My Quest for the Perfect Hoffman Challenge Entry

2015 Hoffman Challenge Fabric
This is the tale of my quest for the perfect 2015 Hoffman Challenge entry.  Going in, I knew this journey would be difficult and would require me to muster up some much needed courage, especially given this year's challenge fabric selection:  Pomegranate Gold of the Mandalay collection.  

The easy part of the journey was hunting down the fabric as many of the quilt shops were carrying the entire line!  A few quick clicks and the fabric was slated to be shipped directly to my castle.  I also ordered a companion print, Navy Gold which had little specks of gold.    

Once it arrived in December, I hung it on my design wall and waited for divine inspiration...and waited, and waited some more.  Some early brainstorms to celebrate the fabric's various motifs included tarot cards/fortune telling, magical carpet rides, Victorian homes and embroidery samplers.  Several pins were added to my Pinterest board, but then I grew weary of these ideas as none had sparked a quilt design.  
Auditioning various shield/crest designs
Then one day, while battling traffic home, inspiration struck:  a knight's shield.  I had recently attended a colleague's rapier practice where I saw an array of armor, shields and weapons.  As I started to research various shield designs, I was delighted to find chevrons, zig zags, checkerboards and other designs commonly found in patchwork.  I drew out my rotary cutter, forged of steel and yellow plastic, and set to work slaying (aka fussy cutting) square repeats to create a checkerboard field.  

A large medieval French and English shield outline was sketched onto brown paper--providing a much needed framework to gauge the area needed to fill with patchwork.  The motifs contained within the challenge ultimately dictated the overall design and layout.  Originally I had envisioning strong vertical lines in the center, flanked by patchwork.  Unfortunately I soon realized that I did not have enough repeats to support this design, so I reversed it to have the checkerboard consolidated into the center and surrounded that field with horizontal lines alternating challenge fabric motifs and a gold speckled navy print from the Mandalay collection.  Some warmth and movement was achieved by adding an ombre print that had gold specks.  Gold lame binding strips were added for a touch of royalty and bling.
Line up of my usual suspects:  Aurifil threads to add some quilted texture and color
Auditioning quilting motifs
Aurifil threads co-sponsored this year's Hoffman Challenge, so we were encouraged (but not required) to use Aurifil threads to be eligible for additional prizes.  Fortunately, my machine loves Aurifil thread and I had a fun variety of colors to add some quilted texture and color to my shield.  Considering the dense quilting used, the quilting only took 2-3 days, and I enjoyed every moment!

Now it was time to transform my quilted sandwich into a shield worthy of any knight. Gold lame binding was added to the perimeter, complete with some gold studs.  The gold lame presented a bit of a fight, but I persevered and came out triumphant.  More bling was added with gold buttons, some of which featured miniature shields!
Progression of quilting, trimming to take on its shield shape and embellishments!

And what shield is complete without its trusted sidekick sword?!?  Yes, my 4th of July evening was spent forging a fabric shield using more lame fabric requiring lots and lots of pins and patience.  But the battle against the lame was nothing compared to turning my sword right side out--as it was a pretty snug fit.  But my persistence paid off once the blade was pressed and the handle stuffed.  Unfortunately, all entries must be capable of folding to be included in the travelling exhibits.  Otherwise, I would have stuffed some wooden dowels and/or metal wire into the sword to provide an internal frame and strength.  
Embellishment details for the front

Even more embellishments were planned for the reverse of the quilt, including the required quilt label and 4" sleeve, both featuring more challenge fabric, faux leather arm straps and even a Quilter's Code.
Details added to the back:  faux leather arm straps, quilt label and Quilter's Code
Supplemental fabric and remnants of the challenge fabric
In addition to the Hoffman challenge fabric, I only used small amounts of 6 additional fabrics:
*  Navy Gold companion print, Cheddar solid and the ombre gold speckled print for the front of the quilt
*  navy solid for the quilt back
*  marbled cream for the label and Quilter's Code (turned inside out for a more subtle background)
*  marbled brown to create my faux leather straps

Alas, the Hoffman challenge fabric did not survive the journey.  It succumbed to repeated attacks from the dreaded "Fabric Slayer", who will be converting the remaining bits into 2.5" charms as a memento of her journey!    

Finishing this beauty was bittersweet for me:
*  Relieved to have finished in time for the deadline
*  Happy to have some time and energy to focus on other projects as this has consumed my full attention these past 2 weeks.
*  Sad it was all over as it was a really fun challenge experience!

But alas, this is not the end for "We Are the Knights Who Love to Quilt", as it has already set off on its next epic adventure:  Judging in Mission Viejo, CA, where it awaits its fate as to whether it will join any of the travelling exhibits.  Let's hope it will be deemed worthy to travel, so it can defend the other entries against viewers who may be tempted to look with their hands instead of their eyes!!  Wish us luck!!   

Without further ado..."We Are the Knights Who Love to Quilt"
View going into battle, measuring 25"x36"
Never turn your back in battle--unless you look this awesome!!
A Knight Out Around Town!