metal parts would cause the quilt to sag. I’d planned to use one of the products that we all use when we make tote bags and purses but I couldn’t find any that came wider than 20” and the quilt is 36” square. My next thought was Masonite. I know that’s probably overkill but the quilt was due and Masonite was readily available. We cut the Masonite 35½” x 35½”.

I made a pocket for the back of the quilt to put the Masonite in. The pocket is the full size of the quilt. I attached the pocket and triangle quilt-hanging corner pockets to insert a dowel rod hanger (½” diameter dowel, 34½” long). Then, I added the binding.

When we put the Masonite in the big pocket and the dowel rod in the corner pockets, we realized that the Masonite was too tall to allow the dowel rod to fit without pulling the quilt away from the wall. We cut another 1½” off of the top of the Masonite and put everything back in place, but the quilt still sagged a bit in the middle. At this point, we improvised. I added a strip of fabric to the middle of the top on the back of the quilt and tied it firmly around the dowel rod. That fix successfully solved the problem.

Who gets the quilt, Elijah or Lori? “I get that one! That one goes in my living room. I love it,” says Lori. “Part of what I love about it is the story.”

Who gets the quilt, Elijah or Lori? “I get that one! That one goes in my living room. I love it,” says Lori. “Part of what I love about it is the story.”

I love the quilt Elijah designed. I’ll be asking him for more quilting ideas in the future.

Lori Baker

Keep the inspiration going all year!

 

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