Friday, May 17, 2019

It's Good to Have the Occasional Challenge Turn Out, Especially When Things are Looking Pretty Ho Hum Along the Way

Let me just say right off the bat, that I am really proud of this quilt. The reason being, it was a total challenge on many different fronts that could of, should have, might have totally defeated me. And it didn't, because I didn't let it happen that way. There are some of you out there who get very weary of the constant stream of finishes. That's okay. We all work at different speeds. Just try to remember that to many of us seemingly 'racing' through the finishes, it's the process, more than any other element, that compels us to jump straight from one project into another. Then another immediately after!
Lattice quilt is a finish!
There's always something more to explore. As most of you know, I love a good play with color. Oh boy, do I ever! This however, was a humdinger. It's terribly hard for me to sew together a quilt in someone else's preferred color ranges. Even more so when they seem muddy or dull, which this color palette had going on in spades. After my very first red fabric pull, I realized this one was going to be extra tough. I oh-so-reluctantly put back the brighter, more cheerful reds and determinedly grabbed fabrics in the proper range of maroon and maroon. Gripe, gripe, grumble....
A little crazy, but a lot interesting...
Oh wow. What do do with a stack of fabrics that inspire zero delight? Ughh! And so I wracked my brain trying to figure out other colors that could be added to 'lift up' the quilt to a point where I could be happy to see it come to fruition. Colors that wouldn't take over the quilt, but add in a little bit of life. Some spontaneity maybe? What's the point in making a quilt that speaks to someone else's preferences, but totally lacks any joy? I just can't work that way. Dig me a black hole and dump me in. If someone is getting a quilt from me, then you better believe there's going to be a tiny, eensy-weensy, part of my soul in it.
So happy with the background effect
Immediately discarding the idea of the traditional {read harsh and cold} additions of black or lots of white, I then surprisingly settled upon adding pieces of lights to med. grays and very light to med. green/blues. The blue/greens were easy, but I tried to be very careful with the pattern and look to the gray fabrics. They can easily read very bleak as well.

There's just a hint of white in the quilt but even that fabric has a blue tint. {Well, until after I soaked and washed the quilt after the finish. Now it has the very faintest of red tints!} Feeling that it lacked depth, I dug around and found some black fabrics that had enough brown in them to feel 'softer'. All those additions helped make the project feel more doable, especially with the few floral prints scattered into the mix. What could possibly read more 'cozy' than a few florals? But what about the design of the quilt?  And there it sat for a long time while I mulled over many, many possibilities. Again, there was really no spark, no compelling desire to dive in and get straight to work.
The white ended up with a very faint tinge of pink.
Don't think most people will ever notice.
It wasn't until the Red is a Neutral invitation was given out that I grabbed onto the beginnings of an idea. Why not start with the premise that red would be used in the place where I would normally be using cream, white or perhaps black? Flipping through the Unexpected and Unconventional book by Roderick Kiracofe further solidified the direction these fabrics would end up taking. I eagerly joined up with the #UANDUQAL as well thinking that a two-way {three-way?} challenge would be a potential way to make the entire project fun, not a chore that had to be done. Bear in mind that this was something I wanted to make. Nobody was making me do it.
So happy with how the blue adds a happy spark.
When the initial foundation of a quilt is all about color, then the pattern becomes secondary. Right? With so many of the quilts in the book having a make-do vibe, I figured there would be lots of room to make adjustments and improvise. Focusing on getting the color palette to gel properly would be the driving force behind most every decision that cropped up. Okay. In no time at all, the lattice quilt was selected and the project was a go.
These ties were more needed than I realized!
You probably remember me posting about the struggles of having to add in even more fabrics from the depths of the stash totes. Oh yes, that totally stressed me out. Not because I hate my stash, but because red fabrics like to squabble and bicker. It's not always immediately obvious which ones belong together for life. But I remained determined and clung to the idea that if this was going to be a make-do look quilt, then whatever was available would have to do. Period. I did lots of squinting and telling the logical side of my brain to just 'shut up for a minute and let me think'!
Machine quilting not perfect but looks exactly right for the quilt.
Focused on colors blending. Letting things gently clash as they so often do in utility and make-do style quilts.. Eliminating fabrics that were too flamboyant in comparison with what it was resting up against and trying to hog all the limelight. Clenching my teeth and ignoring the spotty, more printed fabrics that threatened to give me a headache. Reminding myself of all those things that make these sorts of quilts lovable.... Telling myself, 'not taking the easy road and going to the store for a better selection!' And somehow it all worked out.*whew! It's terribly hard sometimes to envision what's growing in front of our eyes as that perfectly finished product it needs to be. The one with texture and character which it definitely doesn't have until well..., it actually happens!  It's like the difference between cake with frosting and cake without. Which one looks the best?
Only had to rip out a little bit of machine quilting
before finding my groove on this one...
I did sneak in a gorgeous bright, cheery red Kaffe fabric. I know some of you noticed that right off. Isn't it lovely? Like the cherry on top of the sundae. It was already in the stash and the quilt thanks me for it. I like to think that this interpretation of the quilt {pictured below} is a true compliment to the original maker, with the brighter red falling in line with the heart and soul of her wonderful quilt. This color palette ended up being a little more narrow in definition overall, but still, the ebb and flow of the quilt feels quite similar.
The original spark of inspiration for pattern...
My quilt is machine quilted in two organic lines all along the lattice and then yarn tied once in the middle of every square. That connects back to the original inspiration as well. I tried to buy a wool yarn that supposedly would fuzz up a little better after washing, but gave up in despair when it proved too thick of a yarn. Off to Walmart I went, not having the patience to wait on an Internet order or another trip to town {an hour away}. Off topic perhaps, but don't bother buying the nubby look yarn for ties in a quilt. Quite the irritation pulling yarn through fabric and having it hang up on the 'texture'!

Sometimes I don't go back and look at the original inspiration much after starting a quilt, but this time felt the need. So much was out of my comfort zone. I kept feeling that if only somehow I could translate this cozy, comfy, utilization look, then all the red would be a side note. In spite of the fact that I started with red, the entire quilt was about red, I needed that red to be part of the story, not The. Entire. Story. I'm really, really happy with the subtleties, which of course is a nod to the original too. This quilt wouldn't be nearly as interesting without all the background value changes. I can only wish that I had had a few more of the darkest of red fabrics available.

The final detail that helped make the quilt in my opinion, was choosing a very old, dull looking homespun for the binding. I winced, second guessed myself and then finally bit the bullet and cut out the fabric anyway. A stupid, ugly fabric that had almost been thrown away many, many times over the last 10 years! Isn't that part of the growing and maturing process in the process of quilting? Learning when best to ignore that left brain side of our conscious that tells us how untidy things will look or how big of a mistake we'll be making? The more times we ignore that urge and have success, the easier it gets to trust in our instincts.

And so it is. I can't even imagine this quilt without the yarn ties, the homespun look binding, the random, odd, different prints such as the dark grey rodeo? fabric! lol  Where in the world did that one come from? Yep, it has some character for sure. I've said this before about other quilts, but I don't think this quilt would have been possible even 10 years ago. There's something to be said for stepping out of our sad little comfort zones and forcing ourselves to work in a place of uncertainty. What's that quote? 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself?" Don't be surprised if you see more of these sorts of quilts in the future. It's all angst and anxiety in the making, but totally worthwhile in the end....


  1. Omigosh - what a fabulous post describing your process. SO well written and explained. And the quilt is pretty darned awesome, too.

  2. This quilt has an incredible story and it has had a process uniquely its own. I always love following your process. Your right brain was truly stepping out. Glad you followed intuition.

  3. Wow. You really went through a lot of thought and effort into a quilt that you are giving away. If I am making a quilt to give away, especially if it's in colors that I don't care for, I usually pick an easy pattern. My family and friends seem to appreciate simple quilt patterns that are in their favorite colors. I usually leave the intense quilt making for my personal quilts. I'm not sure that I could force myself through a complicated quilty effort in colors that I didn't want to spend a lot of time with. The pictures of your quilt prove that the extra time and effort were definitely worth it, though!

  4. I was pulled in by the title of the post! I would have admired the quilt just as it is and thought, "Wow, what a great use of color," but I admire it even more after reading the details about your design process. (And now I will look up "red is a neutral" and "UandUQAL"! I have Kiracofe's book...)

  5. Wonderful process, wonderful quilt

  6. I love your version of this quilt even better than the original! I have yet to make a predominantly red quilt, mainly due to the possibility of the color running. Even though I prewash everything (except precuts), red especially seems to run over and over again. Maybe, if I find a brand that is better than the rest, I will give it a try.

  7. Wonderful end result! It was fun to hear how you talk to your project as you're working ... it sounds like how I talk to my kids!

  8. I feel like it all came together really well. I agree we need to be in each of our quilts, even in a tiny way.

  9. Well, you already know I absolutely love this quilt, it has such a wonderful glow. In my book you can't go wrong with a plaid binding either, and it's a perfect finishing touch.

  10. As a newly wed I learned to tie quilts/comforters with the older ladies of my church making utility quilts to donate to the needy. When I began making comforters I found that synthetic yard worked best for me. I'm dyslexic and have trouble remembering how to tie a square knot. The acrylic yarn would fray and make a nice knotted ball on the tie and keep it together. When I used cotton "dishcloth" yarn, they would untie! I love your difficult quilt. I've made some too (upon request!), and they languish due to how boring they are! And so glad to have them gone to their new home!

  11. It's just awesome, Audrey, and so is this post, taking us through the whole bumpy journey!

  12. Well, the end result shows none of the stress and angst it caused you. It is delightful. And, I couldn't agree more that the ties are a necessity to the overall feeling of the quilt. I find it distressing that most quilt shows (including our state show) do not allow tied quilts. Clearly they are missing a huge part of quilt history not to mention some fabulous texture! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Maroon instead of red. What a perfect setting. It makes the blue/greys glow and shows off the red line so well. Clever mix of quilting and tying. I would have used wool yarn, too, so thanks for sharing the acrylic tip.
    This quilt mixes all the challenges so well. It's simple but very effective.

  14. It's a beautiful quilt, especially since I also hate the colour maroon. I spent seven years wearing maroon everyday in my school uniform and I can't abide the colour at all now. I've told my family that if they want anything in maroon (knitting or quilting), they have to do it themselves. It's like my one bottom line! Sadly it's my MIL's favourite colour!

  15. Oh, I just love your result. Adding the brighter reds, and the unexpected, did elevate it. Reds tend to play well together! I too cringe at working with a color scheme that's not "me". I think you did a beautiful job and created a unique and homey quilt. Love the ties too and tied quilts are legitimate and wonderful!

  16. This is a beautiful quilt of art! The accent color choices are inspired.
    Sew inspiring ... <3 Pat


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