I am about to finish the final ten blocks of my Simple Gifts quilt, those with a red background and green gifts. In my January 21st post, where I'd first begun assembling this quilt, I'd questioned my wisdom in mixing up the background pieces per the pattern instructions. I was having second thoughts that the crazy quilt look might be too distracting and cacophonous for my taste. The following photo examples show how the patchwork green and patchwork aqua backgrounds from previous weeks fight the gifts and bows for attention.
After being away a week to help my son move, I was able to come back and look at this quilt with fresh eyes. I had not yet mixed up the background reds for the green gifts and actually considered not doing so. But then I thought it might look weird with the green backgrounds and the aqua backgrounds patchwork style, and the red backgrounds not so. I looked at the pieces before shuffling them, and an overall impression struck me. When they were all the same, it was rather boring. Also, a one-fabric background did not cause the presents to pop out any better.
So I forged ahead as originally planned and shuffled the reds. I would rather be too adventurous than too safe. If I make this quilt again, I will be much more aware of how the print and color variations of the background patchwork can accentuate or camouflage the gifts and bows. This quilt would have an entirely different vibe if it were made in all solids or if the backgrounds were not shuffled. It could be very regal; but then again, it could be downright dull.
So far I have completed all the upper bow sub-sections and all the lower gift sub-sections for the ten red background blocks. At this point I no longer chain piece the components assembly-line fashion, but rather work to complete one block at a time. I trim each bow sub-section individually after I've uniquely matched up the points on each bow.
Then I level off the top of the gift sub-section.
I join the two sub-sections such that the bow is centered.
Here are two of the ten blocks ready to have their top and right side squared up for final sizing.
As I finish piecing these, I linger, because piecing really is my favorite part. I am thinking ahead, though, about what quilting pattern I will do on my longarm Heidi. Since the gifts are competing with the background in terms of color intensity and pattern, I want to compensate in some way with the quilting pattern. An allover pattern will not meet this goal. I saw in one of my online Craftsy classes how quilting one area can make the non-quilted area pop. To start with I will stitch in the ditch around each present. I want that outline to be in the lower, background fabric. To this end, I made an adjustment in my pressing direction in this set of ten blocks. That meant reversing the pressing direction of the seam at the base of the gift, pressing up toward the gift rather than down toward the background. Pressing this direction contradicted the "away from the bulk" rule of thumb but that is okay. I had to remove about a ½" length of seam at the lower present left corner, re-press, and re-stitch to do this.
I will need to go back and do that twenty times – ten times for the red gifts and ten times for the aqua gifts but I think it will be worth it in the end. I have already reversed it with the green gifts. The present is now elevated on all edges so stitching in the ditch will consistently be outside the gift. Then perhaps I will echo quilt in the background patchwork around each gift.
In the next couple of days I should have the last eight blocks done. Then comes trimming them to a uniform size and deciding how to arrange them into five rows of six gifts each. Once the excess background is whittled away with trimming and absorption into the seam allowances, the gifts should become more dominant. Here's hoping that a quilting pattern can further coax them out of blending in. Fingers crossed...
So that is it for my work in progress. I am off now to check out the works in progress of others at this week's Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday.