Thursday, November 17, 2016

The "America" quilt

Earlier this week, during our Quilt Market booth tour post, we showed you the "America" quilt. Today, designer Cynthia Wismann is here to tell us more about this amazing design, as well as share a few process shots from when she was making it. 

Q. What fabrics did you use in the quilt?
CW: I used the Valor line [by Ro Gregg] and the Painter’s Palette Solids. I think I used 47 different colors from the solid line. I wanted to use as many as I could. The makeup of America changes across the U.S. and I wanted to reflect that in a variety of colors.

Q. How did you come up with idea for the quilt?
CW: Paintbrush Studio asked me to make a quilt with the Valor collection. I talked about design ideas with friends on a retreat and then with my daughter. I knew I wanted one big American flag that looked like it was flowing, but I also wanted to make the quilt look like America, like the people of America. I felt really honored to do a Valor quilt in an election year. I wanted to show our true colors—America from east to west. Houses, fire departments, high rises, Hollywood, farmland, lakes...

Q. How did you design this quilt?
CW: I I taped pieces of butcher paper together and drew on it with pencil to create a full-size sketch. I did a ton of erasing! I wasn’t sure how I would grid it out, but my daughter suggested 15” squares, four across and four down. 

I started drawing the red, white and blues. I wanted the blue to look as though it was the beginning of the flag, with the flag continuing on. For the red sections, I went with a fusion of all the different reds in the Valor collection. I knew I wanted the houses to be in the center, between the red and blue sections.

My daughter suggested the eagle watching over because the eagle represents America. I chose a sturdy oak tree.

Q. Why is this quilt so special to you?
CW: I I have family members that were in the military and I feel like this quilt would be a tribute to them. After 9/11, I worked with our guild to make little star quilts to hang in the windows of families with service members. My mom said that my grandma had done something similar during WWII. When I was asked to make a quilt with the Valor prints, it touched my heart—it was a connection to my grandmother.

Q. How did you construct the quilt?
CW: The whole quilt was fused onto cotton batting. I made my 15" squares where I could, in the red and blue sections. I made the whole America scene separately, as one big flowing piece that I added later. I built the tree and eagle separately and added them last.
Seeing how the various pieces will look together

The technique I used for the tree, eagle and stars is to fuse the shapes to felt. Then I stitch on it. Both the tree and the eagle had a fair amount of quilting. Then I freeform cut next to the stitch line so a little bit of the felt shows and creates a slight dimensional look.

To finish the quilt, I fused the blocks and the row of houses to the batting, and then I steamed it and fused the backing to the back of the batting. It was really heavy to quilt!
I quilted it and then added the tree and the eagle. Last were the stars. I just laid them out without a set pattern, just following the sky.

The binding is a facing. It’s a nice finish, especially since I wanted it to look like the flag was continuing on, rather than a regular binding.

Q. What was your favorite part of making this quilt?
CW: Designing it. And then seeing that it all came together and worked—going from the drawing, making sure the fabrics all worked, and seeing the end result. I think it worked because the Valor collection all goes together so well.

Thanks, Cynthia, for telling us about your beautiful quilt!

Find more of Cynthia's work here
See the entire Valor collection here.
See the entire Painter's Palette Solids collection here.


  1. This quilt is awesome. When I saw it in your QM review, I wondered who made it. Cynthia thanks for sharing process.

  2. Perfect timing. Reflecting on what direction our country should be going in.

  3. I am in awe of the complexity and beauty of this quilt. Great job.