Friday, September 17, 2021

Another Difficult Quilt Top All Wrapped Up!

Here it is! A completed quilt top for the Positive Thinking challenge over at the AHIQ blog. This prompt was introduced in June of 2020, more or less encouraging us to keep going with whatever form our creativity allowed considering the stresses of the year. Doing anything 'positive' based seemed like a reach at the time {and even later}, but turned out to be a really great idea. Most of the intention behind what I do is for a cozy, happy, comfy outcome, and it was a timely reminder to keep on trying.

Positive Thinking quilt top is done!

It was also suggested that we might want to chop some of our clothes up in the getting-started phase. {Begin with the comfortable and familiar.} I cut up about six or seven shirts and used them to determine the base of the color palette moving forward. The cream print fabric behind the raspberry pink letters {and those same pink letters} are from two of my favorite shirts that I wore for years. The blue shirting fabric in the middle of the quilt is from a barely worn shirt from my husbands closet, and then there are two more of his shirting fabrics that made it into the quilt as clamshells. The other shirtings were dumped into the stash totes without being used at all. No worries, one of these days I'll dig them out and introduce them into yet another quilt!

What do you think of the whatchamacallit
at the bottom of the words?

So yes, those specific fabrics being used mean something to me, causing the quilt to feel a little more special. The decision to attempt another 'wordy' quilt was actually quite simple when I thought about trying to project positivity. It's all in the message, right? Coincidently, there was a suitable one that had been pinned up on a board in my quilting room for eons. 

Cutting and sewing letters together doesn't take a tremendous amount of creativity once a person gets started. It's more of a formula and that seemed to be a good thing last summer. Like maybe I could coast through at least part of the process on auto pilot! Ha. Of course there's always the phase {or two or three of them} where everything comes screeching to a halt and Very. Important. Decisions. Have. To. Be. Made. And it's usually in the details that later appear so thoroughly nonessential, but whatever. I made it through and finally got to the puzzle, getting the words and background to fit together in a way that hopefully everyone can read!

Bright, happy flowers

I ended up with the cream/black pinstripe fabric as the background because I loved the way it blended with the one cream shirting fabric especially calling out to me. The old fashioned charm was irresistible and also, there looked to be enough to hopefully take care of the entire background. Generally I'm okay with mixing and matching background fabrics {making-do}, but wanted something more controlled this time around. The stripe made me a bit nervous initially. Stripes?? But after I made the decision to put each word into its own 'box' of sorts, then the rest fell into place and started making more sense. 

No leaves this time

There were plenty of stops and starts getting it all pieced together. Energy would run very thin on the ground occasionally. What am I doing? What am I actually trying to accomplish? If I do this, use that, then where does that leave the emphasis of the message? 'Cuz you know, changing up the value of some of the colors per words, makes a huge difference in how the message could come across!

It's a wrap!

Fabric usage was carefully planned out ahead, but you can only do so much because of the waste involved. You can only imagine how thrilled I was when the cream shirting behind the pink letters was just enough and then later, when I was trying to puzzle piece the entire background into place, having the perfect amount with barely a scrap or two leftover! 

Originally I wanted every single word to have the same exact cream shirting background but it simply wasn't possible. Waahh! That's why I paused part way through the letter making and spent some time considering. How do I move forward in a way that doesn't mess up the whole {imagined} look to the quilt? Eventually I just had to do something and leave it up to chance as to whether or not everything could/would come together. So that's where the blue background shirting came into play. Off on another tangent and we'll just have to see if it makes or breaks the quilt!

Also, the greater background was pieced intentionally with the stripes positioned on the vertical. All except for the very bottom of the quilt where I had no choice but to sew a narrow strip on the horizontal. It was a scary hairy determination to make as I worried it might 'waste' too much fabric and potentially leave me lacking enough to finish. The main reason it seemed important to deliberately choose one direction or the other was to eliminate extra chaos from fabrics being placed into the background willy-nilly. Since the theme was to be 'positive', it felt necessary to at least try to eliminate as much noise as possible. So yeah, that's one more area of this quilt that makes me super happy. It's a very small detail of the quilt, but almost boggles my mind. Lets just say it again.... the stripes are all going in the very same direction!!

The clamshell background is much whiter
than the cream center, but it seems to work.

Once the middle of the quilt was totally pieced, then I let it sit for a good long while. It was tempting to wrap it up and say 'It's a finish!', but honestly, the whole message thing was a bit too much for the totality of the quilt. I almost wanted to say in return, 'Oh yeah? So what?' With nothing but words to look at on the quilt, it seemed to make the quilt feel almost aggressively opinionated and I didn't want that vibe. Besides, I was pretty sure it needed applique. I mean, lets be real. How could there possibly be that much background space on one of my quilts, and not have a flower somewhere? It was always meant to be.

A couple months went by and the quilt decided that it probably needed to have borders. Almost any border would do, but didn't clamshells sound interesting? So I pondered and played with the idea until coming up with the scrappy 6" clamshells plan. Big enough to more easily learn the new-to-me technique, yet not so small as to get buried in the minutia of 'not quite good enough'. Mistakes were made. Things are far from perfect, and yet... I love it! Adds such a wonderful exuberance to the quilt. Definitely helped lift the quilt into a place of confidence and meaning without the overbearing quality it had before.

These strange blue colors are difficult for me to work with...

And then before the clamshells were completely finished and attached to the quilt, I finally settled on the applique flower addition. They are MUCH brighter than I ever intended, so in-your-face happy to be on the quilt. Wowsers. Dial it down a bit, could you? hehe  Why does it take more than just words though? They just aren't enough by themselves sometimes, especially on quilts. In fact, at the very end of adding on all the applique, I felt compelled to add on the little curly-cue or whatchamacallit thing as extra emphasis there on the bottom. Like an underlining of intent that I mean this. I feel this. Does that make sense? Laughing at myself here because the quilt was a little too overbearing without the border and applique and then after? Not quite serious enough. These quilts. They just love to run us in circles, don't they?

I know that not everyone will appreciate this quilt as much as I do {already figured that out by showing it to my mom}, and that's okay. Personally, I'm very, very pleased to have pushed through with this particular challenge. It was a good one in so many ways! There were definitely times that I sincerely thought the quilt had lost its way. What a drab little nothing of a quilt! And then, this. Plus, I finally got over my fear of playing with clamshells! Just goes to show that attempting the occasional challenge can take us on an unexpected, but wonderful adventure! Next AHIQ challenge is Symmetry/Asymmetry. I'm only a little behind on getting started!


  1. your use your fabric really well! love the background - the clamshells look great and so do the flowers you added to it

  2. I love that there are just a couple of pieces with the stripes on the horizontal - just enough to keep it from being "perfect" (LOL) and all that. And it wouldn't be one of your quilts without your most wonderful appliqué (and have I mentioned lately that I totally enjoy the way you write your posts - I mean, REALLLY enjoy!). Congrats on the finish - it's a keeper!

  3. Well, all I can say is this is a quilt I wish I had made! The text has always been one of my favorite passages, as it depicts the spirit of a quilter so perfectly.

  4. What's with all this 'perfect' stuff, that is one over used word! And it's really relative and means different things to different people at different times. Whew!
    Aside from that your quilt top is fun and gorgeous, congratulations on some exciting innovation.
    I love the clam shell border.

  5. I just love it. The setting reminds me of the old framed adages that used to be a thing. You'd see them in old photos and in movie sets. Which are found again in the new surge of cross stitch enthusiasts of late. I love seeing your finishes and it only gives me more of the feeling I will soon dive into a big hand appliqué project. I am about due. As always you inspire

  6. Your quilt is a celebration. You have a way of putting controlled and free wheeling together. Great job on the clamshells. They make a wonderful frame.

  7. It's terrific! Your comment about showing the quilt to your mom and implication that she wasn't as pleased with it as you are set me to thinking. My mother has been gone for over 20 years and so her opinion hasn't affected the choices I've made in quilting. Now, I'm considering what she would think of some of the things I've done. I do know my daughters openly voice their distaste for some of my quilts. It doesn't hurt my feelings but it makes me 2nd guess my choices sometimes. This "positive" quilt turned out really well and I think you should be pleased with yourself. I love the flourish at the end. A flourish always feels good.

  8. I love your style and creativity! Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  9. I secretly thought the blue background stuck out too much when you were working on it but now see how beautifully it emphasizes that phrase: and worketh willingly. Such a great sentiment.
    Congratulations on figuring out clamshells. The colors added there and in the flowers pump everything up. How clever to use some of your old shirts, too. This is a wonderful quilt down to the whatchamacallit.

  10. After all your deliberations, delays, and pondering, this quilt has come out just right! The saying itself is wonderful, but the additions of the flower pots and borders indeed took it to another level. Good choices!! Congratulations!

  11. Whimsical and beautiful at the same time. You have a great eye for color, placement, and foresight. Excellent work!

  12. Your quilts are the best. I wish I could follow through on the challenges...but life itself is enough challenge for me...Glad I can enjoy yours xox

  13. I love it. Well done on persevering.

  14. I love everything about this - the sentiment, the clamshells, the flowers, the shirts, and now the fact that the stripes are all running the same way.

  15. Let's say here that I began as a very traditional quilt maker, but I REALLY LIKE what you do! For me to make one similar would be a real stretch, but I LOVE THIS and appreciate the musings you share of getting to this point.

  16. Oh, I love it! I so enjoyed your discussion of all the decisions, starts and stops, etc and am so glad to know someone else goes through all those deliberations too. The little flourish at the end of the quote says to me “Think about it”. I laughed when I read your comment about showing it to your mother. My dear mother has been gone for only 2 1/2 years, but I remember so well telling myself to “take it with a grain of salt” before showing her something because you never knew what she would come up with. The end result of all your decisions (isn't that what every quilt is?) is fabulous!

  17. Everything is just perfect! Well done!

  18. I just love walking through your mind as you were explaining the “behind-the-scenes” story of this happy quilt... pausing is waiting for the right inspiration. I find that my mind eventually “gets it” and then I can move on with my Quilts.

  19. This is wonderful quilt Audrey. Your innovations to keep it going was great, I need to read blogs again thanks to you.

  20. I am running behind with reading your posts - as you know tax paperwork & working in a family business, sometimes consumes one's time! I am loving your clamshells, and colours you have picked for this quilt.


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