Big surprise that lately, when I’ve had a chance to quilt, I’ve been working on baby quilts. As I alluded to in my last post, I’m making a quilt for Ronan that’s blue and taupe. I had gotten this wonderful Japanese owl print by Alexander Henry several years ago from a vendor at the Airing of the Quilts, with no thought at the time that I would someday have a baby son; I just liked the fabric. It manages to be juvenile-appropriate without being juvenile. Really, the only clue that the designer intended it to be a baby fabric at all was that it was available in pink and blue. My mom bought some too, in both colorways, and has made three baby quilts with it (two pink and one blue) for two daughters of family friends and one of my nephews. In contrast, for me this was one of those fabrics that gave me (bad pun alert!) Quilter’s Block. It was too cute to cut. That is, until I had a good idea– and then made a bad mistake that had the potential to scare me off cutting any “good” fabric for the rest of my life!
I bought the book, “9-Patch Pizzazz” by Judy Sisneros a few years ago as a way to use up some large prints that I always fall in love with on the bolt but then don’t know what to do with. I loved the author’s ideas for combining the large print with both coordinating and contrasting fabrics, but of course, being me, I had to goose up the difficulty a little bit. So while I came up with a basic layout very similar to the ones she uses in the book:
I decided to use quarter-square triangle squares, or hourglass blocks, instead of the 9-patches. This decision also allowed me to use some relatively small scraps (hi, Bonnie Hunter!) left over from cutting the Taupe Winding Ways blocks. Cutting the triangles posed no problems; the trouble started when I cut the big blocks of the owl fabric. I have an 8.5″ x 12″ Omnigrip ruler that has faked me out in the past with that extra 1/2 inch. Somehow I managed to transpose that in my mind into thinking there was an extra 1/2 inch on the 12″ side, too. So all the owl blocks that were supposed to be cut 12.5″ x 12.5″ were accidentally cut 12″ x 12″. And of course I didn’t have enough fabric to recut anything (although I would have had enough to cut them correctly in the first place, grumble grumble.) While there was initially some wailing and gnashing of teeth, I realized that with so many seams coming together in the pieced areas, odds were (knowing how I tend to piece) that the hourglass block sections would measure shorter than the cut size for the large-print blocks anyway. Therefore, I reserved judgment on the cutting error until I had the piecing done.
Wouldn’t you know it? The ONE time in my piecing life that I channel Sally Collins and have my blocks come out exactly the intended size, is the ONE time I wanted them to turn out small! Oh well. I added some 1″ dark taupe strips– another opportunity to add in more fabric!– and I think it actually improved the design. I’ve heard the saying before, it’s not a mistake, it’s a design opportunity, but I think this is the most significant example in my work so far.
To a lesser extent, this phenomenon recurred with the appliqué blocks. I knew I didn’t have enough of the owl fabric for all of the large blocks on my plan, so I intended to make one 6″ x 6″ block and one 6″ x 12″ rectangle out of the blue and taupe leaf print that I used in the hourglass blocks. Several of the model quilts in the book use more than one featured print to excellent effect. However, once I got them up on the design wall, they just blended right into the background. I salvaged the situation with some fused, machine blanket stitch appliqué, and I think the result is more interesting and attractive than if I’d had enough owl fabric in the first place.
I still need to add the borders, but I needed to put Ronan’s quilt aside to start AND FINISH!! Arianna’s quilt. We stood as godparents to Matt and Alyssa’s baby daughter, and of course I wanted to make her a quilt. (Plus, it gave me an opportunity to use some pink fabric, now that I live full-time in the Land of Blue.) I started with some Log Cabin and Pinwheel blocks I had left over from another project, added some borders and some more machine blanket stitch appliqué, and quilted it with Patsy Thompson-style no-mark feathers and freehand Baptist Fans. Considering how down-to-the-wire this project was (I finished putting the binding on at 1:30 on the morning of the baptism) I think it turned out quite well:
Once again, deadlines seem to be my friend when it comes to selecting quilting designs. If I have all the time in the world, I can dither endlessly as to which designs would be best. If I’m racing to finish, I make a command decision and put the hammer down. This was the first time I’ve even attempted, let alone used, that freehand Baptist Fan, which was inspired by Ruth B. McDowell‘s use of it as a background filler on her fabulous art quilts. I was very pleased with the result and will definitely use that again (possibly even on Ronan’s quilt?) especially on another quilt with a lot of busy piecing. It makes such a nice texture. No wonder it’s a classic. (Plus, more fun quilting puns: Baptist Fans on a baptism quilt?? Huh?? Funny?? I’m such a dork.)
On Saturday Ronan and I attended the AQS Lancaster show. I won’t give you my reviews now; hopefully there will be some new posts on the subject within the next week. I will say that I was very excited to see that many of the changes I predicted from last year have come to pass. I definitely noticed a significant uptick in positive media coverage of the show over last year, much of it focused on the predicted $10 million it’s bringing with it to Lancaster! Several non-quilters of my acquaintance specifically asked me if I were going to the show, as they had heard about it from TV, radio, and the newspaper. So AQS seems to have come to understand Lancaster, and Lancaster seems to have grasped what it means to have a show of this caliber come to town. More on that soon!