Sedona's String of Pots

pieced: September 2011
quilted: December 2012

In 2011, Mr. Pirate & I went on a 3 week tent camping trip around the entire state of Arizona. (I do have a travelogue from the trip but it hasn't been written up yet. Maybe one of these days, I might get around to it. :-) ) On Day 7 of the trip, we hit Sedona.

Sedona is known as an artsy tourist town. We weren't going there for the art stuff but simply because it was a well-known place to visit and it was along our travel path.

To get to Sedona, you must descend, descend, descend down, down, down this incredibly steep, narrow defile. The road switchbacks down the side of the mountain to get to the floor. The rocks and mountainside are an incredible red color. There is lush, lush vegetation along the sides. Superlatives simply aren't descriptive enough to relay how *intense* the color is here.

Eventually, we did arrive safely at the bottom of the ravine. There is essentially one road that goes through the town, from one end to the other. The end that we came into was the touristy part. It was obvious by the shops that this *was* the touristy part. We weren't interested in this part.

Mr. Pirate has a GPS unit. One aspect of this GPS is a database of "points of interest". You can download many different "points of interest" databases, depending on what you are looking for. Quite a while ago, Mr. Pirate had found a QUILTING points of interest database (!!!!) which gives you the GPS coordinates for every quilting store in the US (at the time the database was created). We have found quilting stores in the most out of the way places, due to that database!

It told us that there was a quilting store in Sedona and that was our destination. Mr. Pirate knows how to keep me happy. :-)

So, we travelled through the touristy part of town. 'Round about the mid-point of the town (remember, we are talking about a long, narrow town) there is a "pass" of sorts. Big, rocky outcroppings protrude from the sides of the mountain towards the town, creating a narrow "gap" that the road runs through. As soon as you go through this "gap" .. BINGO ... you are now in Sedona. The real Sedona. The Sedona where the residents live and shop. It was in this area that The Quilter's Store was located.

When I'm at a quilting store, Mr. Pirate usually looks for a nearby watering hole. He usually finds some interesting old codger to talk with and mark time until I'm done at the quilting store. Alas and alack, there was no saloon nearby; he ended up at a Starbucks. :-)

The Quilter's Store is CRAMMED with the most luscious fabrics ... a lot of them Southwest in flavor and colors. Southwest themed fabric isn't something that I usually find at my own quilting stores at home. I wandered about, absorbing all the different fabrics and came across a pattern, "String of Pots", designed by a local lady, Arlene Walsh.

Since I learned a method of needleturn applique that I enjoy, I don't avoid those patterns any longer.

"String of Pots" is a delightful narrow wall-hanging that showcases one of the typical Southwest images.

I bought all the fabrics .. the background, the border and the fat quarters used for the pots .. at The Quilter's Store. It would be a wonderful memento of our Arizona Sojourn.

Back home, this top worked up very quickly and easily.

The pots were easy to needleturn and I fussy-cut some of the fabrics to showcase them on the pots.

I also hand-embroidered the strings the pots hung from. It's not much embroidery and I enjoyed adding that little touch to the wall-hanging.
Where I departed from the pattern was the border. So many times, the designer puts a lot of effort into the body of the pattern to ensure that the design, the porportions, the spacing, the entire overall effect is "just so". Then, when it comes time for the border, it is as though she has run out of mental steam. This is when the familiar "slab-o-border" is pulled out of the repetoire and slapped on the body. It's an easy out.

I will be the first to say that there are times when the "slab-o-border" is exactly the right type of border to put on a quilt ... but this one? No.

Instead, I made a Delectible Mountains border to enhance the Southwestern feeling of the pattern.

Once the top was completed, I put it away. I wasn't in a quilting mood ... I was in a piecing mood. In fact, I pieced a whole LOT of tops during those months and it wasn't until 2012 that I began to feel guilty about them sitting around. So, in December 2012, "String of Pots" popped to the top of the list to be quilted.

Part of the quilting design for this top was obvious to me: I would quilt piano keys along the Delectible Mountain borders. I'd stitch in the ditch along the Delectible Mountain and background fabric seamline. I'd also stitch in the ditch around each pot and along each string.

That left the background. ooooooh the background. Whatever was I going to do with the background? Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of over-quilting or hyper-quilting. While it can be beautiful and certainly showcases the quilter's skill, I think it makes the quilted piece stiff. The more thread you put on a piece, the stiffer it's going to be. Just look at thread-painting for an extreme example of this.

But, for this piece, I really believed that I needed to do some fairly dense background fill quilting so that the background would be flattened ... which, in turn, would allow the pots themselves to "puff" up and be emphasized. To that end, I played around with a number of fill stitches that might fit the bill. Additionally, since this *was* a wall-hanging, I wasn't concerned about it being "too stiff".

I thought of echoed clamshells, swirls, a ribbon meander, pebbles, "steam" and worm casings. The pebbles would be wonderful but when I've practiced them, I have become aware of just how TEDIOUS they are. To look good, they need to be fairly small and differing sizes adds to the attractiveness of this design. They just take FOREVER to do. I didn't want to take forever.

I even had the brain-storm to use the background as negative space and quilt a 'shadow' design there. Pebbles or other dense background fill around the shadow design would make them obvious. When I sketched that idea out, I realized that although it looked fantastic, it was also taking the emphasis *away* from the pots. That would never do, so this attractive idea was shelved for some other project.

I finalized my decision on echoed clamshells. Once you get going, this is a very easy design to quilt but I do have to admit that just thinking about the randomness of it had me procrastinating for quite a while. I don't do 'random' easily and this pattern really needs to be a random, all-over design to look most effective. If all the clamshells are facing the same direction, it doesn't look as attractive as when they are all helter-skelter.

But, I started out and was doing small 3-arc clamshells. I started at the topmost pot and worked to the edge of the Delectible Mountain. I was having doubts all along the way. Was I doing it right? Was the size OK? Should they be smaller? larger? Are they going in a random enough direction? I wasn't creating a regular *pattern*, was I????

I even took pictures of the small amount of background I had done with the intent of posting the pictures on's Quilting forum (which is where I hang out) and asking for opinions. I just wasn't SURE that this was the correct idea and I wasn't sure that I was implementing it in the right manner. I had doubts up the wazoo.

So, I took a break from the quilting and did something else for a while. When I came back to it, I decided I would simply continue on with what I was doing. Not because I had a revelation or an inspiration or even a conviction .. nope .. it was laziness. If I changed my mind, I'd have to rip out everything I had already done ... and Lord knows, I sure didn't want to do THAT! :-)

As I continued the echoed clamshells, I sorta got into the Zen of Quilting. Each clamshell flowed from the previous one and section after section slowly became filled up.

In the end, I *do* like the look and the effect. The border is slightly puffy from the piano key quilting. The pots are nicely puffed up and the background is wonderfully flattened. The texture of the echoed clamshell is just fantastic.

I'm rather pleased with the final outcome. It hangs above the door in my home office and reminds me of that wonderful trip to Arizona and all the memories that trip entailed. :-)

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