The quilt on our bed is showing ravages of Time, unfortunately, and now I’m in the planning phase of making a new one. I love improvisational piecing of course, so whatever I do it’s a commitment to a fair bit of sewing; but by doing a few units a day I know from experience it won’t take long. Anyway, I have a few recorded books to catch up on 🙂 The quilting of a 2.5m x 2.5m bedspread by machine or hand is something I am not prepared to struggle with these days, and will hire a long arm quilter to handle that part. It’s possibly time to book someone so that I have a deadline …
Earlier this year I bought some wonderful blues and greens from my friend Janet Jo Smith who hand dyes fabrics and teaches that skill. If you live in USA you might like to check her website for what she has or could provide for you. From our daughter’s home in Greeley, Janet Jo is ‘just down the road’ at Morrison CO.
Let me share with you some of what I’m considering. I love grids, and so this will be a patchwork quilt of repeated units, cut and pieced freehand so the blocks will be alike, but not exactly the same as they would be in the finest traditional patchwork.
Since early in my post-traditional, freehand piecing period to the present, I’ve used variations of it several times, beginning with Window Onto Bougainville Street :
I recently came across this small wall quilt, unfinished and untitled, that has been hiding, forgotten, in a cupboard for some years! I really like it, and will complete the hand quilting that in the plain blocks echoes the patchwork pattern. It’s already quilted in the ditch, and I’m still a bit amazed at having forgotten it existed.
In my recent Gramado beginners class, one of the students drew up several diagrams of possibilities for what she had in mind, and among them was an interesting variation which from memory might have been something like this – I remember the corner was a triangle with at least one border around it, but of course in a large unit there could be several rows of border – and then some arrangement of ‘rays’ as in this first pair pictured below. And I like the middle pair too.
In freehand / improvisational piecing, there are no pattern templates, you just cut and sew as you go, seam by seam mostly. No blocks are precisely alike but they are all ‘alike’ to a great degree as a rule. So to me it’s important to take a little time to plan, put my idea into a diagram if necessary, and then take a little more time to make a few samples before setting out on a project.
The third pair is way too clunky and out of the question. If I’d trimmed less from those blocks, the pattern parts might have been in more pleasing proportion, but, I was already preferring the two sets above, anyway.
I spent a couple of hours making these, and can tell you that trimmed at (8inches) or 20cm squares, I will need 12×12 units, ie 144 ( always make extras, so 180 or 190 perhaps) to give 240cm per side, which is close to the 2.5m per side I came up with flinging the tape measure over the bed the other day. Once I’ve decided which pattern to use, I will cut pieces of fabric about 25cm x 25cm – rough, not precise – and then will begin cutting and sewing. In the quilt I’m planning, the murky browny green colour will appear in every block and therefore will be the ‘background’ colour, paired with the greens, blues and citrus colours and prints in every block.
The positive and negative looking blocks result from the rotary cut, pattern-free method I use. With two pieces of fabric, one on top of the other, and with both sides facing up, cut through the layers with the rotary cutter to the shapes you want. As the cutter slices through both fabrics at the same time, the edge shapes match exactly when you take them apart and rearrange to sew together. Experience has taught me that 2, 3 and 4 layers of fabric are fine; but unless the rotary blade is new and very sharp, 5 fabrics is a bit more difficult, and with 6 the fabric layers tend to shift ever so slightly, and some of the edges do not match so well, so 6 is the maximum with a very new blade and some care. Plus – and this is important – the layers you cut through and rearrange all need to be set out and sewn together one unit at a time, and the groupings need a ruler or something to hold them down until it’s their turn, otherwise it is very easy to get them hopelessly mixed up, particularly if you have a companionable cat or a breezy crossflow from doors or windows in your work area!
I’ve used arcs or quadrants a number of times – such as in the start of a quilt I made for daughter Anna years back. The quilt that is wearing out features a large section of these blocks arranged into ‘circles’ but much as I love the pattern, I don’t intend to use them again.