Thursday, April 20, 2017

Outside my Comfort Zone

I repeatedly hear that you have to work outside your comfort zone to grow. I bought a Kaffe Fassett kit titled Hedge Maze on sale from Craftsy because I wanted to experiment with combining cacophonous fabric prints. Plus I also love blue. Plus it was 50% off. The first thing that I got comfortable with was the pronunciation of the designer's name. I learned from an online episode of Alex Anderson's The Quilt Show that his name rhymes with "safe asset". That is where my comfort ended for quite a while.

Each fabric in the kit was undeniably gorgeous. True, there were a couple not too much to my taste. Frankly, (H) was a bit too khaki colored for my pure-tone bent and (A) seemed very much like an old lady's floral, like the chintz she would have on her overstuffed parlor chair. But, I knew if I only had fabrics I adored there would be no contrast and the quilt would be dull. I could feel the mental muscles that expand my comfort zone getting overstretched as I willed myself to accept these outlanders. Several of the prints were a large scale and it nearly killed me to cut them up - especially (G). At least the finished square size was 6" so they were not chopped up too tiny - but still far beyond what was my comfort level.

Where fabric yardages permitted I allowed myself to fussy cut some of the larger prints. Notice that when I gave it a chance and could focus on the central bloom, the "chintz chair fabric" (A) grew in its appeal. I found that if I allowed a gap between my cuts, I could quasi-center the blooms.

Even though I knew each of these squares would next be cut on a diagonal, I maximized the amount of bloom that would peek out along the seam line.

I did not have sufficient yardage to do the same for the blue colorway of the large blooms (B), but I was able to maximize the amount of the flower I could keep out of the scrap pile accumulating on my sewing room floor.

I know, the "cutting with gay abandon" segment of this kit experiment was fading fast.

I started assembling the quilt, from the center outward per the instructions. As fate would have it, what happens to be dead center but the two fabrics I liked the least! Here the "chintz chair cover" in a somewhat pleasant background hue of mint green (A) was slammed up next to that awful khaki (H). At least the khaki was relieved and uplifted by those lovely white button blooms. On the corner blue blocks (B), the generous portion of the large blooms fell on only two of the four. Perhaps I should have picked more carefully. But wasn't part of this kit experiment to be impromptu? I lamented to my husband, "This is UGLY!" He encouraged me to stick with it.

I moved on to the next round. The color palette of the hourglass blocks, (C) and (D), was more pleasing to me but in my opinion, these blocks still did not overcome that ghastly center. I continued to forge ahead with my supportive husband urging me to give it a chance.

I added HSTs where a navy trellis design (E) was paired with (gag) a pastel zig-zag (I). "Well, there is contrast," I comforted myself, but I just could not stand that those zig-zags went both horizontal and vertical. It seemed to throw off the radial symmetry. Kaffe Fassett says that a guideline for using a myriad of colors is that there still needs to be a balance. I know that there can be balance without symmetry but those four triangles of zig-zag kept glaring at me and taunting me.

I went a few rounds further adding the royal blue trellis (F) and the vine with large peony blossoms (G). The suggested technique of making HSTs was not my usual routine. It had me draw two parallel lines each ¼" on either side of the central diagonal of the square. Though not necessarily out of my comfort zone, it was admittedly venturing into my less-skilled zone because of being unpracticed. I rarely draw lines on my fabric. When I drew these lines on the fabric bias, I inadvertently stretched it as I neared at the corners and my line drifted. I normally rely on lines drawn once on flat surface leading into the needle of my sewing machine. But the nearly 7" squares covered those lines at the start and were too big for my method of comfort. I stitched along the drawn line and when my guides became visible I switched to following those penciled in on a hard surface.

I got better as I went along. But gosh, it was so hard for me afterward to slice that lovely fabric (G) apart down the middle. But I did. Definitely outside my comfort zone.

I scattered those pink peony blossoms to be as balanced as I could. I was unable to leave it to total randomness. Hmm, adding that same "ugly" khaki at the outer edges did seem to calm down and welcome that central khaki. But those pale zig-zags ... aaargh!  I still could not stand them.

I was considering subbing those zig-zags out for another fabric, but that would be compromising the fabric pedigree of the kit. Fortunately I had enough fabric that I went back and cut some zig zag triangles on the bias, undid four seams, and inserted them. There. Much better. I can live with this. It is a suitable compromise between fabric pedigree and personal preference.

I completed the four outer corners of the quilt pretty much as instructed. The jewel-toned colors of the pansy print (J) ricocheted me back into my comfort zone for a bit and I found the light introduced by the pale trellis fabric (K) to be refreshing. Giving in to the desire to tweak, I fussy cut those eight aqua triangles with coral flowers (L) to centrally located a bloom. The navy trellis border was a striking finishing touch. And you know what? I liked it. After all my grousing, I truly liked it. Maybe there is something to this "out of your comfort" zone theory. Or perhaps, oddly enough, as I relaxed with the final corners, perchance my tastes had grown just a tad.

For those curious, getting the lighting adequate for a photo was tricky. I had two of my floor Ott Lamps directed at the quilt and a high strength Tensor light off to the left out of the photo shining up and bouncing light off the white ceiling. The quilt measures 63½" x 63½" before quilting and binding. The piecing took me about a week. Part of that relatively short time scale (for me at least) was the large square size. Part of that, also, was the fear that if I did not keep forging ahead, I would quit at a stage where I did not like it and never resume working on the top again. Now all that is left is to name and finish it. I plan to keep this one! My husband really likes it, too!

So how did I do reaching outside my comfort zone? Not bad. I took a few baby steps. Going with a kit was a good idea because it was not so freeform as to be intimidating. But despite my griping about some of the fabrics taken alone, I do admit I never would have selected them, they really do play well together, and I actually do like the end result. I look at this top and see a few blocks I would have interchanged had I not been struggling to relinquish control, but I begrudgingly admit the overall effect is really pretty. However, I may still try to buy some of that vine and peony fabric (G) if I can find it so I can not cut it up. Sharing my foibles now with Let's Bee Social #173...


  1. I love it! The colors and how you combined them are fabulous!

    1. The credit for that goes to Kaffe Fassett. But I will take the credit for allowing it to happen and not interfering - too much. Thanks for the visit and comment.

  2. Wow: that did turn out nice! It's definitely a good illustration of why "overall balance of composition" doesn't necessarily require balance at every step. And, that's the good part of a design wall, you can try different balances out before you commit.

    The fussy-cutting the flowers thing does crack me up, but I also do think it adds a nice "radiating colors" effect to that particular row/diamond/modified square/whatever, and the "echoes" of the lighter fabrics do have a way of balancing the center-contrasts out. So, yay for exploration! It's kind of neat to re-cast an unattractive starting point as an interesting problem to solve.

    1. My next step is to use what I learned from my Craftsy Class on FMQ, Divide and Conquer by Lori Kennedy. It is a class that I watched in its entirety! She advises pairing curvy patterns with straight ones so I plan to try that within the band of the medallion style quilt top.

  3. It seems that every kit or pack I've ever bought had one fabric that I really didn't like. Good job in pushing your feelings aside and using everything included. It's a beautiful pattern and balances so well.

    1. Thank you. It is very difficult not to micro-manage those quilt kits. So glad you visited and took the time to comment.

  4. Oh I do like this! and I loved reading all about your progress with it! So glad you had enough of that zigzag fabric to redo those triangles, looks great! I've found the Kaffe plaids to be very useful fabrics!

    1. You are right. Those Kaffe plaids do seem to go with a lot. In contrast I typically find zig-zags hard to work with. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I just posted farther progress on this quilt today at