Completed: River, a Quiltcon fabric challenge quilt

Front of a Quiltcon 2023 fabric challenge quilt

Each year Quiltcon organizes a fabric challenge. Members of the Modern Quilt Guild are challenged to create a quilt using a strict fabric palette. This year the fabrics were 6 colours from the Windham Ruby + Bee solids collection and you had to use at least 4 of them on the front of the quilt. The palette was chosen by Chawne Kimber whose amazing work will be featured at Quiltcon this year. I never participated in the Quiltcon fabric challenge before. The fabrics either didn’t appeal to me, or it was too difficult to obtain them in The Netherlands. This year though, the colours are fantastic ánd I was in time to sign up for one of the fat eight bundles the sponsor supplies for this challenge.

Colorswatches for the Quiltcon 2023 fabric challenge

Quiltcon fabric challenge quilt design

For this quilt I wanted to work with curves and played around in Adobe Illustrator with the curvature tool and the challenge colours until I found a composition that I liked. I decided to skip the brownish colour because I liked my design better with a single reddish fabric. A fat eight bundle limits the size of the quilt that you can make quite a bit. Luckily, I was able to find one of the colours in a Belgian webshop. This automatically turned the cornflower blue fabric into the background fabric. If I had been able to choose from all 6 colours, I would probably have made the same choice though. I used Illustrator to determine how large I could make the quilt and still be able to fit the red pattern pieces on the fat eight.

Adobe Illustrator design for a Quiltcon 2023 fabric challenge quilt

Quilt top construction

There are several sharp curves in my design that are a serious challenge to piece accurately with a sewing machine. For that reason, I used English paper piecing for the quilt top using the flat back stitch. In the last English paper pieced quilt that I made, I used the whip stitch for piecing. I found the flat back stitch much easier to use with curves and the stitching is nearly invisible. 

hand holding an English paper piecing project for flat back stitching.

I made a mirror image of my design and added a lot of notches to each pattern piece to precisely match up the templates while sewing. I had this design printed as a poster so I could make accurate templates.

Creation of large templates for English paper piecing

The fabrics were glue basted to the templates and sewn together in a couple of sections. The fabric is absolutely fantastic to work with, it is very soft and presses really well. I used a couple of different colours of Aurifil 50 wt for the piecing to make the stitches blend in with the fabrics as much as possible.

progress pictures of an EPP quilt top


With the quilting I really wanted to highlight the river flowing through the middle. The design itself already created some depth and movement and I emphasized this using two methods. To elevate the river above the background I used a method called trapunto. Behind the river I stitched Quilters Dream Loft, a super-duper lofty batting. In the quilt sandwich I then used Quilters Dream Cotton Select, a much lower loft batting. The second method was to quilt less dense inside the river. I used Gutermann cotton 30 thread for quilting in a light blue colour that was a pretty close match to the cornflower fabric. With the height difference created by the batting I feared my standard method of pin basting would not work well so I spray basted this quilt.  

Trapunto process pictures

Back and facing

For the back I used the pieces that I had left over from making the front. I always love it when a quilt has a second design on the back. The sixth colour is included here and I used the lightest fabric to create a label. Before squaring and finishing the quilt edges, I blocked the quilt. To do this, I sprayed the quilt with water and pinned it wet to some foam blocks. This reduced some of the quilting draglines and I will do this again for future wall quilts. I did not want a binding to interfere with the design on the front, so this quilt was faced using the tutorial from Audrey Esarey.

Quilt back with a quilt label

This Quiltcon fabric challenge quilt turned out very much as I envisioned it at the start. I still need to add a sleeve and decide where we’re going to display it in our house. Next year I’ll probably try to get one of those fat eight bundles again, this was a fun challenge.

detail shot of quilt featuring trapunto

And now we wait until the week of December 12 when the Quiltcon acceptance and rejection e-mails go out. 

October 29, 2022

Emmely Treffers

About Emmely

I am a sewing enthusiast from the Netherlands. I live in the Leiden area with my husband and two daughters and I am currently working as a senior researcher in molecular virology. With my quilting patterns and sewing blog I want to infect as many people as possible with my love for sewing.

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  1. Cathy Larsen

    This is really unique and beautiful. I love your use of color. Well done in every aspect.

    • Emmely

      Thank you!

  2. Kate Chiconi

    I love the ‘fat’ river, it adds a real dimension to the piece. I’d never have thought of English paper piecing those shapes, I’d probably have tried a version of foundation piecing, with much less success due to the curves. Well done!

    • Emmely

      Thank you! I had used EPP for curves before, and a friend now directed me to the flat back stitch when she learned what I was planning to make. It made sewing those curves soooo easy!

      • Mariss

        I am so impressed that I am struggling to find words! All your careful planning and work shows in this remarkable work. If this isn’t accepted by Quilt Con I will be very surprised.

        • Emmely

          Thank you, Mariss! I am hopeful that it will be accepted but you never know.

  3. Francis

    Als je een rejection mail krijgt, zou ik dat echt zo zonde vinden.
    ik duim voor je!

    • Emmely

      Dank je! Ik ben redelijk optimistisch en anders heb ik gewoon een gave quilt gemaakt die vast nog wel ergens anders een keer kan hangen.

  4. tierneycreates

    Just amazing all around! The design and your fabric choices!

    • Emmely

      Thank you!


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