May I Have A Pattern for this Quilt, Please?

Window Onto Bougainville Street

Window Onto Bougainville Street,  1992,   132cm x 102cm

Last week I had an email from a quilter, Jan in Australia, who apparently loves this quilt she saw in magazine article, and asked if there’s a pattern available.  I am always happy to help others who want to try working how I do – which is essentially what a request for a pattern is about, even though all my ‘patterns’ are essentially make-it-up-as-you-go-along.  Seriously.  But I replied, and this post is based on what I sent back to her.

I told her I didn’t mean to sound difficult when I said there is and there isn’t a pattern to this quilt.   When I made it, 20+ years ago, I used this kind of design several times, working from a pencil diagram on a blank page, which is pretty much all the pattern I need and use.   I added a few notes or lists of colours or ideas for further exploration, then started cutting.   To me a line is a seam, and if I see some wonderful lines and shapes I can adapt for a patchwork pattern, I draw a simple diagram.   So looking at that quilt, you can see it’s just a divided square, and then each segment has a strip added on one side before putting all the segments together.  Other quilts made with this method include several in my  “Colour Memories”  gallery .  For this one, it was the first of a series I designed this way, and I think I cut a square from cardboard and marked dots along the edge so every square would have exactly the same angles – these days I’d do it totally freehand, and it would look different but the same – certainly much more ‘modern’ and ‘arty’  – and now that I think of it, after 20 years,  I might just use this idea again in a different way.  Keep an eye on this blog!

Using a blank worksheet from my ‘Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop handouts, I diagrammed out the following directions:

window onto bougainville street blog

To make this quilt from this block design, you’d start with a fabric piece larger than you want to finish up with  (I think “Window Onto Bougainville Street” squares are 9″ maybe 10″)  and then when all the piecing’s done, trim each block to size.  Yes, of course there’ll be some bits left over – scraps – and I suggest several ways to use these, too, in the workshop – so it isn’t wasteful at all.  I always keep useful sized scraps and segments of trimmed off bits, and use them in new works.  The strips were cut 1″ with a ruler, on the grain, and using 1/4″ seam allowance that shows 1/2″ on the front when done. If you cut them a bit narrower, showing on the front will be narrower.  Work out how many squares of which size you want.  I’d suggest at least one fabric common to every square to unify them.  You could add sashings and borders if you like – its up to you!

In my “Hot Quilts From Cold Scraps” workshop people either use a traditional pattern of their own choice, or learn how easy it is to come up with a pattern of their own to use as we explore the factors that make for successful true scrap quilts.   Then they either choose to cut the fabrics using a ruler or templates or pattern pieces (ie work traditionally)  or they can choose to cut freehand, which is known as “improvisational piecing” either way’s fine with me.  If you’d like to try improvisational piecing, which I call freehand piecing, I found this great little tutorial of the absolute basics –  and am always  here to help if you have any difficulty(send me a pic and description of the problem) but I’m predicting you won’t have any.

Certainly everyone in the Hot Quilts workshop is most likely working on something different as we all explore the principles of designing successful scrap quilts.  I myself always piece freehand these days, ever since learning how just after I made this quilt – eg check out my website gallery “Ebb & Flow”    After the segments are pieced I often trim to a geometric shape using a ruler, as I love the grid layout thing.

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One Response to “May I Have A Pattern for this Quilt, Please?”

  1. Alison, this is a great post. I love the color splashes, and work similarly with bits and pieces. I like it a lot, and understand why someone wants a pattern. I also understand why it isn’t a pattern but a process, and you told everyone how to devise their own special work.

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