Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Sporadic Quilting These Days

Just gonna catch up for a minute and then disappear for a couple more weeks. I can't seem to keep up with everything going on lately, so if it seems like I've been checked out for awhile, that's probably why. I'm not at total overwhelm, but close.*Ugghh  What has happened to my life? Plentiful quilting time seems like such a luxury these days!

Another border for Peace Always
I did get all the little baskets appliqued and sewn onto the 'Peace Always' medallion quilt. Started way back when and moving forward very slowly! It's such a bright, happy quilt so far and the yellow backgrounds to the baskets just make everything pop. Love it so much already! Crossing my fingers the next border surround won't dampen this quilts enthusiasm.

ready for some handwork
'A Tisket, A Tasket' is ready for hand sewing the binding on. I've already mentally prepared to give this as a wedding present and now we know the wedding will be this fall. Lots of time to get the binding taken care....

Baby quilt on the design 'floor'
I am sooo behind on everything these days. Finally, finally got started on my grandsons baby quilt. Was wanting to keep it very simple, but as always, I try to work in the mommas preferred colors. My DIL is probably the only person in the world that I will make an effort to do that. It's so much harder for me to start somewhere besides a stack of fabric that is calling my name. I still have to sew the rows together and then add on the last two borders, but much progress has been made by this past weekend. I'm thinking it will end up with some machine quilting and then a bit of hand quilting to cozy it up.

playing with fussy cut applique ideas
On a whim, I cut up a piece of fabric my mother gave me this past winter. Lots of lovely flowers that were making me wonder what they might look like fussy cut and appliqued onto a pieced background. Hmm... what about 'Old Fashioned'? Such a simple quilt, I'm sure it would appreciate a little extra time and attention. Still haven't settled on exactly how I'll approach the layout, but it will definitely need some interesting leaves and lots of stems cut out and sewn down!

Next up in the hoop!
Next up in the hoop is Coronacrazy. It's been at the top of the hand quilting list for well over a year and I've just been finding one excuse after another to avoid doing it. Finally got it sandwiched and pinned, all snugged into the hoop. Hope it turns out well! I'm thinking about putting it into the NCW Quilt show this summer. Haven't went since 2019, so it might be time. We'll see. I love putting my quilts into shows where I can see them hang, but always feel a little bad that I'm not part of the guild. Oh well. It's too far away and their meeting times would never work for me and my commitments. Just easier to pay the fee per quilt and hope they don't turn me away!

Am trying to work on the next prompt for Bramble Blooms too. Will hopefully have something up and present by the end of June or perhaps the first week or so in July! So far, I'm not finding it difficult to work with those older fabrics. It just feels like I need a lot more time with the pondering....


Friday, May 17, 2024

Bramble Blooms QAL--2nd Quilt in the Series

Here we are, starting in on Bramble Blooms II already! We began working on the first quilt in the series last October, so as predicted, it's been a fairly laid-back QAL. If you're still working on your BBI, that's okay, you can still jump in with the rest of us, we don't mind! In the first Bramble Blooms, we lined up all of our elements, or in 'creative speak', planted a few seeds. Now we'll take those freshly planted seeds, shake them up a bit and explore some options for making a variation. As Andrea Balosky says so well in 'Transitions, Unlocking the Creative Quilter Within'; "Working in a series is the best way to exercise creativity; each project is an extension and complement of the other." Hopefully, along the way, something personal and wonderfully unique will start to blossom!

BBII Fabric pull
The first thing I suggest you do, is to gather your second fabric pull together. Hopefully using copious amounts of your older, languishing stash fabrics! Many of you made three fabric pulls initially, so you might already have this done. My BBII fabric stack color palette is very, very similar to the fabric pulled for BBI, something done very intentionally. In fact, I grabbed a couple leftover fabrics from the previous fabric stack and inserted them directly into this 2nd round, no problem. If you recall, I started this entire QAL with the feeling of, 'Wowsers, there is sooo much of this stale-dated {and similar colored} fabric hanging around in my stash totes! What am I ever going to do with it?' You, of course, can choose any color palette you like, no matter what your first efforts included. 

Something I've discovered through the years, when I'm totally out of wanna-be-great ideas, is this: a self imposed challenge can totally kickstart brand new thinking. It starts by breaking us free of our normal habits and gives us permission to forget about imagining the totality of the final result. Isn't that where the pressure usually starts? Making it about a challenge totally changes the goalposts. All we have to do is meet the challenge, we don't even necessarily have to be 'in the mood' to get started.

A lot of times a quilt series comes about because there are many more ideas than can fit into one quilt. In this case, there have been very few ideas, or why wouldn't the fabric have already been used up many years prior? With the Bramble Blooms QAL, we are attempting to prod our creativity awake. Within a guided Improv. setting, we are using all the artificial restrictions necessary to trick our brains into thinking 'This is easy, all I have to do is this one thing.' And then one thing after another, we have literally made a quilt top. Right? All out of previously overlooked, ignored and/or neglected fabrics. And it feels good, even if it might not be the most amazing thing ever made. 

I mean, maybe it is! I've seen some fantastic quilt tops over here. Definitely already picked up on a couple great ideas to keep in reserve!
Just start
Sometimes though, we just can't quite engage. That's when we have to purposefully activate our curiosity, however clumsy the attempt. By making this challenge a combination of series work, using less-than-precious fabrics, structuring the whole endeavor with a medallion layout, and leaving room for improv. opportunities, it somehow makes it all the more playful in my opinion. Series work gives us real opportunity to turn the page and start over. "See? That was just our first attempt!" Using older fabrics? We can hack into it and be less fearful about making some huge, catastrophic mistake plus, it often endues a quilt with a humble, comfy vibe. Then there's the medallion quilt layout--not everyone's favorite, but it's quite easily broken down into phases of starting and stopping.*whew! Sometimes it helps to back off and take a moment to breathe. 

And last, is the Improv. aspect--making things up as we go along. We love it and hate it. No doubt about it, the unpredictability of finished outcome is extremely difficult for many traditional quilt lovers. That's because we want our efforts to be worthwhile and not be a waste of time, money or resources. It isn't! Whatever the final outcome, we at least made it to quilt top stage with Bramble Blooms I. At this point, whether we realize it or not, most of us have unwittingly planted lots of little seeds for our own creativity. Just waiting for a chance to come into existence! Let's take our simple piecing and/or applique motifs, reframe them, and see what happens next, shall we?

The first prompt is to make a totally different style of centerpiece than the previous BBI quilt start. This one will be focusing on the pieced look rather than the applique.  Refer to your own BBI quilt and choose out one of the pieced elements to make a centerpiece for this second quilt in the series. My suggestion is to use the {corner of the border} quarter triangle blocks from the first border. If you included those. 

Whatever you choose for this pieced block, make sure it's an element with solid connections to your first quilt top in the series. You can make these blocks in the exact style and size as before, or change everything up, including the method or style by which you made them. Can make your centerpiece with as little as one block or as many as makes a decent sized centerpiece! Sashing is completely optional. The colors in this new centerpiece do not have to mimic the colors in the previous attempt at all.

Chunky improv. blocks
As previously stated, I have deliberately chosen to stay in a similar color palette throughout the duration of the QAL. Overall, I'm intending to mix the colors up, back and forth, from centerpiece to centerpiece, border to border so all the quilts don't end up reading exactly the same. For this centerpiece, I started with mostly medium to dark colored fabrics and cut 12 improv. blocks ala Sujata Shah in 'Cultural Fusions' book. This is a stack method with free cutting. Needless to say, I got distracted, and cut the first set of blocks with the 'x' quite a bit wider than intended. Oops! 

1st Centerpiece
It shouldn't have been a big deal, I do love the chunky x block shape. The problem presented itself when I tried to lay them side by side without any sashing dividers. Yah. It looked like total mush! After playing around with the blocks for several days, I finally settled on the very light, cream colored, wide sashing strips as the solution. I so did not want to ditch these blocks! This cream floral is a tiny bit busy for the look I was aiming for, but I've been wanting to make use of it for years and years. It's quite lovely in person, but always seemed supremely unwilling to work in any other quilt I've attempted. Just finding a spot for it in this oddly large {at this point} centerpiece feels like a win! There's also part of a special fat quarter used; my mom brought it back from a visit to Georgia over 15 years ago. Just for me. Gotta love that!

2nd Centerpiece
Both of those 'wins' helped me feel better about the centerpiece as a whole, but it's definitely not what I set out to do. Nope. So weirdly proportioned to comfortably settle into centerpiece position. Whatever, I am not a quitter! haha
In an atypically extreme reaction, I set about to make a very simplistic block as my 2nd BBI centerpiece attempt. Only one. I've decided after much reflection, to have two BBII quilts on the go. One with too much centerpiece and the other with only the minimum required. That's actually why my fabric pull is so oddly arranged in case you were wondering! I've been playing with the stack, trying to think which fabrics should go into each of the BBII quilts or which might even overlap? Hopefully There's enough fabric to see it all through! 

Don't forget that this is a guided Improv. QAL. All of the prompts are just that--prompts. Not rules and regulations. If your creativity sends you off in a different direction, by all means, please follow the mojo! Once again, this is intended to be a Medallion style quilt. If it helps to anticipate the bare bones of where we're headed, it will have two more borders--as before--give or take any coping borders. The first border will probably be piecing with possible applique. The second border will definitely ask for applique and also have some guidance for making a freestyle bias vine. If you don't want to include any applique, that's unequivocally your choice. I don't hardly know how to make a quilt without it,*sigh but I do get it! Also, it seems crazy to have to say, but... just because you joined in with the first quilt, doesn't mean there's any obligation to make all three in the series. Make 1, 2 or 3 or none. It's all good. Seriously. I'm doing this anyway!

We never know when or how a spark might flare to life when it comes to exercises in creativity. It's perfectly reasonable to feel like we're soldiering through, just making the minimum effort. Then, at the oddest moment, something tugs at our conscious minds and demands attention. The quilt gets a little bossy. That's our instincts and intuition trying to speak up! Remember those seeds of creativity? It probably won't happen much at the start of a simple pieced centerpiece, but afterwards? What we do next will be about reacting to what came before. Series are about connections. Let's see what blossoms and takes shape with BBII! Will probably try to come back with the 1st border prompt by the end of June or first part of July. 

p.s. I'd totally promise that this quilt will look even better than BBI, but series are kinda odd ducks that way. Sometimes the last quilt is absolutely the best, sometimes it's the first, and other times it's one in the middle. We just never know. The one thing that I'm confident in, is the more we make space for creativity, the better our odds get at ending up with an incredible quilt. None of the effort is ever wasted though. We carry our experiences with us into future projects and you know what? That feels priceless.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Grandma's Fans is Complete!

 The brand new quilt finish is 'Grandma's Fans'!  This was started in 2021 sometime after my daughters wedding. Just felt like getting a couple of the fabric stacks moving and grooving.

Grandma's Fans Quilt is finishedd!
Didn't get the top together until September of 2022, but that's not really an extra long time for projects around here. You're probably thinking 'Wow! There's no applique in it.' but actually there is. All the wedges and quarter circle are machine sewn together, but then, well... I simply had to hand sew them to the background squares.

Doesn't really look like a quilt my grandma would have made
Just something that I prefer to do most of the time. Gotta have a couple hand applique projects in the works at all times. Might break out in hives otherwise! Plus, precision and circles are not my strong suit at all. 

Loving this hand quilting texture!
I've always really loved the fan quilts, such a lovely, classic design. Just never thought I'd make one in these lighter, brighter colors! The final inspiration {after soaking up many ideas for 'fan' quilts through the years, was this quilt. It's not very often that I make a quilt that so closely mirrors the inspiration but for some reason I fell in love with this particular quilt. 

Still happy about the change-up in fans presentation
I did change up the colors slightly and also, turned some of the fans, changing the look incrementally. My quilt just wasn't happy with all the fans pointing in the same direction! 

Love the text fabric backgrounds in mine sooo much. There's something about text fabrics that always make me smile and this design helped show them off a bit. Obviously, I didn't go off of a pattern, but made it up on my own. Always have to do things my way, don't I? It's going to be extremely hard to get rid of this quilt when the time comes. It's already earmarked for one of the nephew weddings someday! Probably. Maybe. Unless I change my mind....

Definitely a cuddly sort of quilt!
Mostly I'm just thrilled to have another quilt finish. Things are moving so slowly around here lately {in regards to quilting} that I wonder if I'm even a quilter? Ha. Nope. Not wondering at all. It's still my thing!

The background isn't stark white 'cuz of the text
Must be. Since I dream of quilts and see quilt patterns and ideas practically everywhere I go. And yes, I still have a notebook by my bed where I can doodle a quick quilt idea just before nodding off at night.*sigh

A happy looking circle of fans!
The hand quilting has picked up a little of late. 'A Tisket, A Tasket' quilt is the newest one in the hoop. It's got a very easygoing, cottage country sort of charm. I stitched in-the-ditch between all the blocks and now I'm coming back and doing some hand quilting with Perle Cotton thread. Always seems to makes the whole quilt perk up! The colors are very different from the prior quilt in the hoop, which isn't always a bad thing. Helps keep things interesting!

In the hoop
And the little baskets below are the current hand applique project finally finding its way to needle and thread. Got about half of them done now with the slightly larger {taller} baskets left to stitch. It's so lovely to sit and do hand applique. I know many of you detest the neede-turn application, but if everything is prepped and ready to go, I just love it. So satisfying! It's rather like painting a picture in fabric to my mind.

Baskets for 'Peace Always' quilt

That's it for now. Every now and then I pull out a stack of marinating fabric and fiddle around with it, trying to conjure up some good quilting mojo. Sometimes I go upstairs to my quilt room and try to soak it all in before I have to scurry and get back to whatever needs my attention more. It's been great seeing all the BBI quilt tops together--how very, very different they are! Have you seen how many there are now? Loving the creative response to the QAL prompts and how original everyone has been. Hopefully it hasn't been a waste of anyone's time. We only have so many quilts we can make in our lifetime, right?

Monday, April 29, 2024

Bramble Blooms I Link Party is Now Open!

You've all seen the results for my Bramble Blooms I quilt, but here it is again. It's time for the link party! Hopefully you have a completed top to share with us, but if not, go ahead and share whatever progress that you have made. There is no shame that some projects just take their own sweet time!

Bramble Blooms I quilt top finish

I have been swallowed up in family things lately and so haven't had much time to bounce around to all of the blogs and check out newly completed BBI quilt tops. Am so looking forward to seeing all the creativity in one place! Believe me when I say that I have been absolutely staggered by the personal, creative responses to following along with my little exercise in using up older quilt fabrics. Hopefully there has been something of value learned along the way. It's really hard to guess exactly what 'everybody knows already'. When and if to just go ahead and pass along a little tip or trick that works for me and the way that I personally approach quilting. Has it been too much? 

With this quilt top finish, we will have an excellent frame of reference for moving forward with the second quilt in the series. If some of you are still up for that? I have started the very beginnings of my own BBII and hope to post more about that in a couple weeks. Need time to organize the pertinent info needed for everyone attempting to make their own version! Crossing my fingers there will be ample opportunity to get through all the details by then. If life continues the way it has the past several months, it might actually be June before BBII makes its appearance. Uggh.  I am so out of patience with lack of quilting time. 

Okay, enough complaining. Let's see what you have to share with us! I know a couple of you actually have a total quilt finish to show off....

This party will be open through May 14, 2024 for all the slower bloomers to have a chance to share too.  And another thing, I set the Linky Party up so that if there happen to be any Bramble Blooms QAL followers out there without a blog or Instagram to post to, they can just add a picture here of their quilt top. We'd love to see your work as well! Please do add a link if you have one though--that would be all of you QAL'ers listed over at the side bar! 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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!