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Modern temperature quilts

First time I heard about temperature quilts was when QuiltCon 2022 had a part of the show dedicated to temperature quilts. I knew about crochet temperature blankets, but those blankets with just coloured rows from warm to cool colours and back again, did not really fascinate me. At QuiltCon, the most special temperature quilts were shown, it was not until later that I also got to see the more traditionale ones. By the way – it does sound as if I were at QuiltCon, but alas, I only followed the showcases via social media, for instance via one of my favorite quilters Nicholas Ball. He appliqued a blob shape with trapunto for the maximum temperature of each day for a whole year.

Nicholas Ball (insta quiltsfromtheattic), April 2020 – March 2021, location England

What is a temperature quilt?

In a tempereature quilt one quiltblock represents the temperature for each day in a whole year. Traditionally one takes the maximum and the minimum temperature of the day, represented by the figure and the background of the block. Sometimes only the maximum temperature is shown. Multiple variations are possible where the quilter includes other aspects of the weather like sunshine, rainy days and visibility or snow.

Most often simple quiltblocks are used to make a temperature quilt such as HST, flying geese, circles, drunkards path or a house shape.

Bethanne Nemesh (insta bethanne.whitearbor), drunkards path 2020, location Pennsylvania

Jo Avery made a temperature quilt with circles in the maximum temperature and the background in the minimum temperature. The circle was drawn by hand and the size represented her mood that day.

Jo Avery (insta joaverystitch) 2020, location England

Modern variations

When using a traditional quiltblock in non-traditional colours, the temperature quilt gets a nice modern look, as is the case with the 2023 temperature quilt of Rianna Nota. The geese of the flying geese represents the maximum temprature and points up when the temperature is higher than the day before and down when the temperature is lower. If it stays the same, the direction stays the same as the day before. The background small triangles represent the minimum temperature and one of them will be white when it has snown.

Around march 2022 I came across a very interesting idea for a temperature quilt by Bethanne Nemesh. It is a budgie and its wings consist of 7 feathers on the top and bottom. Each bird represents the maximum and minimum temperature of each day of a whole week. The head and tail represent the average maximum and minimum temperature of the week. It is a foundation paper piecing pattern (FPP). I use freezer paper, because I can make multiple budgies with one sheet of freezer paper and don’t have to pick paper pieces out of my quilt block.

Because at that time I had the idea that “one should start a temperature quilt at the beginning of the year“, I made preparations to be able to start january 2023. But off course you can choose whatever you feel like, or record just one month. As you’ve seen at the quilt of Nichoals Ball, he started in April. The peparations consisted of finding out a reasonable temperature scale for the Netherlands and choosing fabrics.

Explenation of the placing of the fabrics
My Temperature Quilt Block of week 7 2023 – pattern by Bethanne Nemesh

Why make a temperature quilt?

Record the minimum and maximum temperatures of each day for a whole year, why would you actually do that? First of all, it makes a pretty quilt, depending on your chosen block and fabrics in the temperature scale. There is a large amount of serendipity: you can choose the colours, but how they come together is totally out of your hands. It makes making a temperature quilt into an exciting project!

Sometimes quilters choose a special year to record. I decided to make 2023, not a festive number. But come to think of it, this year I turn 50… So for me it is indeed a special year… Isabella Engel made a temperature quilt of her birth year and the year she turned 50. With data records it is easy to choose another year than the current one. She uses the same budgie pattern that I use for my temperature quilt. She now can compare climate change between those years. Can you see a noticable difference? She makes a front facing budgie when the weeks start to look alike.

Isabelle Engel (insta isabelle.engel71) 1971 and 2021, location Germany

Another specialty is the possibility to add blocks for special events like bank holidays, birthdays, wedding date, the start of a new month or the seasons. The house quilt below marks every start of the month with a tree that shows the seasons. The body of the house represents the minimum temperature, the roof represents the maximm teperature and the colour of the door indicates the day of the week. The sky reflects the wheater.

Teri Kezar houses quilt, 2020, location Wyoming

How to make a temperature quilt

After you have selected a block, the design of a temperature scale begins. Based on historical climate data, I have devised a convenient scale for the Netherlands, where colours change every 2 degrees. The lowest colour is for -5 degrees and below. From 25 degrees upwards, I switched to a colour change every 5 degrees. This requires 20 different shades. I have aligned the colour gradient with the sensation I feel at a certain colour. Blue for colder temperatures, transitioning to green as it becomes okay, and as it becomes pleasant, the warmer colours shift towards orange and then red. Finally, ‘hot’ pink is used for temperatures of 40 degrees and higher.

For the wings, I have chosen blenders in vibrant colours because a budgie can certainly pull it off. For the average temperature, I have opted for more elaborate and larger patterns. Average temperatures have a colour changes every 4 degrees. I estimated the amount of fabric required based on an Excel sheet where I converted climate data from a previous year into 2-degree increments. The greens are the most common, so I have reserved two fat quarters (FQ) of those shades. For the others, I have reserved one each. Now, let’s see what interesting colour combinations emerge. It is interesting to see that the first two weeks of January were very warm indeed…

My selection of fabrics (left). The budgies are placed from top left to bottom right – following the diagram of the pattern (right)

Gathering weather data

Of course, you can inidvidually note down the temperature every day using a nice schedule. But I know myself well enough to anticipate forgetting it several times. That’s why I decided to retrieve the data on a weekly basis (because then I can make a bird) from the website of the KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute). You can choose a weather station near your location on this page: https://daggegevens.knmi.nl/ and select the type of data you want. I calculate the average minimum and maximum temperatures per week myself.

I have chosen to take the data from my hometown, but you can also choose to use the temperature of wherever you are. So, if you’re on vacation somewhere, you can use the weather data from that location. Bethanne Nemesh did that in 2021. Each feather represents a month, with the maximum temperature on one side of the quill and the minimum temperature on the other side. An embroidered ‘v’ on the quill indicates a change in climate – with the loaction in braille. And the extra dots in the dark red represent the degrees that went above the maximum temperatures in her preset temperature scale.

Quilttop by Bethanne Nemesh, 2021, location Pensylvania and where she traveled to

You can choose to add a legend of the temperature scale to your quilt. Some quilters do this in the border, others on the back. Another fun idea is to incorporate it into the binding, and I’m considering just that.

Keep it organized

Since I will be working on this quilt for an entire year, I have labeled the fabrics carefully. I am a fan of those small paper clips that allow you to attach a label to the edge of your fat quarter, which doesn’t need to be removed when you cut a piece off. This keeps it manageable for me. Each bird will have a label sewn into the seam allowance so that they don’t get mixed up. Then the entire project goes into a transparent storage box, making it easy for me to retrieve and quickly tidy up when I finish a block for the week.

This article has been published first in Quiltersgilde Magazine (Quiltnieuws 156 – June 2023) of the Quiltersgilde in the Netherlands. Below an impression of those printed pages.

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