Thursday, June 30, 2011

Now that I have some time to sew again . . .

I have a few things on my "to sew" list. Lately, I've been making clothes for me and Emma, simply so I could have some summer clothes - I think I still need to blog about some of them. In any case, I like sewing clothes, but I don't find it as creatively satisfying as quilting. There is a lot more freedom to mess around in quilting, and not so much anxiety about wether its going to look good in the end. A quilt can always be balled up and flipped over and otherwise manipulated to show off its best points, or just used for picnics and the beach if its really terrible. Clothes -- not so much. They either fit or they don't. They look good and you want to wear them every day, or you want to cut them up and reuse the fabric for patchwork. I like making clothes because its fun and I can get exactly what I want, but its not play for me, like quilting is.

In any case, I wanted to finish up a few quilts that I've had in process for a while now, as unfinished quilts always weigh on my mind. I'm not one of those people who likes to have fifteen or twenty projects laying around. That just discourages me and makes me want to start a new hobby. One or two is okay, but too many and I just get frustrated.

So, my first work in progress is these Meadowsweet blocks. Remember way back in January of last year when I was strip peicing these? I bought the fabric for me, then ended up using a lot of the blocks in this baby quilt because Olivia was very premature and in ICU and I wanted to send some comfort to her parents right away. But the other half of the blocks, the half I kept for me, sat for a long time. You see, I used the blocks that balanced well in Olivia's quilt, and kept the ones that weren't quite doing it for me. I always planned to either make two more sets of blocks (6 more total) and make a bigger quilt, or cut the blocks up and stitch them back together again in some fancy way that would make them more interesting. The idea of making more blocks was leaving me feeling frustrated, and the idea of cutting them up and finding a way to sew them back together again felt too exhausting right now, so instead I came up with a third option. This:
I decided, on laying the blocks out again that the problem was the busy-ness of the quilt. There was a lot of colour and pattern and not much to ground it or hem it in. Olivia's quilt was stablized by the owl fabric (I put it all in her quilt and the scraps are in Aaron's quilt) and the umber Kaffe dots, but I didn't have any of either of those fabrics left to work with. I didn't want to interupt the rail fence pattern, but I did want a fast way to make it come together, without putting a ton more energy into this quilt. I didn't want it square, but it felt too long and skinny as a rectangle. So I added these two 6" brown strips along the edges. I am planning to bind this quilt in these same fabrics, thus creating a frame of brown to hold all the riot of colours and patterns together.

While I didn't want to do any more work on the front of the quilt, I don't have a big piece of fabric that matches with the front to put on the back. But I have a LOT of fabric in the same general colours as this quilt, as I was planning to do a really cool quilt with lots of Mendiccino fabric in it, and so I'd bought a fair stack of fat quarters as well as some other stuff to co-ordinate with it. This is one of those stacks of fabric that I have had grouped together in the back of my stash for over two (three?) years now. I have occasionally sketched a really complex pattern for it involving lots of fussy cutting and inset seams and hand sewing. But lets get serious here. I have three children and no wall space for a design wall right now. Anything that complicated is never going to get done.

Not only that, but I've been feeling like I need a release from this obsession with fabric lately. Like these bits of cloth are just becoming way too precious to me. And like I'm becoming too anxious about finding just the "right" fabric, or about people thinking I'm too lazy or not a good quilter because I do a lot of square and rectangle quilts (as per the big web blow out a few months back). So I decided that I was going to use this Heather Ross fabric (that is now worth about three times the price I bought it for -- fabric speculation - who knew) as a symbol for my creative and spiritual release. I trimmed all my fat quarters to 16" lengths, and cut it into strips:
Yes, there it is. No plan or rhyme or reason, just cut up. I'm going to piece the strips improvisationally and use them for the back of my quilt. Here's the rules of the game (these are not mine, they are taken from "Last Minute Patchwork and Quilting". Joelle Halverson borrowed them from Denise Schmidt.):
I'm going to put all the strips into this paper bag.
I will randomly pull out pairs of strips and sew them together end to end and press them. Then I will put all the pairs of strips back into the bag and do the same thing until I have sets of four. Then eight.
Only when most of the strips are sewn into blocks of eight will I lay them all out and arrange them into the size and shape I need for my quilt.
The only restrictions are that the two strips can not be the same colour or the same pattern in a different colourway. That's it. Otherwise, its all up to the paper bag, baby.

I am so excited to see what happens with this quilt back. Even if its a total flop, I love all the colours and patterns, so I'm sure it will at least be nice to scrunch up and look at when its done.

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