One of my first methods to focus the eye more on the gifts was to place the more graphic background fabrics toward the outer edges of the quilt so they would be less distracting. Note I placed the red-and-white-stripe fabric and the red-with-white-rings fabric around the outer edges of the quilt. This placed three of the ten red background blocks on left outer edge and three of the ten red background blocks on right outer edge. To balance the reds, I brought the remaining four red background blocks diagonally toward the center. I then checker-boarded the green and aqua backgrounds in the remaining spaces. I think it is interesting to note that thus far my decisions are made on the backgrounds and not on the gifts. And yet it is the gifts that I prefer to be the featured items. At this point, I am still sticking to my self-imposed rule that adjacent blocks should have different background fabrics.
My husband looked at this arrangement, "Why don't you put all the red on first and last columns?" he commented. So I did, breaking my different adjacent background rule, but still keeping the aqua and greens checker-boarded in the second through fifth central columns.
The center was still a bit of a hodge-podge, so I aligned those central columns as either green or aqua, but still alternated the colors by column.
What if I kept a column sequence of red, aqua, green and repeated red, aqua green? Better, but a bit lopsided by the dominant red. Besides, those pesky graphic red prints were now back in the center.
What if I made the columns follow a symmetric sequence: green, aqua, red then red, aqua, green?
Ah, better. But really those green and aquas are equal weight visually so they could be grouped and flank the red and not be imbalanced. I like the next photo. It is the most orderly option thus far. I started out with the least orderly in the first photo. I still have those pesky graphic prints to the outside of the red but they are at a background color interface, so you expect a discontinuity anyway. I had been second guessing my decision to shuffle the background fabrics but it was too late to undo all the blocks and re-sew then with one background fabric. Grouping like background colors together was at least a step in that direction with some of the same benefits. The patchwork backgrounds become a bit more unified and smoothed out being near a like colored neighbor. Essentially, this approach cut down on the number of color interfaces the eye had to negotiate to pick out those gifts. Since the eye generally reads from left to right, placing the aqua background, the one with the strongest patchwork look, on the far right helped a bit too. By the time the eye gets there, it knows what to do. I also like that the long columns accentuate the elongated lines of the gifts with their ribbons. This was an unexpected bonus.
Background herded into an orderly compliance, I could now concentrate on balancing those gifts within two same background color columns at a time. After many interactions and intervening photos that I will not share here, I came up with this next arrangement.
In the two left green-background columns, the dark aqua gifts are distributed evenly among the lighter aqua gifts. In the two red-background central columns, the gifts are pretty equally weighted so the highly graphic background pieces that dominated could be dispersed evenly along the other edges of those two columns. And in the final two right aqua-background columns, I evenly weighted the red gifts to balance the two highly graphic ones. Three solid-colored gifts of aqua, red, and green are equally distributed in the quilt, also. But – great news! This paragraph addresses predominantly the gifts. Which means you can finally, finally, notice them! Some bows are still a bit hidden, but, after allowing a bit of randomness to rule, it is not so bad.
I have made my peace with this quilt. I can now assemble and quilt it with renewed enthusiasm. "It takes a village to create a quilt" is a somewhat relevant statement. My daughter, upon reading my posts, commented how she thought the same backgrounds should be kept together. I had just done that, initially sparked by my husband's red suggestion. Her comments were further confirmation to me that this approach was a good one. Although I read her comments after I had taken this columnar approach, I do need to point out that she came to this conclusion long before I did! The quilting torch has been passed to a new generation!