Friday, April 27, 2018

A Freehand Applique {Process} Post

*Warning! Picture heavy post! If you don't like talking about the details, better skip this post. lol  Yesterday, after sitting in a mechanics waiting room for 3 hours, I finally finished up the applique on my Big Basket quilt. Yay! After getting home and taking care of dinner, dishes etc., I naturally stuck it up on my design wall to check things out.
Ready for more applique stitching
Hmm.. It obviously needed another leaf. And I obviously needed some creative re-charge after my very long day. It wasn't any time before I was totally in the zone!
Thinking it's done
Okay. That leaf was a huge addition. Completely changed the look of the quilt! {Heavy sarcasm inserted there}. My heart was sinking at what was quickly shaping up to be just a little too boring. But you have to start somewhere! It's really rare that the greatest ideas are thought of right off the bat. We generally have to work UP to the point of a fabulous, light-bulb sort of idea!
Adding one more leaf
So I started playing--for almost two whole hours! And this process post is for all you people who think applique and design just come naturally to some of us. NO! It is work. Play. Total immersion. Curiosity. A desire and willingness to keep tweaking something until our gut says enough. Sometimes we even have to come back at it from a different direction on another day. We'll know when we know, but until then?

In cases like this I sort of cock my head to the side and think 'what can happen here to make me smile?' Whimsy. Something interesting and maybe unexpected. And so I got out my trusty scissors and free-cut a bird. {You totally knew it would be a bird}. Just grabbed a magazine subscription card out of the trashcan and started cutting. It was placed/auditioned all over that basket, let me tell you. Every place imaginable, turned this way and that. Trying it in paper-form first is a good way to leave color out of the equation and see if the element is good.
Playing with the addition of a bird
I liked the bird. It's a happening thing. But it's so much easier to play with some bits and bobs. And so I got out my applique parts and pieces totes. These are precious quilt dress-up props that occasionally work themselves into a quilt. Leftovers and too-small cuts. Wrong color parts that just feel wrong to throw away. And why should we? They are essential to the freehand, design-as-you-go quilters toolbox. Go get your own if you haven't already, mine is years and years in the making!
Digging through the parts and pieces totes
In the interest of full disclosure, I think you need to know that I took absolutely zero pictures while in the middle of this design immersion. It was late, the lighting was terrible and quite frankly, when I'm in the zone, pictures are usually the least of my concern! The results were very carefully deconstructed this morning, after thinking of all you dear readers who might want a tiny peak into my quilt room crazy quilting mind. I was crossing my fingers it would all go back together like it was before!

You can see that at some point I decided the bird needed to be holding a flower. It gives it attitude I think, which helps create some of that whimsy I love to pursue. I wasted a bit of fabric cutting the bird in other colors like peach and purple etc. Ughh. Tried out a nifty little wing that might look cool. Finally settled on a fussy cut blue bird with no eye because all the eyeballs auditioned looked creepy. Ditched the wing which did absolutely nothing of import anyway.
Adding another flower
But the flower was too blendy with the rest of the flowers. Meh. Maybe a different color, shape of flower all together? The simple lollipop flowers are always a safe bet, so that went up on the wall for a few minutes. Nope. too simple looking and maybe, just a little too predictable as well. We all have our style preferences, but no reason to get stale....
Or maybe this one?
Just had to admit it. The other shape was better, so change it back and move on. I started adding more leaves. That inside part of the basket just looked too barren and well..., lacking. I played and played and played with pre-cut leaves from the parts and pieces totes. Light ones, dark ones, skinny ones, fat ones. And finally, I found what seemed to look best. What you see below is AFTER I went digging through the stash bins to find suitably matching fabrics to cut the new leaves out of. Because, and this is important, those leaves were looking good at the size they were already cut out at, and that doesn't include a seam allowance.*sigh  It was much harder than usual to find the appropriate greens too, as all the parts and pieces fabrics had been used up long, long ago. Somehow most of the green fabrics I was finding were too 'sour' looking or not grass green enough. It's a dilemma for sure, but it finally got sorted out. Love how the darker greens perk everything up, makes the flowers start looking happy{er}. Why do we always forget about value changes and keep going with the matchy, matchy, oh-so blendy look? Because it's easy and we get in a rut.
It really, really needed these leaves....
But that flower.... What if I changed out the ugly green color of the stem for something a little more true-green instead of something so drab? I only have a few narrow pieces of bias stem in the tote,  but if I had too, there's always the option of making brand new. Just don't wanna if I don't have to! While at it with the scissors, that flower might look better in a brighter red fabric too. Cut, cut, audition, contemplate, play. There really is no limitation except what your minds eye wants to see happen.

You see how this works? The process of creative play isn't something special only to a few of us, this is how quilts can get made everywhere! The more we engage in it, the more instinctive some of our decisions become. Our confidence builds and we open up to something that expands our quilting results to something that can't even be measured! Our quilts become our own instead of carbon copies, which feels really, really good.

 Somewhere along the line, I decided the bird needed a friend as he was looking lonely. I used the same template from earlier, but I cut it narrow, about a seam allowance inside the traced lines instead of a quarter inch on the outside, and then chopped a little extra of the tail. Both are fussy cut from the same fabric, with the little floral design landing on the birds belly. That's the sort of detail that will always and forever make me smile! It was an impulsive decision to make the second bird smaller too, but once it was up on the wall, there was no going back. Don't you think the size difference adds a sweetness? A personality? Maybe a relationship?
And another bird?
Okay... that flower... It was really bugging me guys. And so I went digging a little deeper in the stash totes and found a Kaffe fabric that I could fussy cut to make a little more jazzy of a flower. Still that simple shape that will be super easy to applique. LOVE Kaffe fabrics for fussy-cut fun, and though the colors are a little 'off' in regards to the rest of the quilt, everything within me sighed in total creative satisfaction. Yes! I'm not ever afraid to add in a fabric that clashes just a tiny little bit. Love how it changes the energy in the quilt ever so subtly.
This flower is so much better!
So yeah. That's the story of me making one of my applique quilts. So many design decisions from one setting to the next--it just keeps evolving! I went from thinking it was done to adding thirteen more pieces to the quilt top that would need to be stitched down.  Uhhh... make that fifteen. Wouldn't you know it! Today when I was deconstructing the quilt top for the purposes of pictures, I had another creative brainstorm. Hmm... could it possibly use some side handles on the basket?
How about handles?
I drew out some options on paper and auditioned them carefully. Yes, no, maybe so.
Or this shape?
Finally decided I like how it looked and went digging for more fabric. Ended up choosing the same fabric that is on the very bottom of the basket. I like it's stripey detail and how it should tie-in color-wise and at the same time, not distract from the more fun elements in the quilt. This chunk was all I had left of that particular fabric and so had to make best use of the smaller striped part of the fabric--that part that seemed like a good fit for basket handles.
Drawing on the fabric and then cutting the pieces out...
It would have been better if these basket handles could have been sewn on before the larger handle and the rest of the basket were stitched down to the background handle. I like for applique pieces to be 'layered' as opposed to the less neat option of butting up against. Oh well. Too late to fix that now unless I want to get out the seam ripper. Not!
Ready to be stitched down...
Now in looking through all these pictures, I see where the flowers and other details are clumped together on the right side of the basket. I'll have to check this out a little more thoroughly and see if there's something to be done to add back in that balance or if it's even necessary. My quilts are never, ever perfect anyway. How boring would that be?*wink


  1. Ahhh....yes, yes! Love your final choices. There is a story with the birds. I can't decide if they are arranging the flowers in the basket, just adding their own flower to the mix, or taking a flower for their nest.

  2. I like the birds so much!! What a perfect addition. The pictures of your process are so helpful. Thanks!

  3. A big wow! Love the uniqueness of the basket. The shape of the flowers is whimsical. Good piece thus far.

  4. Love the two birds, the extra flower, and the multi color leaves. GREAT process post!!

  5. I love the extra leafs and the flowers, not sure about the handles. Love seeing and reading the progres. Warm greetings

  6. Wow! I'm exhausted watching you create! Hahaha! All worth the efforts though. Love the extra, different colored leaves. The two little birds turned on the sweetness. The design of the basket and the flowers are absolutely beautiful. Great job! And thanks for sharing the process.

  7. Loved the step by step of your creative process - I was right there with you. Your birds are perfect and you hit the nail on the head with your final flower design. When I saw your first photo I thought the flowers were a border - they would be great for that too so I had to Pin them for future reference! p.s. So happy that you save your appliqué bits and bobs to incorporate into other projects. To me, that's quilting - a little of this and a little of that...

  8. Thanks for the ride-along on your process! Love seeing this evolve under your whimsical eye!

  9. As I read this I thought to myself...ah, so that's how she does it! I love the two little birds, and I really loved how you just popped in those few darker leaves, made all the difference. Excellent post Audrey.

  10. Never on your life are there too many photos! Right on Girl! Loving this whole process.

  11. I truly enjoy following along during your creative processes. It helps me remember that it can take several or many trials before the right choice comes along. I adore those flowers!

  12. Thank you for the narrative on your process! So interesting. And so many decisions! My brain hurts just watching. Ow.

  13. I love seeing the process! It looks terrific and helps me feel better about my decision making!

  14. Fantastic process post, Audrey! I found it really fascinating to see the way you go about applique - it's very similar to my take on piecing.

  15. Great read - just what I needed, thoughts on freehand appliqué! Love it!!!

  16. That was fabulous! Thank you, Audrey. Love the addition of the birds.

  17. This was a fascinating look at how a quilt becomes an Audrey quilt!


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