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Quiltin’ 9-5: The Story Behind Our Pixelated Dolly Parton Quilt

Quiltin’ 9-5: The Story Behind Our Pixelated Dolly Parton Quilt

Written by: 
Annie St Cyr

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Dolly at Quiltcon

In the world of quilting, every stitch tells a story. But what happens when you combine the timeless art of quilting with the iconic charisma of Dolly Parton? You get a masterpiece that's as vibrant and captivating as the legend herself. 

Dolly Parton is a cultural icon whose impact on music, entertainment, and society as a whole cannot be overstated. With a career spanning over six decades, she has become one of the most beloved and influential figures in the entertainment industry. From her humble beginnings in rural Tennessee to her rise to superstardom, Dolly has always remained true to herself and her roots, earning her the adoration and respect of fans around the world. Her iconic looks, larger-than-life personality, and enduring philanthropic legacy make her a compelling muse for artists across various mediums. And considering her coat of many colors, a quilt of many colors seemed very fitting. 

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Jessie and Dolly

Join our in house designer, quilter and events guru, Jessie, on a journey behind the scenes as we dive into the creative process and construction of our pixelated Dolly Parton portrait quilt. 

The Inspiration Behind the Quilt

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Bella Solids Selects

When QuiltCon comes around each year, it's an exciting time. QuiltCon is a fun, funky, wild ride and we love to make a big impact when we show up to represent Moda. 

As I was brainstorming the booth concept and design, I mentioned I wanted to incorporate Disco Balls into the booth, because, well, I love them. On of our team members said “how about disco balls and Dolly Parton? There could be a pixel Dolly! Inspiration struck. I (literally) ran with that concept and recruited some friends at Moda that would indulge this ambitious and wacky idea to help create the perfect pixel Dolly with me.  

We started with our new Bright Bella Solid colors which we knew we wanted to feature at QuiltCon in a big way. Pulling the Bella Brights colors that would work for Dolly as our starting point. (455, 441, 450, 448, 449, 442, 419.)

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Bella Solids

We then pulled additional solids to create a true gradient for each of the main color concepts (pink face, blue shirt, yellow hair.) Lexi was able to create the coolest confetti sparkle background for Dolly by cutting every color swatch from a Bella Solids color card into 1” squares and scattering them throughout a super black (96) background. Our Dolly quilt uses every color in Moda’s 354 Bella Solid range.  

Bringing Dolly to Life Using Fabric

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Rough Pixel Map

Digital pixels are squares... basic patchwork quilting is squares so creating an image from squares is a very natural process for quilters-both beginners and those with more experience.

Creating the Pixel Map

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Pixel Map

The first and most important step in creating a pixel quilt is image selection. Choose a good image with a nice contrast. A close up picture of a face works best. We used a black and white photo, and added color blocking in Adobe Illustrator for a fun pop art look. Using a color image will also work but make sure you find a tool that can help to simplify the colors in the image.

Once we chose our image, we used the site Pixel-Beads.net to give us a rough guide for color placement, values, size and number of squares needed to capture Dolly’s likeness. 

After sorting out the pixels and creating the pixel grid, we printed our image out at a large scale as a guide for fabric placement. We selected mid-tones for each of the colors (face, hair, shirt) and from there added dark and light tones to create our full palette.

Cutting and Pixel Placement

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Pixel Placement

After we had the pixel layout sorted, we cut 1 inch squares from each fabric. For the background, we wanted to highlight all 354 Bella solid colors. The swatches from our color card were the perfect size if one of us was willing to sit and trim every last swatch. It turns out one of us was, Lexi bravely took on this tedious task. The end result was better than we could have ever imagined and made all that trimming 100% worth it.

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Pixel Placement

We cut 20x20 inch squares from Quilters Grid Fusible Web. This is where we laid out our 1 inch squares based on the pixel grid. Ironing each square to secure them to the fusible web.. Once we laid out all the 20”  pixel blocks on the design wall, Dolly’s face came to life at a whopping 100 x 120” double her finished size. Details like the whites in her eyes and the shadows around her nose and mouth really made her face come to life. 

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Construction

Sewing and Construction

Next we started sewing and sewing and sewing. Using the grid lines on the fusible stabilizer, we stitched 1/4” horizontal seams, cut a tiny sliver off of each seam allowance and pressed those seams open.

Then we did all that again vertically. Finally, we added a stay stitch around the edge. To keep the blocks flat we put them under ceramic tiles to cool. It worked beautifully.

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - One Finished Block

Pinning EVERY SINGLE SEAM to maintain an accurate 1/4” allowance while also lining up our pixel grid, it was time to sew the now 10” blocks together. Once everything was assembled, the quilt had shrunk to a shocking 50x60” finished quilt top. 

Tools, Notions and Fabrics

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Tools

Bringing an icon such as Dolly to life required some special tools, lots of fabric and a few creative solutions. All of the fabrics and most of these tools are available through our website or your Moda rep!



For Dolly’s face, hair and shirt we used Moda Bella Solids in 24, 455, 232, 31, 280, 26, 441, 450, 142, 448, 449, 442, 144, 113, 419, 44, 60, 96. For the background we used the complete Moda Color Card and Bella Solids shade 96.

Challenges and Solutions

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Fabrics

With a project as complex as this, with a lot of different sewists and quilters pouring their heart, love and time into sewing, trimming and pressing, there were some hurdles to overcome. Different seam allowances, endless pressing, changing thread color mid-seam.

Pressing took up the largest portion of our time. The seams were so small and so close together that it was tricky to press them open and keep them flat. That is when Lexi recommended using a ceramic tile to help them rest nicely. It was an amazing solution, the heaviness of the tile really helped to keep those tiny seams at bay.

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Challenges

When we had more than one person sewing, it was a challenge because everyone has subtle differences in their seam allowances. You can imagine with all the individual teeny tiny squares, this creates difficulties sewing our blocks together and getting seams to line up perfectly.

Once we hit our rhythm and saw some of the issues we might have with multiple people sewing, we had two people pressing seams and one person sewing.

Dolly Parton Pixel Quilt - Sewing

There was a team of 3 of us working on this project and we had to really communicate and work together to finish Dolly in time for QuiltCon. Coffee and tacos (but not together) were our fuel of choice. 

The Finished Quilt

The journey of creating our pixelated Dolly Parton quilt has been a testament to the power of creativity and passion. From the initial vision to the final stitch, each moment has been infused with joy and inspiration.

As I reflect on this project there are a lot of feelings. Pride. Satisfaction. Despair. Frustration. Momentary defeat. Camaraderie. Deliriousness. Excitement. Exhaustion. Elation. Laughter. Tears. Relief. All of the feelings!

Through this project, we've not only honored the incomparable Dolly Parton but also discovered new depths of our own creativity. The process of translating her likeness into fabric has been nothing short of magical, reminding us of the boundless possibilities that exist within the realm of quilting.

As we lay our Dolly Quilt finished quilt before you, we invite you to embark on your own creative endeavors, fueled by your passions and inspired by the world around you. Whether it's quilting, painting, writing, or any other form of artistic expression, let Dolly's spirit guide you as you weave your own masterpiece.

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