March 17, 2013

Quilting Boston

A while ago I read about Haptic Lab, a company that makes quilts using city maps, combining my love of sewing and cartography – what more could a girl want? They have full bed-sized quilts that are pretty expensive, but they also have “do it yourself” kits. What could I do but start my own Boston version?

I got the package shortly before Christmas, and this week I finally finished!

Quilting refers to sandwiching a layer of batting (usually a thin nonwoven puffy fabric of some sort) inside two layers of fabric, and then sewing through all the layers to form a quilted effect. It’s commonly combined with patchworking on the top layer of fabric, which is what most traditional quilts look like. 

However, this map quilt is different. There is still a sandwich, but instead of patchworking it’s just plain pieces of fabric. Then you lay the Haptic Lab “map” over it –  this is a layer of interfacing (a bit like transparent soft tracing paper) which has a map printed on it.  The magic happens with the sewing – I hand-embroidered through the interfacing and sandwich with all the key roads and shorelines of the Boston area, creating the quilting effect: blue-grey quilting thread for roads, and blue embroidery thread for the rivers and sea. Finally, you have to rip off all the interfacing – this alone took two evenings, because it’s so tricky to remove without tearing out the stitches!

And here is the final thing! It’s about 2.5 feet by 3.5 feet in size.

Here are some details. The waterfront of Boston which looks quite lovely in blue:


Boston Common and the Charles river:

And a little star for my house!

And for those of you who are interested…. here’s the back side! Not particularly neat (my embroidery skills are moderate at best), but you can definitely see a reverse image of Boston there…

So, the final question is what to *do* with the quilt now. It’s probably best displayed on a wall but I’m not sure which wall, if any, would suit it… For now, I’m trying it out as a throw on my sofa – what do you think?

16 thoughts on “Quilting Boston

  1. Hi Jen, that looks fantastic, a real talking point either on the wall or as a throw. Just think, if not for some old tea party nonsense we’d still own Boston and its hinterland. love dad

  2. This has given me soon many ideas thank you for posting!

  3. Fabulous quilt! Thanks for giving the link to Haptic Lab — I’ll have to check them out. I lived in Boston for a while and loved it (back in Canada now). How fun to have a map quilt of that great city!

    1. Jenny says:

      Thanks! They have a whole of maps now which is fantastic.

  4. Nancy Conger says:

    is the interfacing something that you iron on? if not, how do you keep it from shifting? i really love your finished quilt, im just not sure i understand how the operation works! 🙂 thanks!

    1. Jenny says:

      Hi Nancy – you pin the interfacing to the fabric (in a lot of places!) and sew through all the layers. Then when it’s done you rip the interfacing off between the stitching. It takes a while, but it works!

  5. Lara Thomas says:

    is this a project that one could take in the car or is it too big and cumbersome?

    1. Jenny says:

      Hi Lara – it’s fairly big – the size of a baby quilt – but you could potentially take it in a car if you did some careful folding or rolling up! I quilted it with one hand always above the fabric and one below, and that worked well. I mostly had it on my lap while watching TV

  6. LucilleTwo says:

    OH I have a question!!! I just got the same one and I’m nervous about how the back will look! Did you do the embroidery and then put the back piece of or embroider through then entire thing?

  7. hashigal says:

    I’m a little bit in love with this concept…

  8. April says:

    Hi there… Coming a little late to this party. I’ve started the DC quilt and am having trouble with the interfacing tearing as I quilt. Any tips? I’m an experienced hand quilter and the needle tears through the interfacing as it “rocks” up and down. Should I use a machine? Grateful for any ideas. Thank you!

    1. Hi April! I’m not an experienced quilter, but I had one hand above the quilt and one below it, and basically passed the needle between my hands to quilt. It sounds like you’re doing it all from the top – I didn’t get such a good result that way. Let me know if that works!

      1. amiller3 says:

        Thanks Jenny! This is the solution… But wow it takes much longer! No worries… It’ll be worth it!

  9. Holly McBride says:

    I just found the pattern on the Purl Soho website – thank you for posting the final product. You did a wonderful job, it turned out great!

  10. Grace Merrett says:

    I absolutely love this quilt, and am so thankful to have found your blog! I am definitely considering getting one myself! I’m trying to prepare how much time to put aside to finish this project…about how much time would you say that it took you?

    1. It took a very long time! I would guess maybe about 100 hours?

Let me know what you think!