Another Shop Hop Quilt, 2008, Part 1
[Editor's Note: I started this post in January, while working on this quilt top. However, due to major recent life events named Finley, I delayed finishing it. The top has been done since before she was born, so although I think I changed all the time references to reflect that they happened in the past, if I missed any and it sounds weird, that's why.]
I was very proud to finish my 2007 Shop Hop quilt, Liddle Lamzy Divey, in time for our guild show in June 2012:
However, spending time with that set of blocks brought painfully to mind the fact that sitting behind them in my studio closet were the block kits from the 2008, 2009, and 2011 Eastern PA Shop Hops. And of course, in November my mom, Ronan, and I completed the 2012 Shop Hop, which meant I brought home yet another set of block kits. So when considering which piecing project I should bring to the guild retreat last December, I loaded up all four years’ worth of kits.
Of course, I had grand ideas of entering some sort of cutting and piecing flow state in which I would power through multiple years’ kits and leave with stacks and stacks of completed blocks. Naturally, reality was far different. I decided to start with the 2008 blocks, which were from the English Rose collection by Jo Morton for Andover Fabrics. Once again, although I am pleased with the result so far, this was not a collection or color palette I would have instinctively been drawn to. The focus print, an extremely large-scale floral featuring huge overblown cabbage roses, is just not my style at all, and the resulting palette, heavy on the hunter greens and burgundies, just strikes me as dull, dark, and dreary. The individual coordinating prints, however, are very attractive and varied, including a couple colorways of an interesting triangular leaf print, some Dimples, a really unusual curvy coral stripe (my favorite fabric in the collection,) and some smaller floral prints. And fortunately, the blocks themselves were designed with a nicely balanced amount of light cream background, and enough of the quilts at the individual shops featured light sashing or borders that kept them from getting ponderous. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have chosen to invest in the kits.)
Here’s a gallery of the shop quilts (as always, click to enlarge):
I had started cutting the fabrics for the blocks several years ago, shortly after finishing the 2007 blocks, but got bogged down in the planning. The block kits are extremely generous, including fat eighths (9″ x 22″) of each fabric called for in the block, which is why I ended up with all those flying geese for the vertical borders of Liddle Lamzy Divey. However, such largesse doesn’t mean I want to waste fabric unnecessarily, and the block instructions are all written for people who prefer to avoid cutting triangles: all half-square-triangle squares are done via the “easy sandwich method” with the drawn diagonal line, and all flying geese units are done using the “stitch and flip method” with a rectangle, 2 squares, and leftover “bonus triangles.” I have tried these methods and found them to be, in my hands, no more precise (in fact, sometimes less so) than cutting the triangles, especially when I use rulers such as the Easy Angle and the Fons & Porter Flying Geese ruler. Plus, the rulers allow me to cut my triangles from strips with nice, normal, non- +7/8″ measurements, and give me pretrimmed triangle points resulting in fewer dogears.
Contrary to my initial attempt, rather than trying to come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Everything where I came up with a master list of every shape and size that needed to be cut, I pulled out all the instruction sheets and cut the components for each block separately, but from a single pool of fabrics. This may have taken a little longer, but the vast majority of shapes could be cut from 2 1/2″ strips, so it was fairly simple to keep everything organized, and I was left with roughly 4 3/4 total yards of leftover fabric, in fat eighths, after all the blocks were kitted up. More on what I did with that later.
The blocks themselves were significantly less varied in their design than the 2007 blocks. In fact, there were really only three basic variations: whether the corners were a standard four-patch, a four-patch with 2 squares and 2 half-square triangle squares, or a Birds in the Air unit . The closest analogue for the basic block I could find in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman was BB1661, “Big T.”
All blocks shared the other elements of a central 4″ square of the large floral focus print surrounded along its sides by units consisting of a 2″ x 4″ rectangle sewn to a 2″ x 4″ flying geese unit. However, this apparent simplicity was contradicted by how much variation was introduced by subtle changes in the position of those flying geese, and by varying the value and fabric choices. From a distance, all you see in these Shop Hop quilts are samplers: you have to really study to see just how similar the piecing is. I had mentioned briefly in an earlier post that it would be interesting to do a quilt of “piecing twin” blocks where the piecing was all the same but the blocks looked different from one another due to fabric and value placement. Well, without trying to, I’ve now made that quilt.
There were 16 blocks that year, fifteen shops plus the kit that came with the passport. And despite working on them for pretty much all retreat weekend, I didn’t quite finish them all. (Needless to say, none of the other years’ kits even came out of the bag.) But the blocks were finished within a few days of the retreat’s end, and I decided to keep it simple and just do a straight 4×4 set with light sashing and cornerstones made from the large floral focus print:
This was a particularly tricky set of blocks to lay out, as I wanted to not only distribute the most eye-catching fabrics evenly across the quilt surface, but also keep blocks of overly-similar construction away from each other, and keep the three different colors of Dimples fabrics used in the corners of each block assorted. Ultimately, I made the corner colors my primary guide, and did my best with the other two considerations. As the top hung on my design wall, I had some mild regrets on some of the block placements I chose, but not enough to rip anything out. And the fancy borders I put on will probably be distracting enough to keep me from obsessing much longer on the blocks. More to come!