Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Always Trying to Get it Figured Out

Why are you even here? Didn't you know blogging was dead? hehe Don't you just love the people who write a post after being gone for 9 months, tell us how wonderful the blogging community is and how they're recommitting? Then after another post or two they disappear forever. We're like, 'Hey, come back here! We love you!'. But it's no use, they're off over at Instagram scooping up the 'likes'.
Autumnal Tulips quilt
It does seem easier, prettier, and wowsers, so much less time consuming as per the posting. Oh well, you're probably stuck with me at Blogger for the long haul. Just too much to say! And after all, every new quilt has a story behind it, right? It doesn't make sense to wordy people like me to show off the latest fantabulous completion without giving you at least a tiny glimpse of the back story. I am dreadfully sorry for all the problems some people have experienced in trying to comment here. Have done a lot of research to fix things on my end and it appears that we're at an impasse until Blogger addresses the third party cookie issue. Basically you have to allow for cookies when commenting on a site that has threaded comments {such as mine}, and some people just don't want to do that. Or their favorite browser doesn't let them. That's okay, perfectly understandable, but I'm not moving to a site where I have to pay a monthly or yearly fee either. So yeah. Kinda stuck.

I've mentioned before about how strange it is that a bright, shiny quilt idea can occasionally, 'instantly' morph into brand new quilt start. That's what happened here with a previously unintended quilt just this past October. I think it was entirely unintended, but now I have to wonder. It all sort of fell into place so quickly! Captivated by a thought, surprisingly willing to be lead off on a tangent {so shocking}, and then, all of a sudden, there I was, cutting out the parts and pieces to an applique flower quilt. All because I fell in love with the word 'Autumnal'.
A close-up of the blocks
Of course it wasn't quite that simplistic, but you know how it is when a very vague idea, {one that's been hanging around in the shadows of our subconscious}, suddenly steps forward and demands some attention. Of course it had to be tulips, because that's my fave flower for applique. Will I ever truly have enough tulip quilts made to satisfy? Or basket quilts? The mind boggles. So many potential variations!
A finished quilt top!
And now the quilt top is finished up. Just had to plow thorough 30 blocks of applique. Why so many? I seemed to have this yearning for an old fashioned, antique-look vibe. Something like what you'd expect Lucy to take a picture of. Or make. Which means I'll probably have to do an enormous amount of hand quilting too, but we'll leave that thought for another day....

The flowers are all placed just a little wonky and it's only now that I wish that some of the flowers had been made to lean left as opposed to an enthusiastic placement of right leaning flowers. Why did that not happen? And no, we are decidedly NOT talking about politics here, but only sweet looking flowers. The leaf shapes are a tiny bit different per color, but of course the stitching there is very 'eye-balled' and organic. Did not do any of them absolutely identical. And I never, ever use a placement diagrams if a reason can be conjured up to eliminate the need. In this case, I would have had to draw up one of those fussy diagrams from scratch and honestly, I couldn't be bothered. No regrets!
Loving this simple quilt so much...
It was tough to determine the little connector square color between the sashing strips. I originally thought to use navy there. Everything auditioned looked pretty dull though, or took way from the tranquil look of the quilt and created a spotty effect. In the end I kept coming back to a fabric that was a touch deeper than the lighter gold flowers, and a lot happier {brighter} looking than the stems. Not perfect, but available in the stash. Whatever shade it ended up being, the main thing was that it not compete in any way with the flowers.
Crossing another off the list!
People often want to know about the original inspiration. Well.... here it is. A shirt worn {during the fall usually} underneath my sweaters. These flowers are a bit too chaotic to reproduce in a quilt setting, but the colors always sort of melt me. It felt like a fantastic piece of inspiration to pull the likely quilt colors from. Looking at it now, it seems obvious that there should have been more of an effort to use a sharper cheddar color as well. Mostly I was bogged down in trying to decipher the true oranges. Oh no, do I really have to use that color? Up close, some of them are almost ugly looking, but combined with the whole, give the entire color range something important. It was also from intense study of this particular floral print shirt that I came to the decision to keep all {or most} of the fabrics to a solid or very low key print. Not sure how important that was in the overall scheme of things, but for sure, it was interesting. Very nice change-up in how I normally do things and one that I will no doubt return to again in the future.
The color inspiration
Of course, I went immediately to an old book of mine, 'The Collectors Dictionary of Quilt Names and Patterns' by Yvonne M. Khin to find a likely pattern. There wasn't anything that struck my fancy right off, but after cruising Pinterest for awhile, I came back and found this middle block 'Four Tulips'. Though I didn't want the four-block look, it gave me something to start with in drawing up my own design.  

And that's how this particular tulip quilt came to be. Is there too many tulip blocks after all? My quilts usually end up with 20 blocks instead of 30, but these are 8" finished. That seemed like a better size for these blocks. Maybe it should have some sort of border, but for now I'm pleased with the simple floating frame. It feels finished.
A great quilting resource...
Also back in October, I went a little crazy and dumped out one of my scrap bin baskets. Now is a season for 'finishing' but back in the fall, apparently it was a season for chasing squirrels! I didn't dump the basket to sort everything by color and put away. No, I did it to play with all the bits and pieces. Somehow the current U&U quilt on the wall, also known as the AHIQFlowers quilt, made me think of opportunities. It was like the maker of the original quilt had dumped out her very own scrap bin and well, had a play. Like I did that very evening. Initially I just sorted fabrics that looked interesting together and grouped them into similar size piles. Then I ironed and sorted into stacks of squares, strips etc., slowly developing a more focused color palette, all the while cutting and trimming. Basically trying not to get too fixated on what the final result might end up being, and just letting the subconscious do its thing.
The start of something
On a whim, I sewed groupings of similar sized strips together and then sewed a setting of rectangles together, similar to what was in the U&U quilt. Having absolutely no idea where any of this was going, but still, somehow determined not to let this seed of an idea slip away. It was a very fragile idea indeed. The next day I impulsively sew a few 'plus' blocks together and then after several days of nothing, no ideas, nada, zip!, stacked it all up and put it away in a tote to simmer well out of the way.
Trying to figure out where to go from the middle
These sorts of Improv. quilts have always seemed the most impossible to me. How to know what length to cut the strips and if/when it was time to add a different element perhaps? How to control the chaos and make something cohesive? Working on the AHIQFlower challenge quilt {that U&U quilt again}, plus watching Kaja  for years, puzzling out her bits and pieces until she ends up with a masterpiece, had finally given me just enough courage {and insight?} to want to try my own version.
Taking pieces out and trying to puzzle them back in....
After letting it simmer for a couple months! I pulled the project out of the shelves and fondled the fabrics just a bit. Yes, I actually did think they all belonged together in the same quilt! I spent a tiny bit of time dithering over which piece to start with, and then, in total exasperation, just grabbed a length of sewn strips and slapped it on the wall. There. That's the starting place! And then I started placing different fabrics and/or sewn units around it until something eventually clicked. Okay, that looks fine. Maybe this is better? Then I did more. And more, until ending up with the first smaller pieced unit {See the very first Improv. picture above}.*Whew! That wasn't so bad!
A Wing and a Prayer Improv. quilt in the making.
The next day I found time to play a little more, focusing on the area below the initial, squarish pieced unit. It was at this time that I determined that everything was going to work better if I had something to focus on 'balancing' throughout the quilt. Otherwise, I might end up moving fabric around forever and getting absolutely nowhere!

You might think totally different than me, but when working on Random Sampler, Orphan block or these Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of quilts, it helps tremendously to have a base plan. Are the pieces divisible by the same number? That can work, but no, not here. Are the colors working in a very narrow repeat? No, not at all. Is it a copy or a specific look that I'm aiming for? No, no such reference. Okay. How to get unstuck? I mean that seriously. Though just starting the quilt, my brain was already spinning in circles, considering a million directions to go! Nothing concrete you understand, but still, the possibilities seemed rather endless. So confusing. After pondering the initial pieced unit on the wall, I decided that I really, really liked the 'plus' blocks. Out of everything, they spoke to me. How about making more as the underlying theme and using that as a pathway forward? And just that easily, 'The Plan' was formed and I was ready to play again.

Not that it's all come easily. That would be ridiculous! I'm still in the learn-as-you-go stage for sure. But now the entire left side {14" wide} is sewn together now and also the centerpiece {16 1/4"} down to within about 7" from the bottom. None of the right side is sewn as yet. I'm having to partial piece here and there, but not too much as I try to avoid having to do that. Because it's being done in the Improv. method, I am definitely sewing and trimming without regard to measuring. Just making sure the outside width of each larger unit is a set number works fine. That set number becomes fixed only when I particularly like a small part of the much larger unit and say, 'Okay, that particular area doesn't need to be any wider!' So simple!

I can see a couple clunky areas in the larger piece as I look at the last picture, but we'll see if I opt to pick anything apart. The right side is of course, very fluid, as things will change marginally when the seam allowance starts to come into play. Though parts and pieces are overlapped to take into account that seam, it never ends up being totally accurate until sewn on the machine.

So far I'm having a great time playing with my own scrap bin pieces and hope to get comfortable enough to try again at a later date. I greatly admire quilters such as Kaja who have a way of making this all look very easy peasy! So gifted!  I've tried cutting all the scrap fabric down to uniform widths and lengths etc. in the past, but always end up getting burnt out on the sheer time involved. This way takes a short amount of time ironing, sorting, simple piecing, {perhaps longer amount of time simmering if you're me!}, and then it's time to play!

Another interesting thing about this quilt is that it seems to be turning into my own version of a quilt that I've long wondered about making. Never quite found enough oomph to get going on though!  Nancy made this great looking 'Primitive Crosses' quilt that caught my eye years and years ago. I've pondered and pondered making it, but always felt like it was bit more 'mourning' than what I was perhaps comfortable with at this time in my life. My Improv. attempt doesn't have cross blocks like her quilt, but the plus blocks remind me of them somewhat, somehow? It's vague I know, but connections? Quilters have some odd ones for sure! Lots of stuff going on in our life presently that require deep thinking, and I do try to be a prayerful person. For now, I'm calling this my 'Wing and a Prayer' quilt. It remains to be seen if there will also be a bird included.*wink

39 comments:

  1. Your Tulip quilt is just lovely...hugs, Julierose

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  2. Hi Audrey, thanks so much for this amazing post. I not only thououghly enjoyed but I am marking it unread to I will reread it later as so much information. Your quilt is so subtle yet quite dramatic. Just amazing. Congratulations. And I went to view the cross quilt you mentioned.... that is so simple and yet dynamic. Talented quilters out there.

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  3. Both quilts are so lovely and so different from each other. I love the quiet colour palette of the tulips, with their subtle differences from block to block. Right leaning just reminds me of a light breeze going through the flower patch.
    As for the improve - I love the movement you're achieving and the contrast. Beautiful.

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  4. The tulips are wonderful! I so enjoy reading about the process of your quilts, from an idea to a finished quilt. So inspiring! Can't wait to see how you will quilt it!

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  5. love your tulips - I think we still have a lot of people blogging but yes some say they are coming back do one post and you do not see them again - instagram is ok but you don't get to know the quilters there because there are so many and you don't know who the heck they are - no information is really exchanged that much

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  6. What a great post! Oh my, I hope you never leave us for Instagram! I need these inspirational wake up calls from time to time! Love the improv and those autumnal tulips!

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  7. Your Autumnal Tulips is beautiful! I'm betting there will be a bird (or two or more!) in Wing & a Prayer! Lol! Guess we'll have to wait and see which direction the mojo blows youl

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  8. Su trabajo es espectacular. Me gustan sus entradas llenas de información. Me gustan mucho los blogs yo sigo publicando después de trece años
    www.elajuardebeatriz.blogspot.com

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  9. Well said about blogging!
    Your tulip quilt look amazing, good luck with quilting it.
    I must come clean and say that I got only about half way down your post, will have to come back another time, other blogs to visit :-)
    xx

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  10. Thank you for your generous comments on my quilting. It looks to me as if you are more than capable of working in this improv way - and like you I really, really like how the plus blocks pull everything together. As for the tulips - there's nothing about that top I don't like.

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  11. Thank you! I learn so much from you when you share your process and your thinking -- the back story always gives depth and perspective. Frankly, as a new quilter, it is very easy for me to simply do (focus on technique).... and not slow down enough to think about what is happening and why something works or doesn't work. Your ability to tell the story helps me grasp the art beyond the technique!!

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  12. Oooh I do love your Tulip Quilt. The colours and design are simply lovely.

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  13. The Tulips are darling! Sometimes we seem to yearn for that old fashioned quilt look. And I do admire the i quilt. I want to do one but just can't.

    You couldn't get a post like this [so interesting!] on Instagram, could you? I've been blogging for ten or 11 years, just see no point in IG . I like to write! And read. Words, real words.

    lizzy lizzzz.d@gmail.com

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  14. I'm so glad that you are committed to blogging. I often leave one of your posts open on my computer for a while so that I can digest and revisit it. I enjoy your thoughtful descriptions of your creative process. Thank you!

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  15. Autumnal or Vernal, this tulip quilt reads as multi-seasonal to me. Love it. Yes to blogging, though I'll be the first to admit my posts aren't anywhere near as thoughtful or inspiring as yours. I used to love to write, now all I wanna do is stitch!

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  16. Your garment colors are definitely represented in your tulip quilt. It does have a vintage feel and the hand quilting thst your pondering would go right along with it. I think you make your improv quilts look easy peasy.

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  17. Your quilty style ALWAYS inspires me!!! I only blog....so am glad you are back to enjoying it.

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  18. I love all of your quilts and all of your process discussions. Thank you!

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  19. Well...now, I certainly see you are quite the blogger!! I agree...blogging keeps friendships and keeps us close. The tulips are great and so is your improv!!

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  20. Love, love your Autumnal Tulips quilt (if I could use a heart emoji, i would!) the colours are beautiful and of course Autumn is my favourite season.
    And I love your description, Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, I have a love/hate relationship with those type of quilts, I love seeing other people's versions but when I try an improv type idea, it always feels unbalanced & contrived.

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  21. Your tulips are very pretty, soft & vintage looking! Love your 'wing and a prayer' project too! Seeing the first pics of a few improv bits up on the wall was enough to keep me reading more! Thanks for sharing more about your process, improv is still a challenge for me.

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  22. Your tulip quilt is incredible, so pretty. I am delighted to find your blog today just browsing through Bloglovin'. x

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  23. Time after time I fall in love all over again when I see what you are piecing! Thanks for not giving up on blogging and making and sharing.

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  24. Just truly up my alley. Tulips or something akin to them is one idea I'm toying with. But I'm also learning that I can't make everything!

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  25. I love your tulip quilt, it reminds me of Pennsylvania dutch tulips. This is one that has been on my list for a long time. The randomness of the leaves are perfect! I love doing those scrap quilts too. I have one started and need to get back to it.....

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  26. Your tulips are delightful. Thanks for sharing the inspiration. I'll look at my clothes more carefully in future. I find it interesting how fabric choices make parts of the quilt recede or advance so really enjoyed reading about your post choices.
    For years I have watched in awe as Kaja creates her quilts. You are so brave to move ahead with one of your own. My mind is so mathematical that I always fall back on that... even when I attempt random or unplanned. But that would be a good goal for a quilt this year. Thanks for the tips about finding a width and a simple block to insert.

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  27. I'm glad we're stuck with you as a blogger, I haven't ever even been to instagram. I wouldn't know how to work it. I'd much rather have the interaction of a blog with all the explanation and pictures. Love your tulip quilt. I keep saying I need to make one and I just discovered I made three appliqued tulip blocks in a random nosegay quilt. So, I guess now I'll say, "I need to make another tulip quilt - ha!" I love the bright colors in your improv quilt. It's so surprising how much thought and decision making there is in doing something original.

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  28. Oh I so agree that the "story" is important! And it helps me to see how others come up with a quilt and what is involved with the decisions they make. So I hope you keep blogging! I pray that you will find peace, strength, and comfort in your life's struggles right now.

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  29. Thank you for not moving to another venue, I do not and will not follow those other … Instagram etc! Only face-book or email for me! Thank you for being here. Love your tulip quilt, have been wanting to make one, so drew my own from looking at yours... my own personal pattern. Thank you for that too, have not done applique for quite some time!

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  30. I hadn't a clue about the blogger situation and allowing cookies for threaded comments!! Thanks for the information. Love the tulip quilt and your idea to take inspiration from a shirt! A Wing and a Prayer is amazing - perhaps we should all sometimes just take off when we feel the need to experiment but having no clue as to how it will all end when on the design wall. I don't know if I'm brave enough to do this but congratulations to you for this beautiful quilt top in the making. I always look forward to watching Kaja's quilt making progress, maybe one day I'll pick up a couple of my boxes of scraps and have a go!

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  31. Yet another in your long line of marvelous posts -- I love the stories (front, back, inside, and out), the sharing of process, the thinking (and pondering/puzzling gymnastics) that go into what we create as makers and you have such a knack for putting all that into words! LOVE those tulips and your Local Directions quilt is positively wonderful. Good luck with the sorting out and rearranging process upstairs.

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  32. Your Tulip Quilt is lovely.
    I'm one of those on again off again Bloggers. I was with some FB Quilting groups but recently left many of them (can you imagine there were rude nasty people in quilt groups ?). Last year was a devastating time for us, was not up to blogging. Plus I have not been sewing. Ashamed of having all the fabric besides the old HQ16 and not using. I do wish more people would start or come back to blog. After trying everything else blogs are my favorite.
    (Don't worry about a reply, gosh you have 30+ comments. Maybe comment on my next blog post... LOL).

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  33. LUV the tulips - traditional and contemporary in one fell swoop. You've done it again!

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  34. Me again. I got so obsessed with your tulips I've only now taken a closer look at your improv quilt - how many times can I use the word gorgeous. As you indicated, these quilts take time to develop and mature and you were wise to give it time to breathe rather than rushing it to an ignominious end.

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  35. I admit I am one of those sporadic bloggers now but not because Instagram has lured me away...but because I am spending more time away from my digital life. I love your Tulip quilt and it'd colors!

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  36. I'll just say it - Your blog is my roast potato...the absolute best thing on my plate, that gets left till last so it can be savoured and thought about long after the dishes are done!! I find your blog very inspirational, your work is so free, and you talk about your process. Thanks for all of it, and any chance of an applique tutorial?!
    Kate, Bristol, UK

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  37. Thank you so much for keeping up with blogging. I love reading about your thought processes. I'm fascinated by how good other peoples scrap bins look! I have the first bunch of Spring tulips on my table now, so beautiful as are yours. Mary in Canterbury UK

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  38. I'm here because I too am a blogger (11 years and counting), and read your quote (top of this post) that DaisyandJack reposted to her blog. I completely agree! And I too am one of the victims of Blogger's third party issues. I cannot comment on your blog from my computer (though no amount of my own computer setting changes or even using a different browser makes it possible), so I type the comment in this box, copy and paste it into an email, send it to myself, and then from my phone, copy and paste the email message into the comment box from my phone browser! Believe you me, doing this for eight weeks now is really getting OLD. Want to say that I love what you're doing with improv. I have a soft spot in my modern heart for improv and haven't yet quite got it figured out. Hope to learn more (again) in a workshop at Austin QuiltCon. It's coming soon!

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  39. I LOVE quilt blogs, that come into my email box. I only do email or face book. I do not read those other things. One reason I detest present day quilt magazines is they give no back story. They just want to sell their line of fabric, and the kits to make ticky-tacky quilts just like someone else's. No imagination!

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I love getting comments and always try to respond via email. If you aren't getting replies back from me, try leaving your email address within the comment. Due to Blogger changes, I've heard that some people aren't able to leave comments here at all. In that case, you can always email me at audkateaster at gmail dot com if you'd like and I'll respond from there. Thanks so much for visiting!