Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Storybook Charm Sparks Thought

After my frenzy of burp cloth production last week I was tidying the drawers in my sewing room and came across some charm packs of 5" x 5" squares. I had seen a tutorial from the Fat Quarter Shop to make a quilt with these charm packs which had been on sale. I had thought at the time that it might be fun to try these pre-cuts and the quick quilt made from them. I'd bought four charm packs, two prints from the Moda Storybook line and two solids. The print packs I could justify, in that I got a good variety of fabrics. However, I felt a bit decadent buying a pack of solid squares; but the convenience seemed worth the sale price. Maybe it was time to make up that quick quilt. (Doing so would also allow me to procrastinate in cutting and piecing my backing for a larger quilt in progress. This step of a quilt always bogs me down.)

This charm quilt may be quick to make, but my getting around to it most certainly was not. When I reviewed the Charm Pack Cherry video this week I noticed it was from slightly over three years ago. It and the free pdf of the associated pattern are still available. The pattern calls for an assembly line joining of squares, checker boarding between solid and random print. Nine-patch blocks are then sliced in half and rearranged. Random is very difficult for me but I thought I could handle this one. The pattern called for 72 solid and 72 print squares and each charm pack contained 42. This meant I would need remove six from each pack. Could I just pull out six at random from each print pack? No, of course not.

I laid out the pack contents in the order it had come in order to choose which six to remove. There are three columns of twelve and a rightmost column of six. I could have easily dropped that final yellow column but I wanted to keep in all the colorways.

I decide to pull out three 5" squares that were a sort of patchwork print that would have played more nicely in a large swatch. They are shown in the top row. Next I pulled out two squares of white with taupe gridlines since I felt they would have the least contrast with the solid white. Finally I pulled out the taupe dots since I had three of them one in the pack.

On a lark, I decided to check if the second pack was identical. I guessed it would be the same as the first since they were both factory assembled. That was an incorrect assumption. It took me a while but I ferreted out what was different. It seems instead of an extra taupe square I had a yellow square with a cute clothesline print that was not in the first pack. I certainly did not want to eliminate that little gem.

Instead I removed a bright yellow square. I loved the color but the grid was not as interesting as that clothes line print.

My quick random quilt is becoming less quick and less random. I cannot deny my true nature. Let's see if I can "let it go" during the assembly process. I allowed myself one concession. These are the large scale prints in the pack. I would not try to control their orientation within the block. But I would see that they fell only on corners so that they would not get sliced in half per a later step in the pattern instructions. There were only four of these squares so that is not too much interference with the random process, now is it?

To make a nine-patch block of prints and solid you make print-white-print rows and white-print-white rows.

As it turns out, it was quite simple to guard against slicing those large scale prints in half in a later step. In my subsection rows of three I made sure they were never in the middle. The castle and pirate ships were preserved, intact in one of the outer squares of the print-white-print rows. None would be in the white-print-white rows to be at risk.

I could proceed with chain piecing my white-print-white rows of three, ignoring what print square happened to surface next. I am two thirds there in the next photo, adding the second white square.

I sewed merrily along until I went to join the print-white-print rows on either side of the white-print-white row. 

I discovered there was a fifth large scale square, a second castle that I had missed. It was going to fall very close to an identical square in the same block. I interchanged that row with another print-white-print row so that did not happen. Yes, I interfered with randomness, but in my defense it was a minor readjustment.

Then when I was ironing my completed nine-patch blocks with corner prints I noticed that one had two of the same aqua grid adjacent diagonally to each other. I considered switching that row with the top row from another nine-patch block. Yes I would need to rip out the stitching along a 3-square row seam but that was not too bad. 

Then I got the idea to go back and see what squares I had rejected. Lo and behold there was that bright yellow I had given up. I swapped it for the upper left blue one and voila I am a happy camper, once again. It even picks up the color of those little birdies in the lower right.

After sewing my nine-patches into two sets of eight blocks each, the next instructions were to cut them in half into sixteen half-blocks. Eek! That was a bit scary but I did it and here are the two piles of half-blocks.

I placed them in position on my design wall according to the pattern specified sequence and orientation, but otherwise randomly. I even allowed some upside down ships and castles. I traded the positions of only two blocks where adjacent identical prints glared out at me. I am pleased with the simplicity and straight forward, well-explained directions for this quilt. I got this much completed in one day, even with my non-random interventions. I have begun joining the blocks now, but stopped for the day to reflect and blog. Sometimes I find it easier to get back into my sewing room the following day when there is something simple and straightforward to pick up and continue.

After finishing the joining, my next step is to find a backing and binding and decide on an FMQ pattern. My husband came in and looked at the blocks arranged on my design wall. "Very pastel-ly " he said. He then innocently added, "Not like what you usually do." Then he left leaving me alone with my thoughts. He did say he liked it but his casual comment sparked some soul searching on my part. He is right. I do not usually use solids. I rarely use pure white. I like brights. Is that all he meant? Probably. But I took it a step farther.

Of late I have been trying to stretch myself. I tried a bit of Kaffe Fassett fabrics in my post for April 20, 2017. I worked on Y-seam and hexagons in my post for Jan 11, 2017. I completed four quilts in 2016 pictured in my 2016 in review post - and none them seem to be what I "usually do". I no longer know what it is that I "usually do". It is a bit disconcerting that I may have lost my quilting identity. I often say that it is the "process" not the "product" of quilting that is the important part of my hobby. So maybe having a signature look is not that important. Madonna is often noted to be continually remaking herself. But I am no Madonna. Should I have an identity? Or is this thinking too deeply? Maybe I should just have fun. I will zot over to Let's Bee Social #179 and do just that for now at least! Like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind, perhaps I will just think about it tomorrow.


  1. Man, that was a lot of process for a simple charm quilt! I'd judge you, but we're clearly related and I am just as bad about fussy-cutting for garments. That quilt is super cute, and I do adore white as a color for quilts you're not afraid to wash. I do notice none of the clouds are sideways, though... perhaps you still need some practice at random orientation?

    And, I think if you're going to have a "signature look" in quilting, that's kind of the opposite of expanding your boundaries by doing things that aren't intuitive to you. I mean, I guess your signature will still be there in the FMQ and border selection, but in this case you were deliberately experimenting with *not* your signature look, presumably in order to find other elements of the quilting experience you might want to incorporate into your signature look. And I mean, your second-choice color selection and passion for whimsy (in the storybook print) are clearly present in this piece, even if it's not a quintessential DL2Q production.

    Actually, as I think on it most of my favorite designers don't tend to have a "signature look" (or at least none that I can discern with my not-an-art-student eyes) Like, they have colors and color schemes they prefer, but part of quilting is exploring new things - patterns, construction techniques, colors, etc. - one at a time. And, even famous artists go through "periods" (Picasso's blue period, etc.) so maybe you are just in-between phases. Madonna does reinvent herself constantly, but she does tend to keep the look (relatively) consistent for each tour/album. Think of this as gathering data for what kind of quilting "album" you want to put out next.

    1. Very thoughtful insight in what a signature look is. I will need to ponder that one. You brought up several points I had not considered.

  2. I loved reading this post. For LOTS of reasons! But one of them is that the fabric you used is the same line I used to make my very first quilt that I quilted myself. I haven't seen anybody else using it! (in blog land anyway). So thanks for that trip down memory lane and I loved reading your thoughts about your quilt identity. :)

    1. So glad I sparked some memories with that fabric. Do you have any photos of that first quilt posted? I'd love to see them. IF not... perhaps a topic for a future post? Thanks for the visit and comment.