Thursday, March 12, 2020

Reconnecting With the Process

 As usual, getting back into routine is harder than it seems. After my initial enthusiasm about getting back into the quilt room, I quickly found myself wasting a whole lot of time with indecision and dillydallying.
Finally, I started tackling an impulse project started back in December. You know, just to have something to focus on! At the time it was started, it seemed like a potential 'Christmas' quilt, but as the project has moved merrily along, many of the more holiday themed fabrics have been left far, far behind. Go figure.
This particular quilt was {surprise, surprise!} based on a quilt in the 'Unconventional and Unexpected' book by Roderick Kiracofe. Circles quilts are a real draw to me and these quirky, imperfect circles were just too much. At some point I made a practice block and then from there, a rough cut template to cut my units. I've worked sporadically on these ever since but never felt any special drive to speed things up.
Even with zeroing in on these as 'the current project to finish', it still took awhile. I'd only sew a few sets and be easily distracted again. Eventually though, I got to a place to try and audition some fabric for use in key layout positions. When I came to the set below, I actually thought 'this is it!' and turned off all the lights in the quilting room and went downstairs to do other important things. As you can see, I was so confident, that I even cut out all the wide sashing units to place between the circle blocks. So clever. Using up some of those 'So Tired' fabrics I've been itching to find a place for...
The first layout
Bad move, cutting up those sashing units. The next day when I got a chance to return to the quilting room, all that boring green just made me wince. Uggh.  Talk about dragging a quilt down! It didn't take me very long at all to find a soft dreamy floral to use instead. Everything inside me sort of melted and said, 'Oh yes, this is much, much better'. And then I tore all the fabric down from the sides and decided that I'd worry about that later. Plenty of time for that after the middle part of the quilt was nailed down and properly cooperating! And then I cut out and sewed a couple more circles because the numbers just weren't working out.
The second layout
Moving along, there was the challenge in deciding where and how to balance out all those lovely, imperfect circles. What a nightmare. No matter where I moved the red, the blue would squawk in protest. Or the reds would be too close together. Or whatever. And who's idea was it to make so many rust colored circles? I definitely could have paid more attention when making those last circles and tried to figure out where the need was. After awhile I remembered that the entire premise was based on a very make-do sort of quilt, and that nothing was supposed to balance. In fact, how odd would this particular quilt look if everything ended up perfectly matching and balancing?
Balancing color. Or not.
Oh yeah. So I got that all sorted out {in my head and on the floor}, as best as could be and started sewing the rows together. I saved the decisions on the alternate rows with two {or three?} circles for last, whatever was left over in fact! Gotta use them all, right?!

Sewed the main rows together super quick. Easy peasy, just simple floral sashing joining the circles, but then... it took an evening or two trying to determine whether to use green or cream or brown or what? color in the rows with longer sections between the circles. And how long a section should there be between the circles? Should the measurements be precisely equal? Honestly, I wasn't feeling super creative during most of this process. It was more a case of immersing myself in the process and forcing the brain to wake-up! Most of the final decisions probably came around when I uncrossed my eyes and relaxed a bit.You know how you zone in for so long that you start seeing things in a fog! Which is fine. Every quilt comes with its own set of challenges.
Sewing the rows...
And finally it all started coming together and the circles rows were totally sewn together. Imagine my shock when the fabric choices for the long connecting sashing strips didn't work out so well after all. Oh nos! What was I thinking? And who knew cream fabrics could actually clash? Thankfully I hadn't joined any rows together with the long sashing yet, and was laying them out for one last audition just to 'make sure'.

Without any forethought or really, much deliberation, I grabbed up all those green, pre-cut, wide sashing units and sewed them into a couple of long strips. Laid them out in the rows between and thought, 'Okay! That's good enough! Went on a sewing marathon and got the whole quilt top sewn into submission. And once again, I left the quilting room basically brushing my hands together thinking I had it all in the bag. Picture tomorrow, this quilt top is FINISHED!
It's a quilt top!
But no.... Something was bugging me about the entire thing. While I had basically looking at this entire project as an easy, no brainer sort of bridge between too much time off {brain full of mush} and a good place to dive into something I might actually care about, I had also rediscovered the bane of a creative mind. When something doesn't feel quite 'right', it just sort of haunts you. Good luck moving forward girl. First you gotta figure out WHAT the problem is and then, you have to figure out HOW to address it!

I do my best thinking away well away from a problem project. While doing the dishes by hand {easy since our dishwasher is on the fritz}. While hand quilting late in the evening. That sort of thing. Most of the fabrics used together were giving off this very sweet, subtle vintage feel, but well..., it just came off as too spotty looking when viewing the entire quilt top from a distance. Which we do occasionally. We're not always face down with our head in a pillow, glasses off and only catching a little teensy glimpse of the current, beloved quilt. Don't want to end up with a quilt that gives us a cramp of regret every time we catch a glimpse! 

Over and over I had went with the lighter, softer fabrics over anything with color and now all those funky circles were a little too prominent, screeching and seemingly not altogether happy. This was what I kept coming back to. What to do, what to do? I emphatically did NOT want to tear the entire quilt top apart to get rid of a few circles, though I would if nothing else worked out.
Finished! Calling it Comfortably Quirky
Thankfully, on day two, which feels really fast for the way things usually work around here, my brain had finally kicked into gear. The very next morning, during my shower, a possible solution hit me from out of the blue.  Ahh... yes. All those lovely floral fabrics that I wanting to input into the quilt? The ones the quilt kept kicking out because they were trying to steal all the limelight? Yep. They became the perfect top and bottom border units, pieced together in uneven lengths. Excellent spot of color to sort of pull in and tame the louder color from the circles. Almost surround them and say, 'you're not the only important thing about this quilt'.
Quilt with top and bottom borders....
Not a perfect fix for sure, but an easy one and more importantly, one that felt right. If the border went all the way around the quilt, then the circles would pop more again. It's a different sort of quilt, still a little spotty looking, but I very much enjoyed playing with these fabrics. It was a stack that felt destined to go into a quilt someday and yet, it never felt quite important for any project that I wanted to start. I think the best part about making this quilt was finally getting to incorporate more of these florals into the quilt. Simultaneously softening the overall look while subtlety ramping up the vintage feels.
Just enough red to make its presence known...
I won't try to pretend it's a masterpiece or even an especially striking quilt. In fact, you'd probably have to see it in person to even fully grasp all its quiet charm. Though it's been years since I read the book 'Quilt Me' by Jane Brockett,, I had to go find my copy and take a quick look-through. Yep. Uh huh. Hmmm... Did I finally just make a quilt that was really based primary on 'fabric inspiration'? Loving it? Showing it off? Using it? Me thinks it was just that simple.... haha  Laughing just a little here. Why is it that what should be the most basic of quilt ideas are never, ever EASY?

On another note, my phone died a couple weeks ago and I'm using one of my daughters old phones. Am very unhappy with the quality of the camera, but plan on holding out a couple months till I can more afford the one that I want. {My husband was out of work for a whole month from illness!} Bear with me please. It's either post bad pictures or have the blog go on vacation...


  1. I love vintage looking florals. I really don't think that it is possible to make them look wrong because even though they have a tendency to want to hog the spotlight - they also reflect that light onto the fabrics around them. This is a very novel quilt top.

  2. sorry your husband was sick for so long! hope he has his strength back - love all you are working on like usual! you never make an ugly quilt :)

  3. The pictures are fine. I’m fascinated with how you weave a story together so effectively. It is as if the listener was popping over at times, sitting down having a cut of tea with you while literally watching the progress of this quilt. One of my grandfathers had this talent. He could spin a yarn so well that it was as if I was right next to him during the real event.

  4. Reading your process posts is a lot like making a mystery quilt top, I never know how it's going to end up, lol! By the time I got 3/4 of the way through this one, I was "sure" you were going to applique some lighter inner circles in some of those darker circles to change up the effect, but no! Mystery solved!

  5. I find re-entry to be very difficult; especially if a project has been languishing for a long time...hugs, Julierose

  6. Oh how I appreciate your thought process and steps in getting to the final finish! Thank you, it all helps! And I pray your husband will be well.

  7. Oh, I think you've given me some ideas as to what to do with some large circle pieces cut away from the backs of some appliqued Sunflowers. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. I love the conversations you and your quilts have. :)


  9. So, so true! We make ourselves so crazy when we are trying to simplify. I love everything about it but the name. I think you should call it "Spot On"!

  10. Quietly charming. I love the vintage florals and the job they are doing for you here - and isn't it satisfying when a fabric you wanted but the quilt rejected manages to sneak back in before the end?

  11. I like it and think the soft floral was a good choice.

  12. The florals were a lovely addition, so soft & vintage looking! It reminds of the quilts sheena over on ig makes, @sheena_chapman.

  13. I think the floral sashings are so pretty. I know what you mean about pondering solutions while you are doing something else like dishes, etc.

  14. So much thought and contemplation. When the woes of the world are so immense, it's good to have power to direct our work. To change, to move, to take time to decide the outcome. Our work is our gift right now. As always, I love hearing your brain think aloud. Be well, and be happy. Oh, btw, your pictures are absolutely fine. It's the light this time of year that confounds our shots so take time on running for a new phone. No worries on this end.

  15. What a delightful quilt. I love circle quilts too, and also soft cottage-y florals like you used for some of the sashing ;the rosebud one].

    Your pictures look good to me. I too use a phone recycled from my kids. The camera is better than in my old phone but not fabulous. I miss using a good digital camera, so clear and sharp.



  16. I love your quilts but I love your words more! This week I also find myself dillydallying and full of indecision. I can't seem to settle on anything or make decisions.
    I love the words "comfortably quirky"... I might quote you!


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