Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Working It Out

I can almost feel myself start settling in to the regular routine of normal quilting habits. Almost. Why does it take me so long these days to adjust back to the usual ebb and flow of things? Probably has to do with the state of the world around us. All the uncertainty wears on us in so many different ways. So nice to burrow down into our cozy little world at home and soak up the good things.

Orphan Annie working itself into a quilt top
It took me several tries to finally settle on the sashing details for 'Orphan Annie'. I knew the colors needed to be somewhere in the darker blue/green ranges, but the design and piecing of it {or not} simply eluded me. 

Loving the mixed up, pieced backgrounds
Once I made the determination to use this Ikat fabric, then it all just sort of fell into place. At first it didn't look like there was nearly enough fabric left for sashing purposes, but I resolutely kept whittling away at the proposed width of the strips thinking 'this has to work!' Eventually the numbers gave me the right answer and yay! I could start cutting.

When first auditioning the strips, I laid them willy nilly as to where the black stripe bits ended up. Soon it became one of those questions of 'what if?' and then I was busily rearranging them to make a secondary pattern in the quilt. It's nothing super obvious or in your face. Just something to make me smile when zooming in. Look! There really are more interesting details buried here and there!
All the tulips just a little bit different...
When stitching the cut-out tulip shapes, it was difficult at times not to try and trim some of them to a more pleasing shape. Now I'm glad to see the subtle differences and yes, imperfections in the quilt. Makes for a more homespun, utility-like look. Which of course I love and adore and think is the very best thing for all quilts worldwide. Ahem. Not that you'd ever hear me say horrid things about your perfectly perfect quilts...

Some of the green background fabrics are from the late 90's and early 2000's. I caught one fabric with little bugs on it that I'm sure made it into a baby quilt for a friends son. Uh, hello? Isn't he graduating from high school this year? 

Alas, Orphan Annie isn't quite done yet, though the quilt is trying to tell me that YES, it is!*stomp, stomp  Right now the measurements are around 46 x 57 inches or something and that just doesn't do it for me. So impractical. Borders will have to be added on, period. End of story.

A Tisket-A Tasket a completed top!
Now, A Tisket-A Tasket is a quilt top that is finished up, totally completed until the sandwiching pinning phase. After adding this last larger hst border {red plaid fabric from one of my dads old shirts}, I'm calling it good. Doesn't feel like there's anything of benefit to add on at this particular stage and I definitely can't add on more of the lighter yellows that I so, very much wanted to use. Back in the stash totes they went. Oh well. Another quilt, another day, right?
Corners of the blue border looks better now
Some of you might not love the addition of more gold in the outer surround, but actually, I am fairly pleased with how it 'pops' the blue in the previous border. With the later addition of a binding, it should all come together fairly gracefully. You know how little borders at the outside of a quilt sometimes get drowned out? I do want this one to sing!

Looking cozy, just like I like 'em!
I had to take out the hsts at the corners of the blue and red hst border after adding on the outside border. Too much confusion. The solid blue squares better help to transition from one border to the next. Which, speaking of that blue fabric. Ughh. It is such a lame fabric, I almost can't believe that I'm using it! But you know me. Always trying to use up the old fabrics and this one was the very best color from all that I had to choose from. I am constantly amazed at how hard the most unexpected fabrics can work for a quilt if we just give them a chance!

By issue of working with so many older, uninspiring fabrics, I am definitely learning new things all of the time. The biggest takeaway is not to take any fabric for granted. Ever. Be willing to take the strangest chances with fabric prints and blends of colors. Sooo much more focus on color, tone and shades. Here's a goodie....Paying more attention to the amounts of each color as to the current quilt. Some colors just look amazingly better in mismatched pairings. Go figure. 

And that's such an easy thing to do, changing the quantities and percentages. A tweak here or there and wallah!, things start smiling and having fun. The conversation has begun! It's like I'm constantly on this roller coaster of  'Anyone can clearly see that this is the most uninspiring stack of fabric in the whole world!' Why bother? Then there's the other extreme. That's where my instincts are practically shouting at me to stop taking the lazy view and endeavor to look for the hidden potential. That's the leap of faith that often feels stupid, hard {time consuming?} or pointless, but that actually causes THE change.

There's another issue that crops up occasionally. I've discovered how much better an entire stack of marinating fabrics can look if you can just find that one, super yummy looking fabric that pulls it all together. So silly, but occasionally it's like the difference between turning a light switch on or off. I'm not even kidding. No matter how cohesive the fabrics and colors look together and you know it should work, it just doesn't. Not really. There ends up being this boring quality that permeates everything and it's incredibly hard to overcome. Seriously, it's almost painful. I work and work and work and all I'm doing is spreading the boredom around to fit into a larger surface. If perhaps this magical piece of fabric can be found??? {whether it be a print, special color etc.}, it's utterly fascinating how the whole quilt will suddenly start to feel charming, interesting and maybe even a little bit intriguing. You sly little bugger! Now how precisely did that happen? And I really, really don't understand the why exactly, but hmm... so much more willing to try and duplicate the experience in the next quilt, because I can SEE and FEEL the results!

Looking at the gingham for a potential binding

I'm truly enjoying this stage of my quilt journey. Can you tell? Yeah, it's different, but I'm wholly throwing myself into trying to make really good stuff from fabric that I used to would have gladly passed over. Maybe even backed up the car and run over again. I was {still am} a proponent of buying fabric that we LOVE. It's important to have a good foundation of fabric that speaks to us. But what if we don't have the money in our budget to do that anymore? Or what if we're trying to be more thoughtful about our fabric consumption? Or maybe we're always ready and willing to take unwanted fabric off of a former quilters hands? All of those things are me today and I'm okay with that. 

This journey of intentionally digging deep into the totes and making do is not always easy. It doesn't always, evermore without fail, feel fun and exciting. On the other hand, I want {need} to keep quilting and learning. This way is deliberate, it can often feel slow. Sometimes I start with pieces that don't make sense or feel astonishingly uninteresting. Like, can fabric/blocks/piecing truly be soooo unappealing as to be hopeless? We wonder. I puzzle over that and try to imagine what it would take to light them on fire. Is it even possible? The design becomes less of the end goal and more of a side effect. This adventure has definitely taken a detour in the last couple years and instead of burning out with it, I feel like I'm just barely getting started. And that's where my excitement lies these days. Maybe I'm crazy, but it feels like my quilting voice is getting distilled and refined into something that feels even more authentic than before. Not in every single effort of course. But overall. Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm just gonna roll with it....


  1. It is that very thrill of designing something entirely one's own idea that is so much fun! I very much enjoy sharing your journey!

  2. Lovely designs Audrey. I like Orphan Annie's 'mixed up pieced back grounds,' very fun. Thanks for sharing your process journey.

  3. Great use of the batik fabric for sashing, works really well. So now Orphan Annie is just waiting for borders, looking forward to your fabric choice - she is looking beautiful!
    I think the gold fabric in the border for A Tisket a Tasket works very well indeed and as you say frames the inner hst border so well.

  4. Orphan Annie is beautiful, and you're making great progress elsewhere too.

  5. I think as more prices rise we will all be searching our fabric stashes for fabrics to use and be reaching more and more to those fabrics that keep getting pushed aside - yes those fabrics that we wonder why the heck did we pick those up at the store - and usually it was because they were in the grab bag for a dollar or whatever - eventually they will get used up!

  6. I love both Orphan Annie and A-Tisket, A-Tasket. I especially love the small HSTs border on blue followed by the larger HSTs border on golden. I think a lot of us are trying to be more purposeful with our fabric purchases & consumption. Your quilts just look better than what I come up with. I'll just have to continue practicing! *wink*

  7. Tisket A Tasket and Orphan Annie are looking wonderful. I read advice somewhere long ago that every quilt needs a bit of "ugly". After reading this, I think better advice might be that every quilt needs a bit of unexpected.

  8. I love searching for the "ugly" fabrics in your quilts! It's awesome because as a whole the quilt is so fantastic; you would never imagine the quilt could possibly have something ugly in it! I love the mixed backgrounds behind the tulips! I really like the gold border too! It's so cool that you use the old shirts! It adds another element to the quilt! You pull out a quilt and say, "and this fabric was my great grandma's" and it's a connection to the past, to where you came from, to family!! - Love Rhi

  9. Your current projects are looking great! When I do my trunk show for guilds, I talk a lot about my design inspirations and processes. I tell folks that there’s nothing wrong with using a pattern, but that it is especially rewarding and satisfying to design your own quilts and I encourage them to try. Kudos to you for designing your own quilts and thanks for sharing some of your thoughts and processes with us!

  10. Lots of good thoughts in here Audrey! I couldn't agree more about getting the colors right, finding the hero, and giving every piece of fabric a chance. The quilts are gorgeous, even better for your willingness to stay in the project and see it through well! Great work!

  11. Your use of that ikat fabric in Orphan Annie's sashings is a brilliant choice. Now I'm looking forward to seeing how you convince the quilt to accept borders.

  12. I continue to be inspired by your posts, today's one is full of excellent tips. I've been trying to focus lately on proportions of colour/fabric in my makes. Love the ikat fabric in the sashings, the 2ndary pattern is unexpected but perfect!

  13. I always love your enthusiasm and thoughtful explanations, and how you strive to create the kind of quilts you [I/ we] love. Ahem, yes--why does perfectionism leave me cold? There is no heart, no charm?
    My approach to color is very different from yours---but I do love your results---and will learn.
    I did notice he ikat stripe placement immediately and wondered, before I read, if you had pced the sashings for that effect.


    1. *the* *pieced* keys are sticking, sorry

  14. Yes! I love your tulip quilt. I was just talking to a quilt guild the other day about fabric or blocks that may just look ugly- until you use them in a quilt adn then some magic happens and that homely block or fabric is no longer the ugly duckling. I think that is a little of what you were trying to say. I agree with you!

  15. Your quilts are so precious. Love the tulip quilt.

  16. I love your distinctive style. I admire how you find great uses for all kinds of fabrics that others might dismiss. Your results are always whimsical and beautiful. The ikat borders are absolutely just right for Orphan Annie!

  17. Whatever you are doing now, keep doing it! Your quilts are so interesting.

  18. I too am on that journey of discovery. I recently finally finished a small quilt, I got the center medallion in 2018, sewed a couple borders around it and thought it was done. So I layered it with batting and batting, basted it for hand quilting THEN the quilt told me "naw!" We want more zing.i finally figured out what it needed, took the basting out and added some leftover HSTs in a light border, then a red border and now it has that zing. Quilted, labeled, hanging sleeve, DONE! And I love it now!

  19. What's so Intriguing about this art form is how many different directions it can take us and how differently we can each manipulate fabrics, color and design. With our own likes and dislikes, our skills and materials we create quilts reflecting our own style and heart. Thanks for sharing yours.

  20. Audrey, I find you deeply inspiring! Your posts are such a joy to read. I now have no quilt shops closer than a 40 minute train journey, which of course eats into my small fabric budget, as well as my time. It is so hard choosing fabric online, and I DO NOT want to buy fat quarter packs from one designer, I like to mix it up. I don't have a big stash, but am always playing in it. You always give me a fresh eye to see new combinations, and to just go with it, and see where it takes me. Thank you. Loraine x

  21. Another fabulously insightful and thoughtful post - I absolutely agree with your final paragraph. Yes, I buy new fabric but I do so to help make my existing stash more usable. I rarely have to discard fabrics I detest these days and am happy to bring in scraps from others to spark the existing fabric pulls. Thank you for sharing yourself in these posts!! (Quiltdivajulie)


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