Well it has been a busy time on the day job, so the amount of time in the Ice Bear Studio has been a bit limited of late, but there is progress afoot on the design wall (and I have two new daylight lamps, one above my cutting station and one above my pressing station: great for late night sessions!).
So what is on the design wall at the moment? Well three things actually: a 5 1/2″ by 6″ strawberry block, an appliquéd loon panel and the beginnings of a wall hanging with an autumn theme. Allow me to explain.
First, the strawberry: this is taken from Kim Gaddy’s book Farm Fresh Quilts (Kansas City Star Books) which features a lap quilt of identical pieced strawberries. The patterns in Gaddy’s books are always fun, but in my experience not without the odd peculiarity (mainly in the way cutting and sewing steps are described), so this was a test block, just to check. I plan to make 6 blocks in differing shades of red and purple (and green!), so that I have strawberries, raspberries and loganberries! Then I think I’ll put them together as a tote.
The loon has been on the design wall before (although it has been appliquéd in the interim): it is an enlarged version of a Lily Pad Designs design, and originally I was going to make a cushion from it (like the Pacific Northwest hummingbird cushion in an earlier post), then I decided to make a wall hanging instead, and then I got stuck. I couldn’t think of a wall hanging format that reflected Pacific Northwest coast native art (wall hangings are not indigenous to the area, quilted or otherwise). I thought about the appliquéd blankets from the area (that is why the loon is black and red, though in the reverse of what is traditional) and started collecting black, red and white fabrics that might be useful, including one great red on black native art style batik, which you can see in the photo. But still…. everything I thought of and sketched just seemed so, well rectangular, and that didn’t feel right. I thought perhaps I could make it wide, instead of tall, but although that felt better it still wasn’t the answer. I kept on reading books about Northwest Pacific Art and a week or so ago as I was cycling home from work on a beautiful sunny day I had a Eureka moment: I would make my wall hanging 5 sided, like the traditional Chilkat robes (cloaks), with the loon panel in the centre and quilted panels along the sides and a fringe along the bottom.
I am now sketching madly in my design notebook as I refine the design I want to make. To be continued!
The third project on the design wall is 9 blocks to make up the centre panel of the quilt ‘Kansa Troubles’ designed by Margrit Hall and taken from the Earlene Fowler book Benni Harper’s Quilt Album (C&T publishing). I have read all the Benni Harper novels (quilting cozy novels are a bit of a habit of mine, more on that some other time) and I was looking for a project for an autumn wall hanging when I remembered the Kansas Troubles quilt from the pattern book (Kansas Troubles is the title of the third novel in the series, and is also the block in the corners of the outer borders of the quilt).
The quilt has a central panel made up of 9 identical blocks that look a bit like fields from above, with a appliqué of corn plants and an inner and outer border. The outer border is wide and has the Kansas Troubles blocks at the corners. I decided to make this quilt a stash buster: that means I have to work with the fabrics already in my stash: I am only allowed to buy one additional fabric to make the quilt (these are self imposed rules, by the way, but they work! The one fabric waiver is because most of my stash is fat quarters or half yards, and that is usually not enough to make borders with; I like a challenge, but I don’t want the end result to really suffer!).
So I dived into my stash and pulled out browns, yellows, yellowy greens and rusty oranges to see what I had: I was right, I had everything except the fabric for the second wide borders, so I have ordered some orangey sunflowers over the internet. Still waiting for them to clear customs and arrive.
I sewed the nine blocks that make up the centre panel and hung them on the design wall in the configuration in the book and then decided that I didn’t like how they looked.
I didn’t like how the brown patches formed dominant ‘L’ shapes in this configuration. So I tried a number of other layouts: after all, that is what a design wall is for! I photographed each layout and looked at it on the wall and on the camera: often in a photo I seen things I don’t see in real life: I don’t know why, something to do with how the eye works I guess.
So I lined the blocks up, all aligned the same: yeuch! The semi-random element gone. Dull.
So then I tried flipping alternate blocks vertically. I thought this had possibilities: and I quite like the propeller shapes. But what if I flip the other blocks?
Then I got this, which I didn’t like as much. It looked a little top heavy. So I decided to try flipping per row, and see how that turned out.
Badly, that’s how. This looks really clunky and there is a nasty rectangular thing going on there in the lower middle. I thought this looked terrible! So I decided to try a bit of horizontal flipping to see how that panned out:
It was definitely an improvement on number 4, but again created big brown ‘L’ shapes that I found too dominating. One last try!
Oops: where did that pale green and yellow stripe cone from? From backing your blocks against each other, that’s where!
I looked at all the layouts one more time, and decided to go with number 2. So that is how I sewed the blocks together.
I am really pleased with how it looks, and am now auditioning fabrics for the inner border: the choice is a green or a dark brown.
I think I’m going with the dark brown: it forms a stronger fame and will contrast better with the corn stalk appliqués. The colours on the blog are a bit more saturated than in real life, that’s photography for you!
So now I am sketching for the loon wall hanging and waiting for my Kansas Troubles outer border fabric. Today it is raining: time to go and cut and attach that brown inner border. Progress report as and when!