Monday, April 8, 2024

All the Applique Projects

I'm having trouble making enough time for quilting these days. I so thought that I'd be back on track and plowing through all the many ideas percolating! Nope. Just having one of those years. Mainly,  I'm trying to quit pushing and just go with the flow, slow though it is.

A little basket border
I've got several applique projects all prepped and ready to go, though there hasn't been any stitching on that lately. First off, is the baskets for Peace Always. No forward progress since last September! The next border will be a little basket surround with possibly a little flower or something inside. We'll see how that goes.

Larger basket blocks
The second project is something that I just couldn't resist. These are the cut-out baskets from behind the baskets blocks in Berries and Baskets, a quilt top from a year ago. Just needed to figure out a background and then cut out some basket handles. There's something about baskets that seem to make my heart very happy!

Lots of orange
The third applique project is the borders for Melon Patch Blossom. It was super tempting to leave the quilt 'as is', but it was rather small. And..... you know how I love to figure out new ways to add applique onto a quilt! 

Love stitching tulips
The Fourth project I have with prepped applique is Good Vibes. It's part of the circle series that I'm playing with. Just thought it would look better with some sort of border so I guess it'll be tulips for the sides and maybe some pieced cross blocks for the top and bottom.

Gotta find time for the stitching
Then there is the impulse applique project from a couple weeks ago, all the flower, stem and leaves out of the the orphaned applique parts tote. It feels really good to have these projects ready for stitching, but so far it hasn't motivated me to find that time. Uggh. I'm starting to feel grouchy about not having time but I also know that potential 'available time' could be organized much, much better. 

This season of still having a somewhat recovering husband and all the other things has been challenging for this routine oriented person that I am. As to the quilting room, all that's really been happening there is mending. I had quite a few things that needed hemming or in the case of a couple skirts, a bit of alteration. Thankfully I've only gained back a couple pounds from last year, so I'm still in the smaller size than what I've been wearing for the last decade or so. Amazingly enough, I'm still keeping up on my Yoga! Ahh, it feels so good! Just can't give it up even if I find myself fitting it in at 9 at night. It's been a wonderful way to keep all my worries at bay this past half of a year. It's incredibly relaxing and I'm really appreciating how much more fit and healthy I feel these days.*sigh Was somewhat resigned to having the soft, traditional grandma shape and/or batwing arms, but hmmm... maybe it's okay if we go ahead and push that off for another couple years? Well.., the arms still needs an enormous amount of work but eventually, enough downward dogs ought to remedy the worst of it, right!

We went to a {friend of my husbands} wedding on Saturday, elderly couple. It was the sweetest, quirkiest wedding we've ever attended. The total number of people there was seven and that included the bride and groom! Coming from a family with 11 children, it was actually a bit shocking to not see more friends and family at such an important life event. They seemed very happy though so that's all that matters! We have a cousins funeral to attend this coming weekend and then, next week is when another of our grandchildren is due to be born. Our daughter, her husband and baby are flying in to visit for a week later this month {so exciting!}, and then next month is when we start getting ready for the church campout thing that we do annually up in the mountains.

Will no doubt keep plugging along with my hand quilting and other than the Bramble Blooms QAL, just grab the quilting muse whenever there's a spare minute or two. Expect me to continue posting erratically until things return to normal-ish. Whatever that is....

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Finding The Spark Again

I managed to finish another quilt, Blue #2! It was hard to decide how to quilt around the cameo flower area, but once that was settled, then it was relatively fast stitching.

Blue #2 is completed!
Mostly, when there's a string/coins improv. quilt in the hoop, the stitching just feels inevitable. Why bother quilting a pattern over the top when it's so very satisfying to stitch through the middle of all the little strips?

Always good to have improv. strips in the hoop
I wasn't ever 100% happy with the shape of the flower until the quilt was almost totally finished. Then I was thinking that part looked okay, and found myself feeling more unhappy with the color of the bird. It looks pretty cute close up, but from a distance, meh! Not so much.

Not my best work, but I like it
Quilts are funny things. Fold this one up and wowsers, that's a lotta olive green! Still liking the color palette overall though. Surprisingly enough, it comes off as fairly serene, all the yellowy bits aside.

Found a good use for some old, olive green fabrics!
This was a quilt that would have never been made if it wasn't for the Winter Quilting thing that I did a couple winters ago for our church ladies. No Wasted Pieces was the demo quilt {example of what we were making} and Blue #2 was the quilt that was cut out and sewed up for all the in-progress demonstrations. Lots and lots of old, stale-dated fabrics included in the making of both, which of course, always makes me very happy.

Will probably end up gifting this quilt to one of
my nephews when they get married
The hand quilting on the back ended up being a nicely textured look. I'm always amazed at how much progress I've made through the years, even getting the backs of my quilts to a point where I'm not afraid for people to take a close-up look. Nothing to be ashamed of here!

Lots of good texture!
I was bustling around with lots of quilting energy, feeling very inspired, motivated and all the good things. Really made great progress with some applique prep on previous projects. Then it just all sort of fell flat. I didn't even have the heart to post about it. I'd wander into the quilting room and feel all the blah, blah, blahs. Didn't help that after my husband had re-organized his man-cave on the other side of my quilting area, he has been spending a boat load of time over there and constantly, endlessly playing all of his favorite music. Very good for him. All the therapeutic vibes etc. But aaghhh!! Sometimes I just need a little quiet time in the quilt room. Oh the joys of shared space!

An uninspiring quilt top
So I just ended up doing a lot of reading instead. Eating too much icecream. Kind of fell into a funk of wow, it feels really good not to be on call and is life really returning to normal? Don't think I realized just how mentally exhausted I've been. 

Eventually I {halfheartedly} started sort of wandering in and out of my quilting room on a more regular basis. I'd say hi to the space, maybe restack a marinating pile of fabric, even re-organize a few things if it let me procrastinate on making real quilting decisions. Couldn't really focus properly and it felt like a terrible time to start something new. Other than a little bit of hand quilting time every couple days, there was zero spark. Definitely no hand stitching on the newly prepped applique!
Always fun to play with the orphaned bits
Finally I decided it was time to snap out of it. Enough was enough. I perused all the lists and thought, hmmm... maybe it would be better to start off with some orphan blocks. Don't have to think so hard about that, right? Digging some of those totes out, I stumbled upon this plain jane quilt top you see two pictures above. It was a total flop from a couple years ago. Tried to play with some directional fabric and got the color palette very, very wrong. Not very much interest and energy in it at all. There was actually a note pinned on it suggesting it could be used for a backing some day, but somehow it had gotten shoved way to the back of a shelf. 

Coming together very nicely!
I studied the quilt top to see if maybe I had misjudged the quilt the first time around. Nope. Was it perhaps salvageable? Nope, not the least bit interested. Still a dud! Perfectly fine for a comfort quilt or a backing though. And then I had this tiny, fleeting thought. I mean, so small, I would have probably missed it if it wasn't for the forcing myself out of the funk efforts! Why not make a quilt top specifically for this? Would that even be an interesting challenge? And the next thing I knew, inspiration had come calling for real

Instantly, I found myself taking the lid off of the pink stash tote for a background fabric and then right behind that, was basically knee deep in the applique parts and pieces totes--not even sure the background was the right one. Parts and pieces were not exactly flying, but I was putting flower shapes on the potential background and promptly taking them back off. What about this? What about that? And then getting distracted in pursuit of the perfect fabric for a basket. Or hey, what about fabric(s)? Yeah... Even better! Changing up the colors of the flowers yet again. Hhmmm... My made-up-on-the-fly rule was that only abandoned parts and piece could be used for the applique. Definitely made for a very good challenge. 

This kept me well engrossed for a couple hours. Not because I was being picky, but because I could feel the design taking shape. Developing a look, feel, and vibe that was making me smile. Don't you just love when things start clicking properly? Eventually, I had what you see up above and it felt wonderful. So much gratitude for this lovely craft many of us enjoy!

Later, after I had sewed the larger parts of the basket together, all the pieces had to be moved down the background fabric a ways to make it look more balanced as a 'centerpiece'. I'm crossing my fingers the 'JOY' letters can be added somewhere to the quilt too, as I do so love how they resonate. It just felt meant to be, finding the letters in the totes right now. Especially directly after feeling so completely blank and uncreative for a couple weeks.*sigh  

It honestly doesn't scare me like it would have five or ten years ago. Back then I would have panicked and wondered if this could be a permanent thing! Thank goodness for a few tricks to help kickstart our flagging creativity. Wish I could dive in immediately and start the hand stitching for this right now, but I know myself very well. Will be better to try and hold out, use this project as a reward for good behavior! Not sure this little bout of creativity will last, but it felt amazing. Have started doing morning pages as suggested in 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron. Haven't read the book in years and years, but it's something I tried briefly, about 15 years ago. Ordered the book but will probably hold off reading it until my current brain fog clears a wee bit more....

Monday, March 4, 2024

2nd Border Prompt for Bramble Blooms QAL {BBI}

Are you ready for the next prompt in the Bramble Blooms QAL? So fascinating to have others along for the journey and see where people end up, even when we all start at exactly the same place! Life is full of interruptions around here as usual, especially now that my husband is feeling just good enough to be antsy, though still not quite good enough to be back at work. We're getting there! This post ended up being miles too long. Consider yourself warned. Just too much information that I keep thinking someone might need.

Back to the reason you dropped by today! For this specific phase of the BBI Medallion quilt, the challenge is as follows: Put together a border that includes adding 4-patch, 9-patch, 16-patch or even larger patchwork blocks. You can set your blocks side by side {continuous block layout} or 'on point'. This border can be any width you like. It does not need to have the patchwork blocks throughout--use as few or as many patch blocks as you think will look good! Totally up to you if the blocks are improv. style or traditional-look.

The first Bramble Blooms quilt top is done!
That's it. Now go forth and create! I deliberately used these style blocks as they are a simple, time honored use of unexciting fabrics and also, they adapt well to the make-do look. If you're wanting a little more information, maybe stick around for a walk-through of my own Bramble Blooms creative process. I'll attempt to thoroughly bore you and ultimately, share some border guidance tips and tricks as well. To be perfectly clear, I'll be happy with any and all of your quilts that deviate from the prompt. Your creativity should always supersede whatever guidelines I suggest throughout the duration of this series.


Most of us started with a pre-determined fabric stack that we specifically set aside for BBI. At this point in the project, you'll probably be noticing a specific color in that stack that hasn't been used very much. Unless the quilt is adamantly demanding a specific color for the next go-round, try starting with the left-behind color {or colors}. You might not even have to spend a lot of time auditioning, as we know the fabric in the initial stack already looked relatively good together. All the remaining pieces have the potential to fit into this quilt somewhere. In fact, this could very well be your last opportunity to include it into the quilt.

Starting with the patchwork blocks
Now, you can dither for a while and possibly overcomplicate things, or you can just dive in and test out a couple patchwork blocks. For the purposes of this prompt, these are blocks made up of equal sized squares, usually sewn up in units of 4, 9, or 16, depending on what size the finished block is intended to be. 
I generally start with some basic questions such as: Do I want smallish blocks or larger ones? How many squares needed to make this block hold its own in the border? Is a 4-patch too simple? Can I make a 9-patch block work out properly in an on-point layout if I only use two colors? Hmm.. I'm not sure that I want to use every single color in the blocks. Will a 16-patch be too busy for this particular quilt? Do I want scrappy or something more controlled merely using two or three fabrics? And on and on. It's all very stream of consciousness and you'll find yourself automatically narrowing down your preferred look in no time at all. Don't worry if you don't have all the answers. Just go with your gut.


Eventually you find yourself with a tentative plan. For me, it was this: Scrappy look border using only 2-colors {pinks and creams} in the blocks, but many different fabrics. A 16-patch traditional cut block with a finished size of 8". On-point setting. Mixed fabrics in similar tones of rusty browns for the setting triangles. Still considering whether there is enough larger fabric pieces to cut out enough setting triangles. Might have to consider doing something else?  

A quick check in with the chart below {from my quilt book 'Great Sets' by Sharyn Craig} and I could see for sure that the diagonal measurements would work. No doubt your plan will be totally different, as it should be.

A helpful tip for determining a pleasing width for an on-point border: The blocks in the on-point border shouldn't be much larger than the width of your previous border. They can be smaller, that seems to look great. Any larger and the border tends to get a little awkward looking {proportion-wise} very quickly. Of course this is just an opinion, not a rule or anything! My decision to sew up 8" blocks means that I am making the patch blocks exactly the same width as the previous border. The diagonal measurement {using the on-point layout} will then be 11 3/8". It feels like a good balance to me, but of course your discriminating eye might want something totally different.

A quick chart for diagonal measurements
Armed with this knowledge and a tentative plan, I cut out and sewed up a handful of 16-patch blocks. Just enough to do a good, solid auditioning. You can absolutely cut out and sew up all the patchwork blocks you think are needed. Dive right on into the deep end if you're ready. Go for it! Sometimes that's what our instincts are shrieking at us to do--to have confidence and own it. 

Other times, we'll find ourselves with the feeling that hmm... ' I'm not sure yet. Maybe it would be good to leave space for those variables that might possibly need adjustment?' Listen to that. Do not ignore! Even if it's the smallest niggle. It invariably means that our subconscious has picked up on something that hasn't been quite realized yet. We still have to forge ahead in order to get anywhere, but maybe with a more cautious commitment. Often it simply takes auditioning the blocks. That's all. We have to actually see it with our eyes, not just our imagination, and then we'll be feeling confident in our choices once again. The plan is ON!
A quick chart for cutting setting triangles
If you've made up your mind to do the on point layout, reference the chart above for help with cutting out corner and/or setting triangles. I use it all the time. Or you can check out this blog post at Spruce Crafts for further information. No one should ever be afraid of an 'on point' layout.

If your fabric choices are running low from the ordinal BBI fabric stack? You clearly have to address that. Dig around in your stash fabric for more options. Don't shy away from expanding on the chosen color palette if needed, going lighter, darker or brighter. You might need to go shopping. Or, may I suggest deliberately making everything a bit scrappier? 

For instance, making the uncomplicated choice of adding corner triangles to all of the patch blocks, instead of only cutting out larger setting triangles, has a lot of advantages. These advantages include making the math easier by virtue of squaring up all of the blocks, being able to cut into much smaller {previously unusable} pieces of fabric, and not least, easily making a limited fabrics and/or color palette stretch even further. Giving your quilt more depth and interest. How? One seemingly out of place fabric looks very wrong, two--kind of questionable and three or more--like it was purposeful. Do the purposeful and 'make-do' like you mean it!
Starting to audition setting triangle fabrics & color

If the plan starts to fall apart, like mine did, don't worry. Working improv. is a process full of seeds of inspiration. You just never how they will present themselves. We tend to look at our plan 'failing' as a problem needing a solution. In reality, it's our brains way of saying, 'Hey, something else might look a lot better!' It's our instincts kicking in. Many of us like to say, 'The quilt is talking to us'. Don't worry, it always lets you know before it's too late to make proper adjustments and it hardly ever yells.

In the case of my Bramble Blooms, it was the color choices that started looking wrong first. It just crept up on my awareness. Here I was, busy adding fabrics and 16-patch blocks to the design wall and then, the quilt started saying, 'Yuck! Things are starting to look really mushy. Why is my lovely applique border starting to disappear?'  Ugghh. Not gonna let that happen! Being me, {we all have our default}, I threw some dark fabric up on the wall between the borders. The thought was, 'Ok, that clearly defines the edges of both borders. Problem solved!' Right? {I'm all about the coping borders as a first run at fixing those borders arguments.}

If I was deeply invested in the on-point layout, there could have been new patch blocks made out of different colors and probably cream fabrics used for the setting triangles or whatever.  Any number of choices are possible at any given phase in a quilt. You gotta remember, there are normally always way more than one or two ways to resolve things in a satisfactorily manner. It's not like you're trying to find a single grain of brown rice in a bag full of white rice.
Maybe a coping border will make it all better


On to the continuous block layout. Because why not? It might have been in your plan from the beginning, but I just sort of stumbled on it for my own Bramble Blooms. I admit to being fairly tunnel-visioned about using the on-point layout. At first. It just seemed obvious that it had the potential for infinitely more room to use the leftover pink, cream and rusty brown fabrics in my stack. Sometimes we get an idea in our head and it crowds out any other thinking. Don't mistake what I'm trying to get across here. That resolved version {with the inclusion of the darker coping fabric} would probably have resulted in a satisfactory looking quilt. It wasn't wrong

Still, the prompt did mention two options. Of course I was curious! I went ahead and auditioned the patchwork blocks the other way--in a continuous border formation. Uh oh. No one was more surprised than me. The whole quilt lightened up and gave me the sort of instant warm glow that makes my heart feel all warm and fuzzy. Darn it. Cannot ignore the warm and fuzzies no matter how much I wanted the on-point layout!
This layout is the one for me afterall
And that's exactly how good, personal-to-you changes happen. You just switch plans midstream because the quilt has spoken. And it speaks to your heart. In order to make the 16-patch block border fit properly to the larger quilt, I only needed to add a single extra row {not a full block} on the left and right side borders. This made it possible for the cornerstone blocks to fit exactly in pattern with the every-other pink/cream patchwork look. See the picture below? Ta da! It seemed serendipitous. Always a great feeling.
Looking at the corner blocks in the correct pattern formation
It was a simple matter to measure the outsides of the quilt and count out how many more blocks were needed. Then I took a few minutes to mourn the lack of using the rusty, tan fabrics in the stack and second guess myself. Is this really how I wanted to continue? Which very quickly led to a lightbulb switching on. Hmm...  How about cutting out and sewing up similar, but darker, cornerstone patchwork blocks? 
And then I looked at them like this...
Which is how those came to be. As you can see, the red in the cornerstone blocks is much more distinctive looking than the lighter pink and ties back into the centerpiece very nicely too. I loved the red squares echoing the X lines from the previous border, a very unexpected result. Once I noticed that, I couldn't 'unsee' it. Uh oh. How to get the pattern to work out properly in the border surround?
The close-up view of the cornerstones 
As you can see from the close-up picture above, there is an odd, awkward looking area where the dark red squares meet up with the lighter colored pink ones. The pattern is interrupted for sure. I could have perhaps flipped the borders on the top and bottom, but do I honestly care? 

The weighted look to the corners just make me happy for what it does for this particular quilt. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else! The echo of the X blocks there in the corners, subtly creates energy and encourages the eye to move around the quilt. I also like how the pink squares form a diagonal line across the corners of the quilt, at the juncture of those corner blocks. Is there any part of this look/feel/vibe that I am willing to give up in order to 'abide by the plan or stick with the pattern formation'? This is what improv. does for us. It frees us from the have to's and gives us permission to think outside of the box. Be curious. Let yourself be surprised!
The completed BBI quilt!
Okay, here's all the tips and tricks you've been searching the post for. Hopefully one of these suggestions will resolve an issue for you and your quilt.


Improv. comes with its own challenges and one of them is making new border lengths fit to odd quilt measurements. Do not be discouraged. There are several different ways this disparity can easily be overcome. For the best fitting borders, always measure the sides of your quilt and plan on attaching a border in the same exact size, pinning well before sewing together. 
  • Add an extra row {or two} onto the length of a short border. Does not have to be the full size of a block.
  • Remove an extra row {or two} from the length of the too-long border. Does not have to be the full size of a block.
  • If the border length measurement is too long to match up with your quilt, by less than the width of a single square in a patchwork block, go back and sew some extra large seams. Spread it out over the length of the border--doing it to several seams. Don't sew the extra large seams side by side or the 'fix-it' will be a little more obvious. Usually moving the needle over one or two spots will be enough to take up the extra length necessary. Keep measuring your border until the length has been corrected.
  • Can easily split the difference if the overage on a border length is only 1/4" or less. Trim 1/8" {or less} off of each end of the border length. Nobody will even notice.
  • If perhaps the border length is 1/4" too short, simply pin the quilt and border together at the middle points and gently stretch to make up the difference. Warning: Anything more and you're likely to have a wavy border and a sloppy looking quilt!
  • Add precisely measured Coping Borders to make your patchwork block border fit perfectly. A little more work, but sometimes it feels important. See tutorial here for guidance with that.


These are similar to the tips that were given in the first border challenge, but I will list them here for continuity:
  • Sew an extra block to a border of pieced blocks and chop off the extra. Very utilitarian
  • Add little narrow strips of fabric between each pieced block to stretch the row in order to make the length fit with the quilt. Add wider or narrower strips at the very ends of the pieced blocks, as needed, to finish up and get to the correct border length.
  • Deliberately piece less blocks than needed. Add on extra fabric at both ends of the border length until you have the correct length.
  • Make quite a few less pieced blocks than necessary, then arrange them tight together at one side of each border, say at the left side of each border moving around the centerpiece. Sew on a long piece of fabric to only one side of the blocks, making up the extra till it fits the centerpiece measurement. Do this similarly for every border length. There will be pieced blocks on every side of the quilt, but the arrangement will convey a certain symmetry.
  • Sew all of your blocks in a row {per border side}. Then add in a precisely measured coping border cut for the express purpose of fitting perfectly between the centerpiece and your newly pieced border length. See this tutorial for guidance with that.
When the on-point blocks have corner triangles
Sometimes the on-point border layout is easier to play with if you can add corner triangles to the patchwork blocks, instead of trying to wrangle large setting triangles. The square-in-a-square blocks are just easier to move around and find a 'make-do' solution if/when the quilt measurements aren't being particularly cooperative. If you feel uncomfortable with these make-do solutions, that's okay. We're all wired differently! Just be prepared to do a lot more math and pre-planning before you end up with a finished quilt top. 

The cool thing about improv. is that it's wonderfully receptive to 'fix-it' solutions. Consider it a 'work around' for dealing with the side effects of flying by the seat of our pants. The more of it you attempt to do, the easier it is to find the coping strategies that make sense with the way your exceptional brain works. As long as your quilt lays flat and you're satisfied with the look? Who cares about the details?
Another border idea
Along with the tips and tricks mentioned above, a 'mirrored' block arrangement can often be a really fast and easy solution to the on-point border arrangement.--for those times when you don't want to spend time figuring out the math for setting triangles. It's not cheating, it's improv.! And it doesn't take very many blocks set 'on-point' to give the quilt the same kind of energy. 

It usually looks better to arrange blocks in unequal amounts per corner. In the picture above, there are two blocks on top and three at the left side, not counting the corner block.  With this arrangement, I would add fabric to finish out the needed length of the border, keeping the pieced blocks relatively spare. You can repeat this look at the lower bottom right of the quilt only, {reversing the unequal block positions as to sides for the mirror}. OR you could do every single corner. An arrangement like this definitely needs to be auditioned, as it can make all the difference in the world where the last block falls alongside the previous border. 
So happy with the cozy look to this

Okay, that's it. Let's go get creative! This will be the end of the prompts for Bramble Blooms I quilt. Getting this top together will hopefully give a better idea of how the process will work with Bramble Blooms II as well. This first quilt sets the tone for rest of the series. It establishes a common color palette and/or elements that we will change up and tweak here or there as we move along on our adventure together. 

The idea is that we start with a base of ideas and let our innate creativity expand, flourish and grow from that particular place. As each quilt progresses, we will try to push a little bit more, drawing from our well of experience with the previous Bramble Blooms {whether the experience feels successful or not}. We will probably not LOVE every single quilt that we make in the series, but hopefully we will end up with at least one quilt that rocks our foundations. Wowsers, did I really make that? Out of a stack of fabric that I'd grown so tired of? 

Wrapping this us, please remember that this is YOUR quilt. If you feel that it needs another border or two, then absolutely feel free to continue on with your journey.  Look for a Link Party for all the completed Bramble Blooms quilt tops towards the end of April. Shortly after that post will be the start of Bramble Bloom II. Looking forward to seeing all of your wonderful progress!

Monday, February 19, 2024

AHIQ:Sun Quilt Top and Autumnal Tulips #2

I seem to have fell down a rabbit hole this past little while. So shocking. This quilt top was a result of an AHIQ prompt from July 2022. I was really late getting going with my response and then even later getting it to finished quilt top stage. I was dragging my feet initially because it's just so different for me! Most of the applique pieces have been cut out and ready to go since sometime last fall though, and I've been positively antsy to see the end result.
Is it a sunflower or a daisy?
So yeah, it was time. Might as well take advantage! Working with quilt challenges is such an interesting way to grow in our quilting endeavors. To be quite blunt, a lot of the time my initial feeling is a bit of frustration. Why would I deliberately want to think about adding a 'sun' into one of my quilts? Or work from the point of trying to add in that distinct vibe? Or whatever the challenge happens to be--I'm truly not picking on that particular prompt! 

Sun of My Life a new quilt top!
The thing is, I don't generally love to be told what to do in regards to quilting. Most all of the new challenges take some talking myself into. {Yes, I'm telling on myself.} It certainly helps that the AHIQ challenges have been so open ended, but let's just say that it always seems to take a bit of an attitude adjustment. Gah! To willing embrace making a quilt from somewhere other than what I would consider to be 'organic' inspiration is just hard. Especially when I have an abundance of quilty ideas already bouncing around in my brain. Who has time to make something they have little to no interest in? But hey, wait a minute. How do we nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone if we never seek out a different perspective? 

I've learned to let these odd places of inspiration simmer in the back of my mind for awhile. Give them a lot of space and encourage my subconscious to take plenty of time to explore the many, many different ways that the idea could possibly be applied. Discarding most of them of course! And through the years I've realized the most fun is when the ideas can be manipulated to work in my favor. Like using one of the already marinating fabric stacks sitting around the quilt room or whatever. Or do a little play on interpretation. I try my best to work with {and answer} the prompt and yet, still convey something that resonates strongly as a me look, feel and vibe. That way, I will more likely follow through on the challenge to completion, maybe even enjoy the project and, bonus, sometimes end up with something amazingly better than ever expected. 

Looking across the quilt top is always fun
Sometimes it's a big fat fail, but it's so very beneficial to try! Take this quilt. I couldn't think much past using up yellow fabric, of which I have oodles of. So lots and lots of ideas about using up that. Meh. Not interesting enough on its own. Then I stumbled upon a block idea that seemed vaguely interesting. Yeah, not nearly good enough for the effort required. Everything seemed quite unsatisfactory and blah when thinking about in conjunction to this 'sun' challenge. Scratch it all!

How could the sun look any more
happy to be there?
And so it went. Me drawing up a potential foundation pieced sun block, pouring through antique quilting books, and looking for rising sun etc. blocks. Stretching my thinking even more and then finally, out of desperation, doodling a rough drawing of a large scale floral design with a big 'ol sun hanging out over the top of it. At first it felt kind all kinds of desperate. So obvious and over the top.

Loving the viny, bold flowers
A funny thing happened. Just the act of drawing the oh-so-improbable idea opened up my thinking even more. I remembered the times that I have wanted to deliberately piece backgrounds for applique and got mired in the details. Didn't gain any traction. Huh. Could this be the answer? Seeing the doodle in black and white made me contemplate how this could actually be accomplished with improv. piecing. Which of course I love doing. Would it, could it work? Maybe I could even add some orphaned parts and pieces too.... 
Subtle additions to the larger tulip
Eventually I combined all the good ideas and.... despite my very squirrely feelings of discomfort, made a plan of attack. Who cared if it was ridiculously large and naive in concept? I tried to consciously tweak each and every obvious detail into something that felt authentic, going over the details over and over till it felt right. Then, and only then, I dove into it with lots of nerves and a sort of steely resolve to see it through. No matter what kind of feedback I received, this was happening! And now, at the end of hand stitching the applique to this quilt top, I'm thinking it worked! It actually worked!! Wowsers, do I love this quirky, funky looking quilt already!

It's been a long journey with lots of hesitation and second guessing. It's wonderful to see the quilt really coming alive this last week with every single piece of applique that got sewn down. I just didn't want to quit, it was so quietly satisfying and yes, exhilarating! After all the larger applique was stitched down, then I had to add a few pieces of smaller things like the skinny leaves. Just for good balance and subtle definition.
And the value changes in the sun....
Looking so sweet to me
As an aside, the second {pink} sun has always felt like a rather silly addition. Why oh why did the quilt demand it? I so wanted to ditch the entire idea and find something else to substitute. Nope. It was the ONLY thing that looked right in that corner. And this week I think the answer made itself known in the new name for the quilt 'Sun of my life'. It sort of speaks for itself when paired with the applique design. In a surprising move, the quilt also decided that it doesn't need any sort of border whatsoever. Okay! I guess that's a wrap for now! Yay for challenges that steer us to good places!

The finished commission quilt top
I also remembered that I hadn't shown the results of the commission quilt that I had agreed to make last fall. If you think this looks like my Autumnal Tulips quilt, you would be correct.

It's a tiny bit darker than the original
A quilty gal had previously contacted me for the pattern, then later on decided not to make it after all. When she sent me the first email inquiring about me making a commission quilt {for her but for her daughter]} I instantly decided that it would be waaay to much work. Right? Then I decided to think things through a little better. Maybe give it a couple minutes to try to figure out what might make it worthwhile.

Autumnal Tulips #2
A bit of back and forth and surprisingly, we came to terms. I tried to be very straightforward about what the whole endeavor would entail--what we could expect out of each other. And Linda was super accommodating. So sweet! 

This is a smaller version of the original, but it does actually have some of the exact same fabrics included. {It was requested to be in very similar colors and fabrics.} I had to comb through the scrap bins looking for some of it, but eventually found all the important pieces! 

Like most of my quilts tend to end up, it's perfectly imperfect. Huge sigh of relief. Nothing like a bit of pressure to feel insecure about our work! And even though it's the 2nd version, it still has a nice, cozy, comfy vibe, very closely resembling the one her daughter fell in love with. You can only imagine how nervous I was to make a copycat quilt when everything I do is so scrappy looking! We only contracted for the quilt top which means I've been anticipating see the true blue completion some day in the future.Will it still look like a Quilty Folk quilt without hand quilting? Hmm... We'll have to see! Thank you Linda for being a gold star customer on my very first quilt commission!  And no, that's not gonna be my new thing. This is something out of the blue and just turned into an interesting experience! 

Okay. This time around, I'll really try better to put the bulk of my quilty efforts towards Bramble Blooms. It's not forgotten, just moving at a snails pace!


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Couple Good Finishes To Start the Year Out Right

So I actually finished two quilts in past couple weeks. Crazy days. The first one 'Positive Thinking', just needed the binding sewn on. It's been in that state for a couple months now and finally all the planets lined up or something. 

Bright flowers for the win!
This was an AHIQ challenge from 2020. I took the prompt and ran with it, using part of a biblical verse as inspiration. It had been pinned to my inspiration board forever, just waiting for the right moment to be included in a quilt.

Positive Thinking is a true blue finish!
With this particular challenge, we were encouraged to use some of our own clothing. It's something that I've been having fun with for quite awhile now, slipping a piece of my husbands or sons shirts into most every quilt. In this case, I used a couple of my shirts too. Some old favorites that had started to get a little worn around the collar or maybe too small.

Always a pleasure to look across a freshly
finished quilt
While I don't love sewing letters and words together, I absolutely adore the look in my quilts. A necessary evil I guess you would call them. It's well worth the time and effort to do any and all of the things that make a quilt sing for you!

Still wondering why these flowers didn't
need or seem to want leaves on the stems
I wanted a strong, lively border for this quilt and pondered quite a few different variations of appliqued vines and flowers etc. Then I contemplated a pieced border or two. Eventually, I stumbled upon an idea that was well past its time--a clamshell border. Hmm... I love the look so very much but have been pretty much terrified of the idea. Why? I'm not really sure. I've been pinning clamshell quilts on Pinterest for years. Drooling over most every one. 

A very cozy look
And this quilt jumped up and down for the idea and then wouldn't really allow anything else. Okay. Fine! Thankfully I found a tutorial or two that helped me get started. Once again, it wasn't nearly as difficult as my imaginations made it out to be. I didn't get it perfect or even close to perfect, but it works. It does the job. And I love what it does for the quilt.

The words here are so good
This has become one of my very favorite quilts that I've ever completed to date. Just so much to love about it! The hand quilting ended up being straight lines and a basic shadow quilting in the border. Nothing fancy. Nothing pretentious. Just a cozy, lovely handmade vibe throughout. Lots of old, languishing fabrics included in this quilt too! Weird colored blue fabrics that I was unsure if they could ever find a proper home. Isn't it so much fun to find the perfect pairing of inspiration, fabric and heart in one of our makes?

And another finish for 2024
The 'Improv. HST Medallion' quilt is the second quilt to be completed this winter. I have been slowly, slowly plugging along on the hand quilting for the past couple months. The center area of the quilt was a bit intimidating, so I went ahead and did a free hand {repeat} circle pattern. It's a little wobbly in a couple areas, but I think you have to be fairly critical to be bothered by that. I'm definitely not.

It's got the good vibes too
This quilt was started from {an almost expired} stack of marinating fabrics and a rebellious sort of inspiration. Do you ever get the urge to make a looser, wilder version of something you've already made?
Can't imagi8ne this one without the applique
I love when inspiration hits so sure and true for a certain stack of fabric. I mean, seriously, where else could these purple and cheddar fabrics have played so wonderfully well together? Without looking stodgy and staid like the unmarried aunties? This quilt is a perfect example of why I'm often so very reluctant to send oldish, simmering fabric stacks right back to the totes. What if they just haven't reached their prime together yet? What if there is something bright and shiny just waiting to burst into being and we're simply waiting on the key?

The little bit of pink makes it all better
I'm often blown away by the influence of working on older quilts and then starting the new ones. The fact that my skills, mojo, confidence, stubbornness, secret quilt longings and timing seemingly all come together to spark some of the best quilt ideas! It's not coincidence at all.

Winter light makes it look more blue
This quilt is also a recipient of my late crush on working with tulip motifs. Does it ever get old to hand stitch sweet little tulips to a quilt? I have to practically force myself to use alternate flower shapes, but then, unerringly, I come back to the tried and true, beautiful little tulip shape.
So glad for the outside border. This quilt 
definitely needed the last little bit of darker color
Because, why not? And looky, looky what they did for this bold, graphic look quilt? Almost instantaneously turned it into a 'me' quilt. Isn't that cool? Gotta love when our quilting voice comes through load and clear no matter the colors in the quilt. I may lean hard to the more mellow colors in most of my makes, but even the craziest color palettes can end up with this cozy, comfy, cuddle-up-with-me vibe that makes this quilty heart melt....