Sunday, January 24, 2010

Progress with the Plaids

It's been a very busy week (and next week is looking about the same), but I made a point to carve out some quality time to get this quilt top done.

About two minutes after I published my last post, I realized I had actually proposed the possibility of redoing a hundred or more seams! No. Not happening. After mulling a little longer, and a good night's sleep, I decided on the following plan: (1) Reduce the size of the largest dark areas. (2) Find the muddiest of the transitions between fabrics and either add a thin dark strip, or delete the block.

Going through the blocks individually was a good exercise. I ended up deleting two blocks (so it's good I had three extras) and altering another five or six. I did almost no ripping. Mostly, I just sliced out the offending fabric or seam, sewed in a new piece, and retrimmed the block. Less than an hour, and I was done.

When sewing the blocks together, I put most of the larger blocks (those purposely cut more than 8-1/2 inches in one direction) into one strip, to "show them up," and I made sure I had opposing zig-zag columns. But that was the extent of the plan. Otherwise, I just picked up two blocks, and if I liked them next to each other, fine. If not, I picked up another. I really enjoyed putting the blocks together that way. Much more fun than planning out every placement and having to keep everything in order while sewing.

I like it! So does my 7-year-old grandson---at least I think so. He gave it two wows, but that was at least partly caused by shock. This quilt top does assault the eye.

I plan to quilt it with all-over meandering (the only free-motion machine quilting I do reasonably well). In any case, I'm sorry to say it's going to be a while before I'll have the time to baste and quilt.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This One Certainly Is Exhuberant

The plaids have been cut up and sewn, with not too much left over. Here are 45 8-1/2-inch blocks (for 5 columns of 9), plus an extra 3 (which I accidentally made because I'm bad at counting), and a stack of 3-inch strips for sashing:

This will make a fairly small quilt, about 55" by 72".

Here's a sample layout.

Wow. Pretty intense. Good thing the sashing is calming. I like the orange and the opposing zig-zags. The rest, breaks some rules. I can't help but be fond of it just on that account. Maybe it has both too much and not enough contrast. Or maybe the contrast could be better arranged?

Hmm. I'm considering adding a very narrow, very dark strip between all or most of the light strips (I have plenty of the two dark fabrics), and cutting down all or most of the big dark strips. It's at least worth some experimenting.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Experiment

The spiral project is coming along nicely, although slowly, but I got distracted by this:

I've been collecting madras-type plaids--shirts, dresses, etc.--that I thought would go well with some similar yardage I've had for many years. All together, they've finally reached critical mass--enough to make a bed-sized quilt with a fair amount of variety.

The colors fall into two main groups--the citrus and the turquoise/pink--showing their respective vintages. Interestingly, they both include the same lavender and other purples.

My plan was to come up with an easy to stitch free-style design. Lately, I've been very taken with strip-pieced blocks made into strippy-type quilts. And I liked the idea of having the bright orange provide a focus for each block. So, I settled on 8-inch squares, pieced so that the orange diagonals make a bold zig-zag line. I'll use the subdued green/blue plaid for vertical sashing strips.

The pieced fabric looks pretty wild:
After trimming, the blocks look marginally more civilized:

Can hardly wait to see how it looks when it's done!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Day of Piecing

I was very lucky to be able to spend yesterday piecing the spiral quilt top and doing other fun, solitary things. The time was well spent working out some process stuff and making design decisions--the sorts of things you really need uninterrupted time for, plus a fresh eye and unburdened mind.

Originally, I planned the yellow part of the spiral to be strips, randomly pieced. I did a few samples and didn't like them. The red part is going to be nearly all squares--chunks of various checkerboard patterns--and I didn't want the yellow part to compete too strongly with that. But when the strips didn't work out, I kept thinking "triangles."

Triangles. My next thought was all that matching and points and dealing with bias. But, I said to myself, I'm not doing that kind of quilt. It's a freewheeling, boisterous, outside-the-lines kind of quilt. Can I make triangles in a way that doesn't drive me crazy and also makes them look good (to me, at least)? Worth a shot.

First, the heck with even thinking about matching points. (I did measure and rotary cut the strips, but I wasn't obsessive.) Then, I just layered two strips and eyeballed a 45-degree angle, with a little help from some tape on the machine bed. I kept going and then cut the strips apart into half-square triangles.
I ended up with lots of very regular patches, plus just enough with variations. I was having so much fun that I went ahead and pieced together a bunch of scraps, and all the words, too.

Here's the quilt center with the first part of the spiral attached. You can see how uneven the upper edge is. Oh well. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.