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Let It Be [Jan. 8th, 2012|10:24 pm]
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Sometimes, a quilt needs to be simple. Don’t theorize too much in advance of the data. Be flexible.

Years ago, I participated in an online block swap of six-inch spool blocks in Christmas colors on a red background. I worked up a possible layout in Electric Quilt, and was pretty pleased with it. I even bought some beautiful golden-yellow fabric to use for cornerstones in the sashing. The only question was: should the sashing be one and a half inches wide with a simple square cornerstone, or should I give in to my impulse for intricate detail and make the sashing two inches wide, so I could put tiny pinwheel blocks in as cornerstones. I didn’t win the blocks and was busy with other things, so the layout was set aside and forgotten.

Until this year at Thanksgiving, when I was going through programs on my old computer at my mother-in-law’s house and turned up a bunch of long-lost designs. Three of them were Christmas lap quilts. I bethought myself of my three sisters (one by birth and two by marriage) and next year’s presents, printed the patterns and brought them home, bought a lovely red brocade style fabric for the background of the first quilt, and started in on that old spool design this week.

Simple was definitely better in this case; the pinwheel cornerstones looked far too fussy with the straightforward spool blocks (which came as something of a relief – I didn’t really want to make two inch pinwheel blocks!) Theorizing didn’t pan out: that beautiful yellow didn’t go at all with the beautiful red. And I had to be flexible after mis-cutting the sashing at two inches finished, rather than the planned one and a half, because I was on auto-pilot and everything else was being cut two and a half inches wide. Ok, yes, I could trim the sashing down. But I hate the idea of that much waste: “would two inch sashing be that bad? I could do tiny four-patches for the cornerstones instead of the plain squares.” Auditioning various yellows and golds in one inch squares proved that even that was too complex for the rest of the quilt. And the gold from the stash which goes perfectly with the red background works really well at two inches finished, plus echoing the two inch centers of the blocks in a nice bit of serendipity.

A fortuitous mistake, a hard look at fabric choices and layout, and the willingness to be flexible (my greatest challenge, always) has led to a much better quilt. Once I have enough blocks made to preview it, we’ll see if that fancy border on the printout survives the design wall scrutiny.

On a side note, I did indulge my love of intricacy in one way; the spool blocks are the traditional version with set in seams. Quilter’s Cache has a great instruction page on sewing this block (search for Spool Block -- hers is 12 inches and mine is six but the construction method is the same.)  I think this way looks much better and is actually easier to do than the nine-patch version with half square triangles. It’s going together really fast!

After laying out the finished blocks and playing with a couple of different border concepts, I am still not sure what I want to do on the outer edges of this quilt.  The darker gold looks better in the picture than in real life.  I am sure that I want the quilt to be a little smaller than planned; we’ll go five by five on the outer rows and that will be nice. That takes nine blocks off the total that I’d previously planned, so I went through the unsewn pieces and eliminated anything that wasn’t a total favorite. And there’s nothing like a photo for letting you see the layout clearly; once all the blocks are made it will be quite a challenge to spread the lighter blocks out around the quilt and not let them cluster.

As always, many thanks to Judy Laquidara and Design Wall Monday for sponsoring this progress report. Go check it out and see what everyone else has done this week!


From: (Anonymous)
2012-01-10 01:07 am (UTC)

simple little spools

If I looked at the photo before I read your post, I would not have guessed that there were spools in there. The red flowers stand out and I did see the spools after I looked for them. It is working up nicely. Christmas gifts-already! WOW. Keep up the good work.
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[User Picture]From: catlinye_maker
2012-01-10 03:09 am (UTC)

Re: simple little spools

Christmas gifts all this year, I think, so's I can get them actually done. I'm really slow!

I agree about the red flowers, which I don't see at all in the quilt in person. I think the flash really washes out the lighter fabrics in the spools.
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