Friday, May 17, 2024

Bramble Blooms QAL--2nd Quilt in the Series

Here we are, starting in on Bramble Blooms II already! We began working on the first quilt in the series last October, so as predicted, it's been a fairly laid-back QAL. If you're still working on your BBI, that's okay, you can still jump in with the rest of us, we don't mind! In the first Bramble Blooms, we lined up all of our elements, or in 'creative speak', planted a few seeds. Now we'll take those freshly planted seeds, shake them up a bit and explore some options for making a variation. As Andrea Balosky says so well in 'Transitions, Unlocking the Creative Quilter Within'; "Working in a series is the best way to exercise creativity; each project is an extension and complement of the other." Hopefully, along the way, something personal and wonderfully unique will start to blossom!

BBII Fabric pull
The first thing I suggest you do, is to gather your second fabric pull together. Hopefully using copious amounts of your older, languishing stash fabrics! Many of you made three fabric pulls initially, so you might already have this done. My BBII fabric stack color palette is very, very similar to the fabric pulled for BBI, something done very intentionally. In fact, I grabbed a couple leftover fabrics from the previous fabric stack and inserted them directly into this 2nd round, no problem. If you recall, I started this entire QAL with the feeling of, 'Wowsers, there is sooo much of this stale-dated {and similar colored} fabric hanging around in my stash totes! What am I ever going to do with it?' You, of course, can choose any color palette you like, no matter what your first efforts included. 

Something I've discovered through the years, when I'm totally out of wanna-be-great ideas, is this: a self imposed challenge can totally kickstart brand new thinking. It starts by breaking us free of our normal habits and gives us permission to forget about imagining the totality of the final result. Isn't that where the pressure usually starts? Making it about a challenge totally changes the goalposts. All we have to do is meet the challenge, we don't even necessarily have to be 'in the mood' to get started.

A lot of times a quilt series comes about because there are many more ideas than can fit into one quilt. In this case, there have been very few ideas, or why wouldn't the fabric have already been used up many years prior? With the Bramble Blooms QAL, we are attempting to prod our creativity awake. Within a guided Improv. setting, we are using all the artificial restrictions necessary to trick our brains into thinking 'This is easy, all I have to do is this one thing.' And then one thing after another, we have literally made a quilt top. Right? All out of previously overlooked, ignored and/or neglected fabrics. And it feels good, even if it might not be the most amazing thing ever made. 

I mean, maybe it is! I've seen some fantastic quilt tops over here. Definitely already picked up on a couple great ideas to keep in reserve!
Just start
Sometimes though, we just can't quite engage. That's when we have to purposefully activate our curiosity, however clumsy the attempt. By making this challenge a combination of series work, using less-than-precious fabrics, structuring the whole endeavor with a medallion layout, and leaving room for improv. opportunities, it somehow makes it all the more playful in my opinion. Series work gives us real opportunity to turn the page and start over. "See? That was just our first attempt!" Using older fabrics? We can hack into it and be less fearful about making some huge, catastrophic mistake plus, it often endues a quilt with a humble, comfy vibe. Then there's the medallion quilt layout--not everyone's favorite, but it's quite easily broken down into phases of starting and stopping.*whew! Sometimes it helps to back off and take a moment to breathe. 

And last, is the Improv. aspect--making things up as we go along. We love it and hate it. No doubt about it, the unpredictability of finished outcome is extremely difficult for many traditional quilt lovers. That's because we want our efforts to be worthwhile and not be a waste of time, money or resources. It isn't! Whatever the final outcome, we at least made it to quilt top stage with Bramble Blooms I. At this point, whether we realize it or not, most of us have unwittingly planted lots of little seeds for our own creativity. Just waiting for a chance to come into existence! Let's take our simple piecing and/or applique motifs, reframe them, and see what happens next, shall we?

The first prompt is to make a totally different style of centerpiece than the previous BBI quilt start. This one will be focusing on the pieced look rather than the applique.  Refer to your own BBI quilt and choose out one of the pieced elements to make a centerpiece for this second quilt in the series. My suggestion is to use the {corner of the border} quarter triangle blocks from the first border. If you included those. 

Whatever you choose for this pieced block, make sure it's an element with solid connections to your first quilt top in the series. You can make these blocks in the exact style and size as before, or change everything up, including the method or style by which you made them. Can make your centerpiece with as little as one block or as many as makes a decent sized centerpiece! Sashing is completely optional. The colors in this new centerpiece do not have to mimic the colors in the previous attempt at all.

Chunky improv. blocks
As previously stated, I have deliberately chosen to stay in a similar color palette throughout the duration of the QAL. Overall, I'm intending to mix the colors up, back and forth, from centerpiece to centerpiece, border to border so all the quilts don't end up reading exactly the same. For this centerpiece, I started with mostly medium to dark colored fabrics and cut 12 improv. blocks ala Sujata Shah in 'Cultural Fusions' book. This is a stack method with free cutting. Needless to say, I got distracted, and cut the first set of blocks with the 'x' quite a bit wider than intended. Oops! 

1st Centerpiece
It shouldn't have been a big deal, I do love the chunky x block shape. The problem presented itself when I tried to lay them side by side without any sashing dividers. Yah. It looked like total mush! After playing around with the blocks for several days, I finally settled on the very light, cream colored, wide sashing strips as the solution. I so did not want to ditch these blocks! This cream floral is a tiny bit busy for the look I was aiming for, but I've been wanting to make use of it for years and years. It's quite lovely in person, but always seemed supremely unwilling to work in any other quilt I've attempted. Just finding a spot for it in this oddly large {at this point} centerpiece feels like a win! There's also part of a special fat quarter used; my mom brought it back from a visit to Georgia over 15 years ago. Just for me. Gotta love that!

2nd Centerpiece
Both of those 'wins' helped me feel better about the centerpiece as a whole, but it's definitely not what I set out to do. Nope. So weirdly proportioned to comfortably settle into centerpiece position. Whatever, I am not a quitter! haha
In an atypically extreme reaction, I set about to make a very simplistic block as my 2nd BBI centerpiece attempt. Only one. I've decided after much reflection, to have two BBII quilts on the go. One with too much centerpiece and the other with only the minimum required. That's actually why my fabric pull is so oddly arranged in case you were wondering! I've been playing with the stack, trying to think which fabrics should go into each of the BBII quilts or which might even overlap? Hopefully There's enough fabric to see it all through! 

Don't forget that this is a guided Improv. QAL. All of the prompts are just that--prompts. Not rules and regulations. If your creativity sends you off in a different direction, by all means, please follow the mojo! Once again, this is intended to be a Medallion style quilt. If it helps to anticipate the bare bones of where we're headed, it will have two more borders--as before--give or take any coping borders. The first border will probably be piecing with possible applique. The second border will definitely ask for applique and also have some guidance for making a freestyle bias vine. If you don't want to include any applique, that's unequivocally your choice. I don't hardly know how to make a quilt without it,*sigh but I do get it! Also, it seems crazy to have to say, but... just because you joined in with the first quilt, doesn't mean there's any obligation to make all three in the series. Make 1, 2 or 3 or none. It's all good. Seriously. I'm doing this anyway!

We never know when or how a spark might flare to life when it comes to exercises in creativity. It's perfectly reasonable to feel like we're soldiering through, just making the minimum effort. Then, at the oddest moment, something tugs at our conscious minds and demands attention. The quilt gets a little bossy. That's our instincts and intuition trying to speak up! Remember those seeds of creativity? It probably won't happen much at the start of a simple pieced centerpiece, but afterwards? What we do next will be about reacting to what came before. Series are about connections. Let's see what blossoms and takes shape with BBII! Will probably try to come back with the 1st border prompt by the end of June or first part of July. 

p.s. I'd totally promise that this quilt will look even better than BBI, but series are kinda odd ducks that way. Sometimes the last quilt is absolutely the best, sometimes it's the first, and other times it's one in the middle. We just never know. The one thing that I'm confident in, is the more we make space for creativity, the better our odds get at ending up with an incredible quilt. None of the effort is ever wasted though. We carry our experiences with us into future projects and you know what? That feels priceless.


  1. Oh, how exciting this will be! But this means a lot of thinking …. not my strong point! Thanks for making :) me do this! Now to find my fabric pile! / Louise

  2. Oh, good....we are on to the next one! I did my three fabric pulls at the beginning so I'm ready to go! This has been fun, thank you, Audrey!

  3. Just so excited to be doing this again!
    I am Lila from @indigopearsstudio on Instagram. (I have been unable to get my blogspot working again. So I can only leave “ Anonymous “ comments. I think if I worked on something other than my IPHONE that I could “reach” my blog as I used to use a desktop to write the blog!)

    1. Oh and my email is

  4. Oh my! There is so much in this post. I might even print it so I can make notes on the page. And my imagination and curiosity are going. Thanks so much for another chance to dig in and create.

  5. There is lots of 'food for thought here', thank you Audrey. Your thoughts and ideas are simmering on the back burner for sure.

  6. Hi Audrey, roughly what size centre panel are we looking at. Thanks Nat (notjustnat) IG

  7. Quiltdivajulie here - I don't know if this v2 attempt will come to fruition or fizzle out like the first one did but I've laid out the leftover HSTs from my Tussie Mussie quilt (and shared in my post today) given your prompt for a pieced center. In the TM project box there are also lots of leftover end cuts and other assorted/related fabrics -- so we shall see!

  8. Audrey, I am wondering you would suggest that we make a commitment before the next round. I love the additions that you mention in the post and I want to dive in and make a decision about my center. What would you advise?


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