Thursday, May 7, 2020

Some quilts give me fits

I'm going to be perfectly honest.  Some quilts are just a pain and refuse to cooperate.  I love every project when I start it, but there are a few projects that I just can't love all the way through the process.  I'm having trouble with one right now.  I have second-guessed my decisions at almost every stage.

You might remember this one.  I made the first block in January 2017.  Was it really three years ago?  I guess you can tell I lost my momentum.

I did enjoy making all the blocks in 2017.  The trouble began when I had to choose a setting.  I posted about that in November 2017, and I'm afraid I'm still as unsure of my choice now as I was then.  Looking through my ideas, some of the ones I discarded appeal more to me now than what I finally settled on in January 2018.  Maybe I'll be happier with my choice once the quilt is quilted and I scallop the border as I planned.

In the meantime, the butterflies are giving me fits.  I felt I didn't have the FMQ skills to do what I wanted, so I tucked the quilt away for a while.  When I finally learned how to use my quilting rulers I thought I was all set.  The ideas were flowing, yet once the quilt was basted I came to a standstill, again.  I had trouble getting the ruler foot over some bulky seam intersections.  The background was less open than I remembered, so my wonderful ideas wouldn't work.  The quilt went back on a shelf.

I finally pulled it out again last week, determined to finish it. I have a little bit of work to undo.  This poor blue butterfly has mismatched wings.  Last year I was sure I wanted concentric circles in the top wings, but after stitching that on one side I wasn't sure anymore so I auditioned something else on the other side and couldn't decide which to keep.  I neglected to finish the second lower wing and when I picked it up again last week I used the wrong ruler so the curvature doesn't match the other side.  So, I need to decide what stitching stays and what gets picked out, then finish this little blue guy.

I do like what I stitched in the orange butterfly, with clamshells in the upper wings, though this was my second attempt, and there was much unladylike muttering both as I picked out stitching and as I wrestled over some thick seams.  A hammer may or may not have made an appearance to flatten some parts...  The thread broke as I was almost finished stitching one lower wing, and that's when the quilt went back on the shelf last year.  I still need to stitch that last wing.

When I pulled the quilt out of timeout last week, I made some progress.  I really like what I managed to stitch in this blue/aqua butterfly.  I also had no trouble at all stitching in the ditch, no bulky seam issues at all.  Either my machine settings were not properly set last year, or this block is just flatter, but this was a much more pleasant stitching session.

At this point I started regaining momentum...then my creativity tanked.  I could not figure out what to quilt in the other six butterflies!  I told myself not to give up again.  All the butterflies needed stitching in the ditch around the wings and body regardless, so I worked on that for a while.  With just one and a half butterflies left to ditch-stitch, the pink one gave me grief.  The thread broke multiple times and somehow, even with my quilting ruler, I couldn't seem to keep the stitching in the ditch.  I quit and went to play with paper and pencil to figure out what to quilt in the background.

These concentric circles gave me more grief than I expected.  I've stitched these with success before on other projects, but this time around I struggled. The spacing between the circles isn't consistent and there are multiple jogs in the arc because I was pulling and tugging in ways I shouldn't have, and I forgot to center the needle in the ruler foot so it wasn't stitching in the right place to give the result I wanted. I suspect I should not have been sewing at all that day! It doesn't look too bad in the picture, but I finished this stitching session rather discouraged.  My enthusiasm for this quilt is fading rapidly again!

I'm going to go catch up on my temperature quilt, then try to come back to the butterflies.  I am clinging to the hope that once I finish it I will love it again!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Choosing the quilting

My bright blue inventory quilt is finished!  Since it was a smaller version of Sparkling Trail, it didn't take long to quilt once I decided what to quilt.  The planning took longer than the quilting!

There's my attempt at a glamour shot.  OK, I just wanted to admire the daffodils.

And the dandelions.  I have lots of those.  I know they're weeds, but they are so cheerful right now!  Plus the finches love them.

This one is not a glamour shot, but it does a much better job showing off the quilting.  I toyed with the idea of trying different fillers in the various blue fabrics, but in the end I really wanted the blue fabrics and not the quilting to be the focus.  Straight line quilting 1/4" on either side of the seams gave just enough texture to call attention to the blues without distracting from them.

You'll notice there are three stars quilted with a flower consisting of six large petals and six skinny ones.  This was the design I planned to quilt in every star.

I quilted the first one by stitching the large petals first, then the small center ones.  That experience suggested that quilting the center would help stabilize things better for quilting the larger set, so that's what I did on the second star.  Guess what? I really liked the delicate look of just the small petals in the star, so I skipped the larger petals in the rest.

Why, then, are there three stars with the larger petals?  I didn't want to pick out quilting to make the first one match the rest!  One star quilted differently looked a little odd and lonely, so I gave it friends.  As always, my quilting plan was very fluid and subject to change on the fly!

It took me several days to decide what to quilt in the border.  I sketched out three other designs, which I saved for possible use in future quilts, but none of them seemed right for this quilt.  It finally occurred to me to repeat an element from the center of the quilt to tie the border to the rest rather than introduce yet another element.

What you see on the quilt in the photo above is actually the second iteration of my border design.  I drew the first iteration on paper and was informed that the 5 petals I used to turn the corner actually looked like a certain weed someone might smoke!  Three leaves worked just fine, though then the "leaves of three, leave them be" warning about poison ivy popped to mind! However, these 3 leaves don't look anything like poison ivy, so they can stay.

How do you plan out your quilting?  Do you sketch first, or can you see it all your mind's eye?  Or do you just start stitching and see what happens?  Please share in the comment.  I'd love to know how other quilters approach the task.

The Sparkling Trail pattern is available in my Etsy shop at 20% off regular price now through the end of June when you use coupon code JWQIQ2020.  See this post for more information about modifications I made to make the quilt above.