Friday, February 10, 2012

what's quiltin' : biography of a quilt

Quilting has become such an important a part of my life over the past few years.  It seems I need to have something in the works at each of the various stages of the process. On the days that I wake up with my thinking cap on I enjoy the mathy planning and configuring of a quilt idea that has been floating around... but some days I just need to mindlessly sew strips together. I've gotten to the point where the words "road trip" are almost synonymous with the words "hand quilting"{I am thankful that my husband consents to drive!}. The hand quilting and sewing on the binding are more social and transportable parts of the process... But, perhaps my favorite companionable part of the process is having a few quiltie friends over to help lay out all the blocks before sewing them together. We arrange and then stand back to squint... are the darkest parts evenly distributed, is it balanced, should it be laid out in a different pattern?  It sure is nice to have moral support as you think through all possibilities before committing to one.  I didn't realize this post was going to become an ode to my quilting buddies, but I'm coming to realize that quilting to me is not just a lonely venture.  Quilting has historically been a community is deeply satisfying to me to share the experience.

This is a stack of string quilt blocks that is steadily growing. I have found that there are some days (usually the bad ones) when all I feel like doing is making string blocks. Just reach in the box of strips and sew straight lines... and then marvel at the lovely result-so therapeutic. The first string quilt that I made was for my cousin's wedding gift and I have been wanting to start another ever since. These blocks are for a throw quilt to go in our family room.

I started the process by choosing a color palette and cutting lots of strips (strings) in various widths.

I am using a paper piecing method that I learned from this blog tutorial. The block on the left in the photo above shows how all the strips are sewn down to a piece of paper (with the stitch length very short to make it easier to tear the paper off). The block on the right shows the back after the paper has been torn off.

At first I planned to make entire quilt top with diagonal string blocks... but then I got jealous of my friend's spider web quilt and decided that I wanted to incorporate the two together. I made the spiderweb block in the photo above and realized that it took a LOT of work... and it was too small.

This is a sketch of my first string + spider web idea. I was going to do a border of spiderweb blocks all the way around my square 60"X60" throw. I put the project on hold for a while because I wasn't thrilled and I wasn't quite sure why.... I gradually realized what was bothering me- I wanted to see the string blocks run straight to the edge and I didn't want it to be so symmetrical with the even frame all the way around. My mean old design teacher would've shouted his favorite criticism--"BUSY and BORING". Nobody wants to be shouted at- even in their imagination! So, then I came up with a more satisfactory design:

The sketch might be difficult to decipher (I certainly didn't draw it with the intention of sharing it with the world... and it got smudged)... but I'm loving the modern feel of the square shape and off center design. I am also thrilled that I have fewer spider web blocks to make ;-)

There's something exciting about laying out the blocks every now and then to get a feel for the quilt growing as the number of blocks increases...

And don't you worry about the spiderweb block that was rejected for being too small. He found a home on a pillow in my family room. It is kind of like a little preview of the quilt for the room.... I think I'm going to like it here ;-)

:: Expect more behind the scenes of quilting...what do you think? Are you interested in hearing and seeing the whole life story of a quilt or should I keep to abridged versions?... Are there any details you are interested in that I didn't mention?


Lindsey R. :: LRstitched said...

I love seeeing behind the scenes. I'm glad the spider web found a home, he looks happy on your couch! Can't wait to see the finished string quilt.

Brooke said...

Love it, quiltin' buddy. Well said. May have to start blogging... Jealous of a spider web quilt on your side... Jealous of a blog on mine. :)

trmills said...

I've just been enjoying perusing and love to see your creative process! Am going to send you a note now too with some other thoughts...

jane said...

Thanks y'all... glad to know that this sharing is worth while!