Meet Another UFO: Pink and Brown
I haven’t been blogging lately, but I have been quilting! I have two quilts that are within heartbeats of being finished, and I’ll discuss the first one here. It’s a return to my original purpose for this blog, to motivate me to finish my unfinished projects and to document the process.
This is a weird UFO because to many eyes, it’s a finished top that just needs to be quilted. In fact, that’s exactly what it is; I’m just being difficult.
In the nine years I worked at my former practice, we had three employees retire, and I made a quilt for each of them. The most recent retiree, in April 2007, was a woman who decorates in a refined country style and loves pink, so I thought pinks and browns, heavy on the Civil War reproductions would suit her well.
Our guild had hosted a workshop on the Square in a Square ruler technique. I had been unable to attend the workshop (stupid full-time job!) but had seen the great quilts that emanated from it, so I bought the ruler and a book and chose a nice Churn Dash variation block. I’d been collecting pink and brown fabrics for a while (remember how you couldn’t avoid them a few years ago?) and paired them with shirting fabrics. I made thirty blocks, making two each of fifteen fabric combinations, so that I could have a quilt to keep as well as one to give away.
I wound up loving the blocks but was less than impressed with the Square in a Square technique. Sure, it’s accurate, but it does weird things with grain lines, leaving biases in places I don’t want them and creating some wacky effects with directional prints (look at the top block in the rightmost column to see a particularly egregious example). Plus, I found it to be very wasteful of fabric; I brought my scrap bag to retreat after making this quilt, and one of my friends managed to make an entire pieced tablecloth just out of the offcuts. So I donated the Square in a Square ruler and books to the Guild Boutique. I may not be Sally Collins, but I am a decently precise piecer, so I don’t think I need this technique to be happy with both the process and the results of my piecing.
My thought for finishing this quilt was to make it both larger than it was and to make it just a little bit different than the first one. I have yet to make any completely identical quilts, and I’m in no hurry to start. With the large vertical strippy borders, I didn’t want to simply add solid circumferential borders, so I decided on pieced borders. And since I absolutely love pinwheel blocks, which would echo the half-square triangles in the corners of the central blocks, I settled on a plan. And then… stopped. For five years.
Continuing my snowball method of trying to pick out the UFOs with the least amount of necessary finishing work, and being in more of a piecing mood than a quilting mood at the moment, I pulled this top out of its box after finishing my retreat tote. Putting it back up on the design wall, I realized that it definitely needed a solid spacer border both to give the eye a place to rest and to make the math work for the pinwheel blocks. But what to use? A bold print would get lost, and using either pink or brown would mean that half of the pinwheel blocks would blend into it. I briefly considered using a neutral, but finally decided there was no way I could go but green.
The Judie Rothermel print I had used for the inner two vertical strip borders had touches of green, as did the stems and leaves of the floral in the outer two, but it was kind of an odd green that I was sure I’d have to shop for. Surprise, I had yards of an otherwise unremarkable tone-on-tone in exactly the right green. I must have bought it at an extreme discount, because it’s rather boring and I can’t imagine why I would otherwise have been inspired to buy so much of a fabric I didn’t love. But it was perfect for this project, so serendipity works!
To cut the pinwheels, I used the Easy Angle Ruler. Bonnie Hunter references this ruler all the time, so I had bought one (JoAnn’s coupon!) ages ago but hadn’t tried it. Basically, it allows you to make half-square triangle squares without the +7/8″ that leads to cutting weird-sized strips. I was making 3″ squares for a 6″ finished size pinwheel block, so by using the ruler I could cut my pieces from 3 1/2″ strips. I was very happy with this technique, as it gave me good precision, eliminated one set of dogears from the finished square, and left more usable scrap sizes than the traditional technique. I completely understand why Bonnie has embraced it, as it allows far more efficient usage of common strip sizes from her Scrap User’s System; it would also be great for jelly rolls or Bali Pops.
I had the typical fun laying out the border blocks: for a quilt containing so many fabrics, it seemed way too easy to duplicate fabrics in close proximity to one another. But I finally came up with a layout that satisfied me, and sewed everything together.
This was the moment that for me, put the final nail in the Square in a Square technique. That was the weirdest, wonkiest quilt top I have EVER produced. Biases were fighting each other everywhere! I guess I hadn’t noticed it as much when I made my coworker’s quilt because I didn’t try to put a border on it; I was also at an earlier point in my machine quilting learning curve, when I wasn’t as cognizant of trying to keep straight lines straight, or quilts square and flat. It is very possible that that earlier quilt is actually trapezoidal or rhomboid and I just didn’t notice. (I hope my coworker didn’t, either!)
I’m hoping that it will all quilt out; I was able to get things more or less stabilized when I spray basted, so hopefully the finished product will be a square, flat quilt with occasionally straight lines. But even if it’s not, I’ll be able to say two good things about it: that it’s DONE, and that the back is fabulous:
Talking about that top reminded me of The Singing Quilter, Cathy Miller, and her song, “You Can Quilt That Out.” I was happy to find this video for the song, made by professional longarm quilter Mavis Rosbach of Quiltbird Studio: