Thursday, October 26, 2023

Getting Started with the Bramble Blooms QAL!

Welcome to the Bramble Blooms QAL! Right from the start, I want everyone to know that this is an informal quilt-a-long, meaning there will be no hard dates for posting from phase to phase. It could take anywhere from a year, to possibly a year and a half to complete. If that drives you crazy, then maybe rethink joining up! Beyond any other measure, this will be a process based QAL, as that is where I believe creative quilting truly grows and flourishes.

Not sure who wrote this, but it says everything!
Everyone is welcome to play along, beginners, intermediate and experienced quilters alike. For those who have more practice in the improv. approach to quilting, feel free to skip through the wordy babbling and get straight to the heart of the matter! 

  • This is a structured, yet unquestionably, Improv. style QAL with the intention of using older, languishing fabrics from the stash.
  • It will be presented in the form of series work with emphasis on process--three quilts being the ultimate goal. Why three quilts? Engages the curiosity, plants seeds of creativity and makes it easier to see the results of playing off of similarities and differences as each successive quilt takes shape.
  • Every quilt will involve some sort of applique, piecing, medallion quilt layout, and an intuitive approach to decision making. Traditional or improv. piecing are both acceptable. 
  • Your quilts will have the ability to look almost exactly like mine, but also the potential to look much more like a YOU quilt if so desired.
  • Expected quilt size is intended to be in the range of a throw quilt. Small or large? We'll see, but that's ultimately going to be your choice based on decisions made along the way.
  • There will be a Bramble Blooms page at the top of the blog linking to all relevant QAL posts in the event you fall behind or need more time for ideas to marinate.
  • There will hopefully be a link party at or near the finale of each quilt top {3 total}.
  • There will be a Bramble Blooms {QAL participants} 'link list' at the sidebar here at Quilty Folk. The focus of this entire exercise should be the personal journey and not a competition for 'best of'. Visit who/what strikes a chord and don't feel compelled to visit everyone in an endless loop. Due to the lengthy nature of this QAL, it seems best to support and inspire without excess obligation involved.
  • Above all, my hope is to practice mindfulness, make space for personal voice and let go of pre-determined outcome wherever possible {bearing in mind the predetermined medallion quilt layout}.
  • This project is absolutely free though I intend to set up a tip jar for the pdf's that will be shared throughout the QAL. I get that some of you might not want to dive into the deep end of making your own applique templates and that's totally fine. Hoping I can inspire a few of you to try though!
The fabric stacks for three quilts in the series
If you'd like to try for the goal of three quilts in the series, dig through your stash and gather together three fabric stacks that are similar to each other in color palette. They don't have to be similar in color to my fabric stacks at all, feel free to do your own thing! If you'd like to begin with a fabric stack for one quilt rather than three, that works too. Just don't have such a large fabric stack that you get easily overwhelmed. Don't worry about how much yardage per stack, this is mostly just a starting place. We can always search for more later! For those interested, these stacks are made up of primarily whole and partial fat quarters, third of a yard cuts and random larger pieces of yardage. Very, very few pieces of larger cut fabrics, which yes, sometimes becomes problematic in the outer borders of a quilt top. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it!

Try to focus on the color palette as a whole {per fabric stack} and don't worry about how uninspiring individual fabrics might be. With older, stale dated fabrics, it really helps to zero in on how the fabric colors work together rather than how boring it might feel. Make sure there is a good range of light, dark, medium and bright fabric in each stack as this will provide the needed spark to help make things work well overall. Be sure to have a good mixture of fabric prints as well, really don't want all polka dots or whatever your fave is. And try not to have stacks of truly hideous stuff! Do throw in a newer fat quarter or two to make it more palatable as needed.

This is the fabric stack for Bramble Blooms I
I've found that series work is an excellent way to use up oldy moldy fabrics because inevitably, the structure encourages focus on the elements at play, rather than the fabric itself. There is a momentum that naturally happens as we meet each particular quilt challenge, greatly helping to kick in our curiosity as we move along. We start out with a basic, almost going-through-the-motions sort of quilt idea for quilt #1. Then, if we follow small moments of interest, usually something a bit more interesting and personal begins to come into being as we gain confidence in trying to implement our ideas. 

Pairing series work with using up long neglected fabric also helps takes the initial pressure off of us to try and make something impressive. How many times do we start with the assumption that our project needs to be 'worthwhile' for the amount of money that we've hitherto invested? This distraction, if you will, lets us focus in on color or value for purposes of design rather than how dull a fabric might be. It increases our odds of being willing to take risks and gives permission to cut things up willy nilly or perhaps 'waste fabric'? meh! Who cares! It wasn't being used anyway!

I encourage everyone to dig deep, try extra hard to MAKE-DO and always be open to surprising possibilities for the older fabrics. No doubt there's something lovely and comforting about a few of these pieces that inspired us to buy them so long ago in the first place? That being said, please feel free to go buy something brand new later on if your quilt is adamantly insisting on something special in regards to color or fabric print. If you need to. No judging or shaming here!

First off, you'll need to prepare a background for the centerpiece of the first Bramble Blooms quilt. Grab the first fabric stack and tuck the other two away. This will be the foundation for your first quilt in the series--your base and your color story. In regards to color for a background, I'm going with a fairly reliable {old-faithful}, kind of a pinkish, cream color. You can start with whatever color strikes your fancy, doesn't have to be traditional at all. Cut out something in one piece of yardage, or perhaps piece together some smaller pieces like what is pictured below. Whatever you do, don't sew it out of four identical sized pieces of fabric! An odd number of fabrics generally works much, much better in this instance.
These odd, not so blendy fabrics make
for a decent looking background
This centerpiece can be whatever size you want to start with. Seriously. There are absolutely no 'have-to' measurements it needs to be. Simply ensure that it is something that looks and feels right to you. Think about how large of a quilt you might end up with if you start very large, or perhaps how very small it might end up if you begin in the miniature.  I recommend something around 20-25". After sewing, my centerpiece {below} measures at 22 1/2" x 26". See how I did that? Already breaking the rules!*wink  Do you want to end up with a square or a rectangle shaped quilt? Much easier to make that choice right now than try to fix something later on, though of course it can be done.

It's okay for there to be a slight value change 
in your choices. Gives instant depth to your quilt!
If you're very new to this approach to quilt-making, it might feel a bit fake-ish to purposely cut and sew together for a make-do background like shown above. I remember that feeling so many years ago, of thinking that I was trying a little too hard. In this case I honestly didn't have to expend much effort at all. One fabric was used 'as is', another made it easy to take advantage of the skinny remains, and the other fabric simply made up the difference needed to get to a good measurement. {Part of the bottom fabric was tucked under while I was auditioning the look.} The thing to remember is that 'make-do' is oftentimes a great start for a quilt purposefully built around limitations. Don't overthink it.

If this feels a little too open ended, this might not be quite the right QAL for you. I'm trying something a little different with this invite, and it probably makes some of you want to break out in hives! However, if you're looking to join me for a journey of creative play and doing things the Quilty Folk way? That's the way this entire QAL is going to be, a little loosey-goosey as to measurements etc. Might as well start out the way we're going to keep going! 

There are almost definitely going to be times in this particular QAL when you will run out of a certain fabric and have to make substitutions. Why do you think I start with a fabric stack and not exact yardage? Hmm? Self imposed limitations can make for very interesting quilts! Why not start now with a good strong vibe committing to the art of making do

Next up will be a post about free-style applique. {Probably in a couple days to a week from now.} You had to know what this centerpiece was for! After your first post showing off your fabric stacks or centerpiece background, let me know so I can add your name to the Bramble Blooms QAL participants Link List. It looks like I can link to Instagram accounts too, so doesn't have to be a blog. My email is audkateaster at gmail dot com. Always give me several days to respond as life gets pretty busy around here.


  1. I pieced my center panel, not sure of it yet ….. a little out of my comfort zone! It will be exciting to see where this goes! Louise in Sweden

  2. sounds interesting but I've too many things on my list right now but I will follow along and see what others are doing for sure

  3. Getting started with the first fabric pull, and so looking forward to the entire process. I'll try to post the center panel and fabric possibilities in a few days. Thanks for this new quilting adventure, coming as it does when we need a little diversion from the negative news all around us.

  4. I know what I will be doing this weekend!

  5. Oh this sounds like a good QAL. I have enjoyed your work, watching how your quilts evolve. This might even inspire me to dust off my blog and see if I can remember how to post on it! Not sure if my email is visible to you (pls let me know) so will include it here…..jspwarren at aoldotcome

  6. Audrey this is such a tremendous post from you, your information and suggestions are so good!! I shall have to read again to get my ideas and understanding of procedures fixed in my head, thank you for coming up with this QAL - I love the title - Bramble Blooms.

  7. I am really looking forward to this QAL, I have always loved your quilts, your unique designs. I know I am going to learn a lot as we make this project. I not very comfortable with improv so look forward to learning your process. I have pulled some fabrics and I am deciding on my center panel fabrics. Bramble Blooms, such a great name.

  8. Good intro Audrey, yes, hives! I guess that's an indication of over thinking.......Maybe 'playtime' is more like it.

  9. ¡que maravilla! voy a desempolvar mis telas shora mismo

  10. I LOVE that you are doing this type of quilt along!! I cannot help but join... this is going to be so fun!

  11. Oh, my exciting...will after the holidays be too late?

  12. This is definitely not my norm, but I'm feeling stuck, so I'm in! I pulled the uglies and pieces a center today. Here's to hoping the uglies get prettier - or at least out of my stash! Thanks for hosting.

  13. As soon as hubby gets out of the hospital (hopefully sooner than later) I will play along!

  14. I too hope to play along Audrey. I just did an organization of my scraps and found lots of pieces to "play" with. Thanks for starting a QAL...I so enjoyed the Circles 365 years back.

  15. I'm planning to participate in this. I've pulled some fabrics and ready to put the background together. Just haven't posted yet.

    1. Posted

  16. This is so interesting and exciting. I don't have any old ugly fabric, and I don't do big fabric pulls bec they make me crazy--the mess! That said I planned my first center and hope to follow along and learn a lot. I don't mind make do, improve, subbing, etc, happy to make my own patterns etc. So fun! You are such an inspiring teacher and designer.


  17. This sounds fantastic, Audrey--I am going to play along, too...will be doing my pulls this weekend...Love your inspiring ideas so much...thanks hugs, Julierose

  18. Hi Audrey, thanks so much for the opportunity to play along. I think this is me, not too precise and free. Please add me to your list. Thanks Nat

  19. Sorry my email is:

  20. I am so excited about this opportunity, I love the freedom of the unknown. I am looking forward to this, particularly in this season.

  21. Count me in! Thanks for the opportunity to learn and have fun with the QAL!


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