Friday, January 5, 2024

Next Prompt for the Bramble Blooms QAL

I'm back! XXXX Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts and prayers, well wishes and check-ins. My husband is doing marginally better and we're very thankful for any and all progress. It just seems like time to throw some energy at this QAL. Avoiding leftover Christmas calories and cleaning up after the grandkids {though we adore them} is just not doing it for me! Please bear with me through this next phase as I'm a bit frazzled and wooly headed these days. 

This is the start of border #1--
still have some decisions to make
Okay, here we go: The Bramble Bloom QAL is a very free spirited, improv. sort of endeavor as you all know. That makes it extremely interesting to try and convey that same message, all while setting up a structure for the less confident of you to follow. Ack!! Please feel free to take what you will from what is presented and know there is zero pressure to conform.

The next prompt for BB1 is this: Add a border with repeat applique motifs to your centerpiece, with quarter-triangle style cornerstone blocks. This border can be absolutely any width you choose. If you can't bring yourself to add more applique to this 1st quilt, then I suggest making a border of extremely simple (yet bold looking) pieced blocks such as the chunky cross blocks.

If you do applique repeats, they can be as simple as turning a leaf on its side or using a circle shape. Let's not delve into vines just yet as they will be a feature in the 2nd quilt.

Adding a coping border is totally up to you, but completely secondary. It will always be an option to add coping borders to any of these Bramble Blooms quilts without counting as an official border. 

The cornerstone blocks can be any version of quarter triangles you like. Make them simple, scrappy, free-style or whatever else you come up with.  Put fabric strips through the middle or not. Sew applique over the top if that appeals! It's completely your choice.

Alright, go forth and make your fabulous border! Or... follow along for a little bit more guidance and hand holding. I'm good with either.
How about a pink border?
GETTING STARTED WITH A BORDER PLAN: Let's start with color. With a project like this, where I'm starting from an intentional fabric stack, I tend to spend quite a bit of time 'auditioning' fabric colors. You can see that I played with pink as the next surround.
Really thought this would be it!
Then I looked at the rusty tan fabrics. Honestly, this was what I had my heart set on using here, but then I was supremely unimpressed.

Was always pretty sure this wasn't it....
Then there was the dark brown, because you just never know!

A green border is a total surprise to me.,..,
And then I threw the light green fabric up on the wall and found myself feeling all the feels. So surprising, but the quilt made it clear that it actually had a preference! I didn't even bother to audition the red fabrics as my mind was made up just that quickly. If you don't get that particular vibe, then just go with whatever fabric you want to use up right away. There are no right or wrong answers here. You can also wait and go with what makes sense after you decide on the applique or piecing plan. 

Thinking about a coping border
Since the potential 1st border fabric is already up on the wall, then it's a good time to play around with the idea of adding in a coping border. You can do this before or after making a plan for the applique. All of our minds work differently! To be clear, we don't need a coping border for the traditional role of making this border fit well. There's not going to be any measurement issues whatsoever if you're doing applique repeats on the border. It would only be needed as a color accent or perhaps for a subtle framing of the centerpiece. Only you and the quilt can decide if this will be wanted or necessary!

You can see that I contemplated using a chocolate brown fabric for a coping border in the picture up above. It looks kinda blah. In the picture below, I mulled over the benefits of using a busy, cherry red fabric as coping border. I'm not even sure the quilt needs it, but sometimes I'm a sucker for trying to use up certain fabrics just because!
Talking myself into one so I can use this
specific fabric.....
DECISIONS, DECISIONS:  I am a big fan of auditioning color and fabric at different stages in the improv. quilt making process. That's partly why I love this approach so much. Comparing and contrasting what makes certain color combinations sing just gives me a thrill. I absolutely can and do experiment at whim! All you have to do is change the amounts of which color or value you use and wallah! Something in the quilt wakes up and starts making everything around it look so much better.
Playing with the possible applique shape

I settled on these twigs with berries and leaves for my border applique as it suits the Bramble Blooms theme. I've admired them forever which makes it super easy to figure out a quilt that desperately needs them!  {Inspiration pic is several pictures below because I'm working on my husband's Surface Pro in the living room instead of my familiar desktop. Uggh.} 

Of course I won't be making exact copies of the original. How boring would that be? Instead, I doodled a slightly chunkier version of them and then cut out a paper template {see this post for tips}. You can see that I went ahead and cut the template out with the leaves attached, just until I get a good idea of how much room they will be taking up on my potential border. Go ahead and draw up some ideas for your border applique and play with how they might look on various widths of the potential border fabric. You could make a very narrow border here as your first border or something quite a bit wider like mine. Don't be afraid to draw up different heights of your potential applique motifs tool. It's whatever you think the quilt needs or maybe, whatever you're in the mood to sew on at this time.
This width is what I liked best

As an aside, after I measured the border width that worked best for my applique motifs, then I went ahead and measured for the possibility of an added coping strip. Will I? Still not sure, but there's no time like the present to take that measurement.
If I do a coping border, I like this width here
Next up, you'll want to figure out exactly which fabrics will be included in your border. I put the dark red and darkest brown fabrics up near my applique template thinking they might would work nicely for the applique repeats. I'll put them together for future perusal, but remember, I'm still in auditioning phase, nothing is settled yet. Only working on my plan of attack. 

If you don't have a single large piece of yardage for the border lengths, it's easy enough to use several pieces of smaller yardage in different, yet similar-look fabrics. Move them around until you get a nice flow or a perhaps a lovely blending. Don't get stressed about fabrics matching perfectly! So unimportant. This is another moment in the quilt to add energy and spark in a casual way. Notice that I like to keep things interesting and stretch the value quite a bit in terms of range. Might not be your cup of tea so don't push this if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Once I have the fabrics arranged approximately where I think they will land, then I start cutting the chosen border fabrics out in the intended width. Go ahead and cut them out longer than the intended use. The measurements I am using here are 7 1/2" wide {7" plus seam allowance} x however long the piece of fabric is. If I have two fabrics picked out for a single border length, then the combined piece will at least have to measure the side of the centerpiece that I'm sewing it onto.

Before you cut out your border lengths, do make sure you've included allowance for the coping border addition if that's part of your plan. Believe it or not, it does add inches onto your centerpiece once it's sewn on! Don't do like I did and put that decision off until afterwards and then think, 'Hmm..., how is this going to work?' It's hard sometimes not to get caught up in the flow of ideas and thoughts, jumping ahead and missing a critical step.
The berries will probably look better if they're
slightly different than the red in the center
When {or if} I include a coping border into the quilt, I'm going to have to make sure the cornerstone blocks are as wide as the border width and coping border widths combined. I somehow got ahead of myself and did the cuts based on the centerpiece measurements alone without any coping border add-ons. Ha! That's the kind of 'oops' that often happens in Improv. quiltmaking around here, espcially when there are lots of distractions. While frustrating at times, thankfully it's not usually a game changer. Just a matter of figuring out how to address the situation, either fixing it or making do.
The skinny strips are very sweet on 
this quarter triangle look block
So now you'll want to come up with four cornerstone blocks in a basic quarter-triangle arrangement. You can add in strips of fabric through the middle with a little connector square. Or maybe no to the connector square? Totally up to you! 

For this cornerstone block, I cut a square of brown fabric just larger than the green border widths, on the diagonal both directions. Not worried about precise measurements as I can easily trim to size before adding to border panels! I only have enough of this brown fabric left to cut two squares but I love it enough to try and work it into the quilt regardless. This means I'll have to cut two more squares in a different brown fabric {if I want to keep the brown throughout}. Will probably sew a combination of the two fabrics into all four blocks so they look uniform, it's easy enough to do! I'll sew the longish pink strips and a green connector square through the middle and iron carefully. After that, I'll have to trim the blocks somewhat in order to achieve the correct measurement.

Once again, feel free to make up your own quarter triangle block using a pattern, formula or whatever else works well for you. Make it improv. and wonky, all the colors in the quilt or sedate and traditional looking. You can even sew them together in the same fabrics as your border panels. We'll be using a version of this block in future Bramble Bloom quilts, so keep good notes if you like what you end up with!
My inspiration picture--
totally in the wrong place in the post
At some point, you should have a firm grasp on most of the variables needed to move forward. Once you do, go ahead and start cutting your border fabric lengths. If you get in the habit of cutting {and sewing} the combined lengths extra long, you can play with them arranged right next to the centerpiece. This seriously helps in determining where to make the first cut, which then allows you to easily measure out the proper border length from that specific point. This is so much more straightforward {to me} than trying to figure out the exact, perfect measurement {per fabric} prior to making the initial cuts. Also, when using multiple fabrics, you don't usually want the seam to fall dead center. It just looks odd. Shift the panels from side to side until there is a more pleasing vibe.
All the border lengths are cut--
trying to determine the appropriate color
for the applique and still wondering
about the coping border
After the border lengths are finalized {or maybe 1/2" longer for ease with the applique stitching}, then cut out a potential applique motif. Maybe audition it in the chosen fabrics if you have enough to play with. Do you like the look? I've cut mine out with the seam allowances included, but occasionally, you'll need to see one in the literal finished size. Just be careful not to use up too much of precious leftover fabric pieces! Count out how motifs you might need per side, and then cut out and arrange totally by eye. It's not nearly as stressful as you might think. Make a crease in the middle of the border if that helps. As you can see, I'm still trying to decide on the lighter brown fabric versus the darker brown fabrics. Or I can use both. Once I make up my mind, I'm pretty sure there will be four twigs and berries per side borders and three on the top and bottom. I like the idea of plenty of space between.
Maybe just leave the coping border off
and make the strips more narrow
on the quarter triangle block too?
Sill pondering whether I want the coping border hmm..., so tiresome, but some decisions don't come quickly. The good thing is that it won't change the length of my already cut green borders unless I decide to fix things. I can definitely move along with the hand applique details now regardless of either decision. At least I don't have to worry about what fabric to use for the coping border corner squares as they are totally a non-issue now.*sigh  Anyway, it's time for me to cut more applique motifs out and start sewing. My mind will mull things over while doing the busy work.

Obviously, if you choose to machine piece blocks together for the border, you will also be choosing the width of your border by default. Whatever the width of your blocks are will ultimately be the width of your border! But what about the length? Your centerpiece has a set measurement, probably a very unhandy one for precise matching up. Luckily with improv., you can smoothly make adjustments in several different ways.

1.  You can sew an extra block to the row of pieced blocks and chop off the extra. Very utilitarian.
2.  You can add little narrow strips of fabric between each pieced block and stretch the row in order to make the length fit with the centerpiece. Add wider or narrower ones at the very ends of the pieced blocks as needed to finish up.
3.  You can deliberately piece less blocks than needed. Add on extra fabric at both ends of the border length until you have the correct length.
4.  You can make quite a few less pieced blocks than necessary, then arrange them tight together at one side of each border, say at the left side of each border moving around the centerpiece. Sew on a long piece of fabric to one side of the blocks making up the extra till it fits the centerpiece measurement.
5. Or you can piece all of your blocks in a row {per border panel} and then add in a precisely measured coping border cut for the express purpose of fitting perfectly between the centerpiece and your newly pieced blocks row. Whew! Lots of work for you, but that's okay if that feels best! Here's a tutorial for help with that.

WRAPPING IT UP:  Okay. That's the new Bramble Blooms prompt guide, such as it is. Wish there was time to make it more polished and put together! I have a wonderful daughter who has graciously helped out so that we could get to this point, scattered though it might be. I know there are those who will be disappointed not to see my final version of border #1 yet, but actually.... this might work better as you can more readily see how the creative flow/decision making might happen. Be brave! This is the real improv. We're making it up as we go along!  This portion of the BB1 quilt will be finished in about six weeks to two months. Fingers crossed, things should be back to normal here at the home front.

I probably won't be responding to comments very quickly at all, so please don't take offense. Many of you have done lovely, amazing work with your centerpieces. I am in awe! Just know I'll be lurking every chance I get and cheering you on from the sidelines.

For those who have asked, each Bramble Blooms quilt will have: some sort of centerpiece {different prompts every time and not necessarily applique} plus two main border prompts before we move on to the next version. After the second border is finished, you can absolutely add more as you like on each separate quilt. After all, it is your quilt, not mine! Very understandable that you might want something larger or perchance more customized than where the QAL leaves off.

In an effort to keep our creativity engaged, I'm attempting to keep the medallion look very basic and concentrating more on playing with variables as we move along. Keep in mind that everything you do in this quilt has the potential to be included in some way or another in your very next version. Maybe not in the exact proportion or color, but fully expect to be asked to refer back to previous BB1 choices made throughout the span of the QAL! And don't worry if you end up not liking some choice you made. The improv. method assures that we can all gleefully change how each element or motif is represented as each new prompt is introduced.

Hoping this isn't too freewheeling and/or overwhelming for the more timid at improv. Just take each decision as it comes and try not to overthink. As things move along, your instincts and intuition will begin to kick in and most decisions won't feel quite so fraught. Promise! 


  1. I'm so glad you're "back," but I wish you also had news that your hubby was much better, too. I was just looking sadly at my bin of fabrics yesterday and am excited to start the pondering again today! This might save me from starting something else - something I don't need to be starting, so hooray! And thank you.

  2. So good to find a post from you today. Hoping things settle down and you and your husband get your energy and health sorted. I love that inspiration quilt and all the ideas a guidance you have shared here.

  3. From Quiltdivajulie - no pressure to respond! Very happy to find your post today but still concerned for you and hubby. So much to ponder in this post now that we're to move beyond the center (mine is ready to machine appliqué but still isn't). Time to look at photos, do some sketching, and then audition some fabrics. TAKE CARE and know that positive vibes are winging their way to you.

  4. Wow! What a lot to think about.
    It is lovely to see inside your thought process and creativity.
    Thank you for showing us all the possibilities.
    Now to get at it!
    Best wishes for you and your family

  5. Thanks, Audrey,
    Still hopeful for progress for your husband and it's good to see your head above water for a bit.
    And yes on that coping border. Without it the center looks anemic. But that's just my opinion.

  6. I hope it won't take much more time for your husband to recover. I was going to say I like the pink border but see you choose the green which makes very nice too. I have too much going to start this project too so passing on it but I have seen many over time that are following it and have seen some good ones

  7. I hope your DH is getting better as we move into 2024. I've playing catch up on blogs and am loving your QAL. I'm following via blog posts vs making them myself, but I am l intrigued with your process so this is a peek into your design world. Thank you! and Happy New Year!

  8. I’m so glad to hear from you. I have been very worried about your husband so this news of slight improvement is welcome! As is your latest improvisational prompt! I am just about finished with your first prompt. Thank you! Best wishes!

  9. I am so sorry to hear that your husband has still not regained his health. I will continue to keep him and you in my prayers. (We have been down with a bug for about 3 weeks, just getting over it.) Thank you for the next prompt and the detailed instructions. My problem is I keep looking at my center panel and am not happy with it, I think it looks childish in some ways. Will I chuck my plan and start over AGAIN, it's possible. The rusty tan fabric for the coping border? What is the book your inspiration photo is from?

    1. Yes, please, I'd like to know the book's title, too.

  10. I'm sorry to hear that your husband's recovery has been slow, we will continue to pray for both of you. I know how difficult it is to be a primary caregiver, and hope he will begin to recover more rapidly soon. Thanks for providing such a detailed prompt and the photos of your design process. So helpful for this brain that has always been more focused on symmetry than improv. Coping borders have always been my go-to, like an added layer of matting when framing a painting.

  11. I am so delighted to hear your husband is doing better! Also so happy you are able to blog a bit. Love seeing your work. Blessings for the new year. May it be filled with good health and joyful moments.

  12. It was great to see this post a week or so ago, Audrey. I hope your husband continues to improve and that you're able to keep up while still taking care of yourself (who I assume is your husband's caregiver). So often our attention goes to the person who's ill and not a thought to the one taking care of the ill person. All that just to say I'm thinking of both you and your husband and including you in my prayers.
    I'm just beginning to audition fabrics for my first border and I'm sure I'll be back to reread your post a time or two. Thanks so much for the detailed post and guidance.

  13. Hi Audrey This latest post is excellent. Boy, under stress, you certainly can produce!! I know what illness does. It is not pretty. I have you in my heart...sending love xoxoxo Diane


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