Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Tale of Two Applique Quilts

Once in a great while, I have this mad idea to throw some fabrics together and just 'see' what can come of them. This Home Sweet Home was just such a quilt. Only I got derailed by the idea that it might look better with appliqued words on it. Where have we heard that before?
Home Sweet Home quilt top finished!
Then I paused for a very long time in major indecision. Why am I spending so much time on a quilt that I'm not even sure that I like? But something kept propelling me forward with the applique ideas until I finally just gave in. Okay. Time to get moving on the applique list anyway, might as well start off with the easy stuff.
Adding applique usually makes me pretty happy...
You can see from the picture below why the quilt was giving me fits. It was totally out of proportion. That sweet, cream rose petal and leaf fabric was just too much. The length of it was all wrong and made everything else look odd. When I eventually realized that all the applique in the world wasn't going to fix my problems, then the solution finally, finally slunk around the corner and sort of waved at me. Hi? Anybody there? How bout taking some of that rose/leaf fabric out and replacing it with something a lot more interesting? Yeah, I do sort of get mesmerized by applique thoughts and forget that it doesn't always magically make everything look better. But the purple/blue striped fabric sure did the job. Wowsers. What a difference that little strip made!
Not feeling very enthralled at this point!
And then I discovered even more reason to add applique, right? Why not? In spite of various issues with this quilt, it's really one of my favorite ways to play. No pre-determined idea of what the quilt should look like, a quilt top that isn't going to look any worse after experimenting, overflowing applique parts and pieces totes begging for attention.... Justification is so, so easy!

After several of these 'throw-together/experiment type' quilt tops impulsively turning into an applique rescue mission through the years, you'd think I could finally start calling them by what they really are: Intentional Backgrounds. At some point I give these doubtful quilt tops a good long stare and determine they aren't totally un-salvageable, and then out comes the abandoned applique bits totes. We'll see about this. I've been calling them my Uglyoddchangelingquilts for years, but maybe it's time to stop. Some of these do actually turn into quite charming looking quilts, amazing at that may seem.*wink  Hey, don't try to kid me, you know you've winced at more than one of my starting-out efforts!
Loving that striped fabric addition!
That's the main reason that I post even the ugly starting point on the blog, every single time. As much as it hurts. Hmm... I did that? It's just hard sometimes to share a picture of something that doesn't reflect well on our creativity or vision, but if we leave that part out of the story, then we're not being 100% honest with our readers. We're prettying things up to make us look better. Look how smart we are, never taking a wrong turn. And also, there's no point of reference for later, which I personally love, those 'from there to this' moments! For those out there who don't like mistakes being pointed out, remember, growth often comes from mistakes being corrected. If every single time we didn't know have a clue what we were doing, where we needed to go, it paralyzed us into inaction? Many of our best quilts would never even have been started! And if a quilt never gets any better? Oh well. Comfort quilts are useful too!
The green stems/leaves could be brighter, but they were
all pulled straight from the applique parts totes!
After all the applique was done on Home Sweet Home {I was mostly satisfied with the results?}, then I turned my eye to the Ormes Inspired quilt. It's an interpretation attempt so it feels like considerably less room for make-it-up-as-I-go-along type of fun. Or maybe it's just a different kind of fun altogether? Yes. That's it. Love when everything starts to gel and the true feeling/vibe starts to shine through! I had the pink tree and the elephant cut out and ready to sew since before the holidays actually September, but hadn't felt any particular motivation to start stitching. It just happens that way sometimes. This is a big canvas and not the most favorable hand stitching environment as far as comfort goes.
Starting back on the Ormes Inspired quilt
The elephant seemed adequate until right up to the moment it was totally stitched and then I didn't like him/her anymore. Something felt 'wrong' enough that I puzzled over it for several days. Did I seriously need to redraw the entire elephant again? The first time was hard enough for this non-artist person that I am! Ultimately I fell down on the side of, if I don't change something, it's going to irritate me for the rest of my life. What is the best that I can do without needing to start completely over?
Original inspiration. Please know that I have
received permission from the artist herself to do this!
Eventually I decided that if the elephants head could be less curved looking and the eye adjusted slightly, then everything else could probably be left alone.*sigh  Out came the seam ripper and good applique scissors. It's not perfect, never will be, but now I can quit picking her apart. And yes, I've emphatically decided it's a 'she'. My quilt, my elephant!

You can see on the left side of the quilt, the next seven elements added to the quilt. With applique, it's always, stitch from the bottom up when dealing with layers! The upper left black leaf has a partial area of dark magenta fading into the large pink tree and the bottom lower left tan leaf has a green tip where it overlaps the tall green/white Matisse leaf element. These colors are not anywhere near 'correct' of course. {Not according to nature or even to Jane Ormes}. Just my personal interpretation based on what I like and also, whatever fabrics/colors are available straight from the stash totes! And yes, every now and then I cringe a little and think this quilt should have/could have had fabrics bought special for it. It's probably worth it! Oh well....
Adding larger elements
Next up, I cut out and placed five more large leaves on the upper right side of the quilt. All of these leaves etc. taking lots of drawing time. Since I don't have large enough paper for most of them, I am drawing like a crazy woman directly onto freezer paper. Very helpful when the leaf is drawn exactly as I intend to use it, just place it over the top of my chosen fabric, iron and then carefully cut out. If the drawing doesn't work out then I am wasting so very much freezer paper. It's really sad how long it can take me to settle on what is ultimately used! I'm saving all the larger pieces of freezer paper to use in cutting out the smaller elements, but yeah, I'm perilously close to needing a brand new box of freezer paper. Good thing it's not outrageously expensive!
Trying to get the bottom layer stitched into place
This is the part of the quilt that often feels like a roller coaster. Just enough work done to start feeling excited about how it might turn out! Oh yeah, love that! And then just enough done to realize that there are definitely going to be some issues to deal with.... Remember, I didn't end up graphing the entire quilt out and taking a good, solid measurement to start with? As I draw each specific element and consider placement, then I'm constantly seeing areas that are not exactly to scale {as per the original print inspiration}. Um yeah. Poor planning? Or just the only way that I could ever talk myself into starting this crazy project!
Loving this corner of the quilt already
Things not being precisely to scale should not be a deal breaker by any means, though sometimes it does cause me to draw a leaf a little fatter or maybe a tad bit more narrow than perhaps it was meant to be. I'm sure the artist herself was very, very precise! There is more empty space between some of the elements than perhaps should be. These are all things that will be worked out as ongoing layers and progress is made. A wonderful challenge, but one that does give me a tiny bit of anxiety at times. As said before, I don't intend for this quilt to be an exact copy, but hopefully when all is said and done, it will exude the same joy and spirit as the original piece? 
Some of the fabrics aren't exactly perfect...
Anyway, I already went back and 'fixed' the elephant and hmm... maybe a stem on a leaf was listing the wrong way too? Fussy, fussy business and one that could drive me totally insane if I let it. Honestly not intending to do that whatsoever. This is dangerous territory in trying to determine where the boundaries are on get-it-fixed-now-or-forever-let-it-ruin-the-quilt vs. type-a-personality-disorder-taking-away-all-the-joy. I've spent years learning how to go with the flow in quilting. Not gonna let this particular quilt and all my inborn insecurities get me down now!
Green leaf to the right is two different fabrics,
one darker than the other...
I've got to admit to enjoying the easy, simple lines to the applique in this quilt. Once I settle on a particular size, shape, then the rest is just pure fun {minus the occasional hand cramping from too much quilt wadded up in my hands}. It's even nudged the hand quilting down the priority list the last few days, which is pretty tough to do around here! It's a good thing that all the color/fabric decisions were figured out back in the fall, at least for the larger elements. I made sure to take pictures and lots of notes, but it has really helped make this part easier to just focus on drawing the shapes and then placing them. If I had to figure out colors as well, then my brain would totally freeze and I'd be stuck here forever! One thing learned from all the years of quilting is this, some quilts can only be done if you narrow things down: one step at a time is ALL you have to do. Figure out the color. Figure out the shape. Figure out the placement. Stitch. Then it's on to the next round or layer--rinse and repeat. 

If you're worried about the wrinkly look to the quilt, it's always scrunched up in my hand or dragging on the floor somewhere. Not gonna stop and iron it every step of the way just for picture perfect style shots. lol  As if! 


  1. I like the shape of the elephant.

  2. I started laughing the first paragraph. We both just made backgrounds first and then fixed our quilts. Of course, you always add applique and I figure a way to avoid it... Sometimes removing a bit of some fabric is a solution. Or adding something wild like we both did.
    I loved reading about your elephant and watching the pieces grow into a better vision. It's a good reminder to just keep working away at our projects.

  3. Love love love your elephant quilt.

  4. "Intentional" is a very good way to start framing your problem-solving improvisational backgrounds, for sure. I think you are really gifted at sharing the nuts and bolts, the pivots, the inspired changes, etc. of your quilting process! And all of your quilts end up being so charming and interesting and very recognizably yours!

  5. the quilt on my frame kind of started like that - I had the four applique blocks and said ok lets keep adding a border and I didn't have a clue where it was going

  6. Hysterically funny and delightful commentary. So colorful that it was easy to “walk along with you” as you were making these decisions and discoveries. And nestled within this story I found quite a few nuggets of quilting tIps for us readers. I was reminded that early in my quilting I read everything I could get my hands on about quilting. Especially nationally known quilters. My favorite were their stories about hoe their quilts evolved. A common theme was, “I just let my quilt speak to me”, or “ I have a dialogue with my quilt as I go along”. Really, I had no idea what they were talking about. Over many many years I found that by persisting with a quilt that ‘just wasn’t working’ I finally, and slowly, stumbled upon what they were talking about. Finally, I have come to the point that I have learned to listen to my quilts and even some other people’s’ quilts. And this is the Best commentary I have ever read about that process. Enjoyed the experience and refresher.

  7. I really like the Ormes quilt, I think it is definitely a case of the more the merrier with the appliqué. x

  8. What a riot--most if not all of my quilts start out that way--bunches of pieces (like my Green Monstah" and now the Orange Circle)--well, I've taken the adage of "making do" to heart evidently ;000..
    Nice posting; and I especially love your elephant--I always have an elephant in my room lurking about lol ;))))) hugs, Julierose

  9. Once again you have managed to capture and hold my attention for the entire post! And, yes I will admit that I have winced once or twice at your "starting-out" efforts and each and every time, you turn it into something amazing! I love the Home Sweet Home and I think the lighter green stems are perfect as it gives rise to the wonderful pink flowers. As for the Ormes inspired quilt - all I can say is "wow". I have always loved the Matisse shaped leaves and she really brings them to life in her whimsical pieces. Can't wait to see this one finished. I adore it!

  10. Yet another one . . . another engrossingly interesting post about two amazing quilts and your process. I LOVE IT (and them). Thank you (again and again) for taking the time to share yourself with us in these posts. FABULOUS.

  11. Wow, love them both! I can definitely see why you were inspired by the Ormas piece. And the first one is so Audrey. Perfectly expressed!

  12. I love your Omres inspired quilt - its turning out wonderfully!!

  13. Fun fun quilt! I'm enjoying all the elements as you add them and show us your progress. It was a fun post to read the words and anticipate your next move with the fabric.

  14. Another fantastically interesting post Audrey! I love what you're doing with both of these quilts. The Ormes quilt is so very different and I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments in that the colours are "not anywhere near correct" but based on your personal interpretation of what you like and what you have available!!

  15. Always enjoy your posts filled with food for thought.

  16. So much I agree with here, especially about posting the ugly bits. If we don't see the mistakes and the uninspiring versions of something, then we don't learn much from watching a quilt come into being. I want to learn all the time, to see and read things that make me think more, understand more, grow more; that is why I like your blog so much. Also - intentional backgrounds is a brilliant idea!

  17. Totally agree with: 'One step at a time' if I try and think too far ahead, I would probably just come to a full stop, I can't picture a whole quilt in my head, it just seems to evolve. And don't get me started on our 'inborn securities'! Loving your leaf shapes, on the Ormes quilt. Looking forward to your future progress.

  18. "Home Sweet Home" is a theme for the year. I like it!!!


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