The Highs and Lows of Temperature Quilts

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As quilters, we know the inspiration for our next quilt can come from the most unlikely of places. Who would have thought that weather charts and daily high and low temperatures would capture the imagination of so many quilters worldwide and become the starting point for the design of creative and incredible temperature quilts? There will even be a special temperature quilts exhibit at QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.

What exactly is a temperature quilt?

A temperature quilt essentially represents the high and low temperature of each day for a given period of time. Quite often it's for a year, or perhaps 6 months, and the maker has to choose a way of recording, designing, and representing the temperatures through color and patchwork. Every quilter works in different ways, so I caught up with quilters from around the world to find more about their processes of creating temperature quilts.

Jo Avery

Website: www.joavery.co.uk 
Instagram: @joaverystitch
Location: Scotland, UK
Quilt Design: Appliquéd organic circles or 'weather bubbles'
Fabrics: All from stash
Temperature time period: March 28, 2020 through April 4, 2021

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

I have wanted to make some sort of temperature project for years now. I had been planning a temperature embroidery but when I saw the call-out from the MQG for temperature quilts to be exhibited at QuiltCon 2022, I knew it had to be a quilt.

How did you record the weather each day?

I was very excited to check the weather app on my phone and find out which colors I was going to use that day, it really was a highlight of my day! I would then draw my circle, depending on my mood, and write the temperature and the date on this. When the square was finished, I would write the date on the back of the fabric in pencil to keep track of them.

How did you choose your fabrics and allocate them to the temperatures?

I made a list of the temperature range in an average Scottish year and then pulled all the lovely fabrics from my stash. I arranged the colors from cool to warm and assigned each a temperature number (or range of temperatures for the very highest and lowest).

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

I knew I wanted to use appliqué circles to represent the 'highest' temperature each day, and for the background to represent the lowest temperature each day, but I then decided that I didn't want perfect circles, but organic circles, that represented my mood each day. I would draw my circle to reflect my emotions, a large circle for a good day and a small circle for a bad day. I’m quite a content and cheerful person and hardly ever moody so I wasn't expecting the size of the circles to change that much.

How long did it take you each day?

It took about 20 minutes each day. I cut my fabric out a quarter inch bigger than the paper template that I made each day and worked tiny gathering stitches close to the edge of the fabric circle. I placed the paper in the centre of the wrong side of the fabric and drew the stitches around tightly before securing with extra stitches. After pressing it from both sides, I popped the paper out, pinned the circle to the background, and stitched around it with tiny, neat slip stitches using a matching Aurifil 80wt thread.

Did you notice any patterns or surprises with the temperatures?

It doesn't get as hot or cold in Scotland as I thought! I was more surprised by the fluctuations in circle size due to my mood, there were many more small circles than I thought there would be. But we were living through a pandemic and it was a strain on us all! The quilt became as much of an emotional diary quilt as a way of recording the temperatures for the year.

 

Linda Hungerford

Website: flourishingpalms.blogspot.com
Instagram: @flourishingpalms
Location: The Villages, Florida, USA
Quilt Design: Drunkard’s Path blocks pieced by machine. More than 20 colors of 50-weight Aurifil thread were used for domestic machine quilting on a Bernina 770QE in a combination of ruler quilting and free motion quilting.
Fabrics: 23 different colors, mostly Painter’s Palette solids by Paintbrush Studios. Four colors are Kaufman Kona solids, and one is a Michael Miller solid.
Temperature time period: January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

I saw the start of a temperature quilt posted to Instagram and began to search the internet where I found several bloggers posting about them.

How did you record the weather each day?

I had to look for a site with reliable temperature recordings, so I first checked out NOAA (the US Federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for weather history. Unfortunately, that website was shut down (at the time) due to a lack of government funding. So, I searched for another temperature-monitoring website and found Wunderground. I learned that I could identify specific weather stations in my area and was able to locate one at a residence less than a block from my house! I bookmarked it. Next, I created an Excel spreadsheet on my iPhone, for recording each day’s high and low temperature, with an empty checkbox alongside it. When making blocks, I followed the temps recorded on that sheet, and marked the check box after I’d made each block. Those check marks were needed to track my making from day to day because the high and low temperatures from one day to the next were often the same.

How did you choose your fabrics?

I assigned warm colors to the warm temperatures (many warm days in Florida!) and cool colors to the cooler temperatures. Of the 23 colors in my quilt, 15 are warm colors.

How did you allocate your fabrics to the temperatures?

Because daily Florida temperatures have only slight fluctuations, I wanted to record temperatures in small increments of three degrees. I began with 20 colors that ranged from less than 33F to 91F and up. But by the time July arrived along with the heat of summer, I realized I needed to add more hot, upper temperature colors. It’s then that I chose three more “hot” colors to represent: 92F-94F, 95F-97F, and 98F and up. All 23 colors are in the quilt, so the temperatures in my quilt range from 33F to 98F.

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

I’d seen quite a few temperature quilts being made with flying geese blocks, and I wanted something different, though still a two-patch block. It happened that I had recently purchased a Classic Curves Ruler (by Color Girl Quilts), and I wanted to have a go using it.

How long did you spend on it each day?

Initially, I cut and pieced one block every day, spending about 15 minutes doing so. However, I soon realized it was impractical for me to make such time every day. Most often I’d spend an hour or two catching-up on seven to ten days at a time. That worked better because I could cut out multiples of each color needed.

What was the progress?

I kept up very well, and by January 2020 I completed the quilt top which included making 13 additional Drunkard’s Path blocks as a color and temperature key, along with a label explaining how to read the quilt. It was only the quilting that was slow-paced. I spent more than 94 hours quilting it on my Bernina 770QE domestic machine.

Did you notice any patterns or surprises with the temperatures?

The layout for my quilt is in a “snake” pattern. January 1st is the top left block, with subsequent days’ blocks below it. When 21 blocks were in the column, the next day began at the bottom (of column two) and continued to the top, and so on. The quilt turned out as I expected, with the July and August “heat” appearing in the center of the quilt. The surprise was that I didn’t anticipate temperatures higher than 91F and needed to add three additional “hot” colors to the upper range.

 

Helen Hope

Instagram: @sew_hopeful
Location: Devon, UK
Quilt Design: Sawtooth Stars
Fabrics: Tula Pink's True Colours
Temperature time period: January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

Weather has always fascinated me, particularly extreme weather. When I first saw a temperature quilt a few years ago, I thought it was a fantastic method of recording local weather in a visual way rather than scribbled down in a diary and stuffed away in a drawer.

How did you record the weather each day?

Many of us have found solace these last eighteen months or so in the natural world and I've loved checking the Accuweather each morning for the village's highs and lows from the previous day.

How did you choose your fabrics and allocate them to the temperatures?

I had a bundle of Tula Pink’s True Colours and knew this was the perfect project to put them to good use. I picked out a range representing -6 to 32 degrees Celsius, being a couple of degrees either side of 2020’s temperature spectrum.

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

I chose the sawtooth star pattern just because I love stars, and the sight of them often indicates a drop in night-time temperature, particularly on a cold frosty night. Each quarter represents one day, with the ‘star’ showing the high and the background representing the low for that day. Each month is made up of eight individual star blocks with the odd days at the end indicating the average for the month.

How long did it take you each day?

I've worked on this piece most days, spending about 10 to 15 minutes cutting the two fabrics required and making them into the quarter square for the star. This is probably the first piece I've been meticulous about squaring everything up at each stage, which definitely helped further down the line.

What did you notice about the temperatures?

Being more aware of how the local temperature fluctuates across the year has made me feel more in tune with the changing seasons. Compared to last year's wonderfully warm and sunny spring, this year's was so much later evidenced by the late arrival of my first swallow on April 20th, some three weeks later than in 2020. I recorded the arrival in this piece by replacing this day’s high with a square of swallow-printed fabric.

 

Anorina Morris

Website: sameliasmum.com
Instagram: @sameliasmum
Location: 1 hour south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Quilt Design: Orange peel blocks
Fabrics: Bright fabrics from my stash
Temperature time period: January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

There are so many beautiful temperature quilts on Instagram and blogs. I’ve always loved the idea of making a temperature quilt myself but hesitated because they’re such a long term commitment. Then the pandemic started, and our area was locked down which meant that I had plenty of time to work on it.

How did you record the weather each day?

I used the information from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for my area. The website is excellent, and they have all sorts of printable records including temperatures, rain, wind etc. For a little while, I contemplated including rain on the blocks, possibly a little stitched X or something, but I figured that was going a step too far for me.

How did you choose your fabrics and allocate fabrics to the temperatures?

My temperature key went up by 2s starting at -0ºC (which I didn’t even get to use) through to +40ºC. As I was working from my stash, I looked at what I had available and decided on the blues and greens for a lot of my background squares. Cooler colours for the lower temperatures and warmer colours as the temperatures increased.

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

I’d always wanted to make an orange peel quilt and I’d always wanted to make a temperature quilt. This was the perfect opportunity to combine both in one project. I decided on the number of rows by playing around with it on Electric Quilt software. I tend towards wide rectangular quilts, rather than long thin ones. A reason it took me so long to finish was because I wasn’t sure how to complete the bottom row. I decided to add the grey section at the end of the blocks and incorporate the quilt name on the front by hand embroidering it.

How long did you spend on it teach day? What was the progress?

Rather than work on it each day, I printed up the temperature records and worked on it in blocks of time. I’d put the blocks together by writing the dates on the back and pinning the peel to the background squares. I’d then hand appliqué a whole bunch of red peels, or a whole bunch of orange peels. When I had a nice stack, I’d sew the blocks and then the rows together. It wasn't the most organised way to do it, but it worked for me. Best of all, it was very portable. My mum was very sick in the hospital for many months and I was able to take blocks to appliqué while I sat with her.

Did you notice any patterns or surprises with the temperatures?

Even though some days and weeks felt hot and exhausting, I discovered that in 2020 we had quite a temperate year (here in Southern NSW). It would be interesting to make another temperature quilt, using the same key to see how the years differ.

 

Melanie Rudy

Website: quiltersenjoycolor.blogspot.ca/
Instagram: melanie_rudy_art
Location: Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, approximately 40 km South of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Quilt Design: Improv/Strip piecing
Fabrics: Studio 39 Fabrics sponsored and supplied fabrics from a variety of manufacturers, including RJR Fabrics, Robert Kaufman, Riley Blake, Figo Fabrics, and Northcott
Temperature time period: September 1, 2020 through August 31, 2021
Quilt design/techniques: Improv and strip-piecing

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

I had been following #temperaturequilts on Instagram for over a year when the MQG announced that temperature quilts were going to be featured at QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix. I always loved the colours and flow of these quilts. The deadline and challenge of getting one done for the potential to be shown at QuiltCon 2022 was an opportunity to be embraced.

How did you record the weather each day?

We live out in the country and have a computerized weather station on our property. My husband recorded the highs and lows for me every day, while I paid attention to the skies.

How did you choose your fabrics?

Warm colours were selected for above 0 Celsius and cold colours for below 0 Celsius. The colour representing below -30C was chosen for its icy feel. The red for above +30C was chosen for its heat. I picked a palette of my colour choices, then Studio 39 Fabrics, an online fabric store based in Canada, chose available fabrics for me in my requested palette.

How did you allocate your fabrics to the temperatures?

The fabrics were allocated in 10-degree increments. This created enough contrast in the quilt, without being too much to keep track of on the sewing table.

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

The wonderful temperature quilts I had seen prior to embarking on this project inspired me greatly. Because of my location, in the Big-Sky County of Alberta, Canada, I also wanted to represent the sky. The angle of the sky shapes depicts the Rocky Mountains, while the colours show a sunny, mixed, or cloudy sky each day. I kept the improv techniques simple, considering there were 365 blocks to be made. The widths for the high and low temperatures were free-hand cut approximately 2½-3" wide to create a 5" block width. The sky sections were layered over the temperature pieces, then cut diagonally through both layers. Efficiency was important and I would strip-piece as much as possible. For the quilting, I used edge-to-edge designs inspired by the techniques of Melissa Marginet. These designs were chosen to represent the seasons and the movement of the weather. The black thread I used for the quilting design was chosen to represent the shadow of COVID, which continued throughout the full year of this temperature quilt.

How long did you spend on it each day? What was the progress?

I worked on the quilt every day until December 2020, when I took on an advent knit-a-long project. This got me behind on my temperature quilt and I was playing catch-up after that. I would work on it 2-3 times per week and found that making a few blocks at a time was most efficient. When spring came and it was time for gardening, I got further behind on the temperature quilt progress. I knew the deadline for QuiltCon submissions was coming, so over the past month I focused entirely on the construction of this quilt.

Did you notice any patterns or surprises with the temperatures?

There is a gorgeous repetition of the bright colours, flowing from warm to cool and warm again. I love how the odd block of warm or cool sneaks into a big batch of its opposing colours, giving an indication of what is to come. The amount of royal blue surprises me, expressing the many days of 0 to -10C that we experience here in a year. During the summer months we had a few heat spells, which lasted unusually long for our area. I chose to represent these particular batches of the sky with yellow prints as an at-a-glance indicator of the weather for those periods.

 

Dolores Good Goodson

Instagram: @dgooddesigns
Location: Lovettsville, Virginia, USA, about 50 miles northwest of Washington, DC.
Quilt Design: EPP tumbling blocks
Fabrics: A variety of quilting cottons and linen cottons from my stash. I started during lockdown so I had to use what was on the shelves
Temperature time period: January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. I thought it would be good to record the craziness of 2020 and it was our 35th anniversary year.

What inspired you to start a temperature quilt?

I have always wanted to make a temperature quilt, when the MQG announced a temperature quilt exhibit, I thought why not. Then the pandemic hit and it was the perfect thing to relax my mind and record the year! My main motivator was that Jo Avery and Nicolas Ball said they were starting one and challenged others to make one too. You know I love a challenge!

How did you record the weather each day?

I found a website online that gave our local high and low temperatures and kept track of them on graph paper.

How did you choose your fabrics?

I used what was in my stash. I chose six greys and six whites so I could alternate grey and white for each month to make it easy to see them. I also used one specific fabric to show at a glance when the low that day was 32F/0C degrees or less.

How did you allocate your fabrics to the temperatures?

I made a key with temperatures in five-degree increments, using cool to hot colors. Five-degree increments gave me a lot of variety, I didn’t want to get bored with it! I used one of the project pouches made by Sarah Ashford to keep everything organized!

How did you come up with the design for your quilt?

I wanted to find a way to show low and high temperatures in one block. I had always planned to do a tumbler block, but I thought it might be too squat until I stumbled upon an elongated tumbler block, which was just perfect. I made it so you could find each month easily and I thought why not make it like a great big calendar? I love the tumbler block because it is bigger at the top and smaller at the bottom, perfect for representing high to low temperatures! There is a tumbler between each day, to keep the recording pieces facing the same upwards direction.

How long did you spend on it each day? What was the progress?

Since I didn’t start the quilt until April of 2020, I had to play catch up. I looked up all of the temperatures and started the process, I think I was caught up by June. After that, I worked on them a month at a time, starting the first of each new month. Once all 12 months were finished, I sewed four rows of three months each. I hand quilted using mostly Aurifil 12wt thread. It was hard to decide how to do the quilting, so I took a picture making it black and white and scribbled ideas all over it. Finally, I decided the quilting needed to be organic since this had been such a memorable year in our lives, and how lucky we were to live in western Loudoun County with the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling countryside, and farms. The Baptist Fan design has always made me think of crop rows—using that with a few hay bales, barns, silos, and a rainbow Pride sun did the trick! It finished at 76.5” x 55.5”.

Did you notice any patterns or surprises with the temperatures?

It was a very warm year. We only had one day of measurable snow! July temperatures were over 90F/32.2C degrees for 27 out of 31 days! Not only was 2020 the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it was also a year of renewed attention to the social injustices of our country and world along with the challenges of the 2020 presidential election here in the US. I wanted to record those things on the quilt, so I have embroidered the US phases of lockdown for COVID, the day of George Floyd’s killing, which was the day before my birthday, and the days of ballot counting until Mr. Biden was announced as the President.