Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Storybook Charm FMQ and Completion

I had assembled this quilt top rather quickly from charm packs and posted about it in my 5/31/17 post. Here are four representative blocks of the sixteen total.

Then I let the top sit and ripen because I could not decide how to quilt it. Since I had not invested a lot of time in the top assembly out of charm packs, I was willing to experiment with the FMQ and focus on the quilting being a learning experience. I established some guidelines for myself.

  • I thought the quilt had too much white so I decided to quilt it in non-white thread. This is a risk because any awful quilting will show up more. But a professional long armer once challenged me with the question, "How can you ever get better if you cannot see what you are doing?"
  • I wanted to call attention to the print blocks since the storybook images were so cute.  I would quilt those minimally, hoping they would pop out as the more heavily quilted white background receded. That was the theory, anyway. My approach was to constrain the quilting of those sqaures to around their edges.
  • I was going to try to decide my quilting pattern as I went. I would "wing" it . This tactic would lead to more traveling and stitching back over where I'd been, but I did find this approach was a bit liberating.
  • I would try to correct "errors" by further quilting. It is fairly easy to change a plan when you do not really have one.
  • I would rip out only if absolutely necessary. After all, I wanted to get better at quilting and not better at ripping out, so better I invest my time in the quilting part of it.

First I did an orange peel style continuous quilting line along the edges of the print squares, leaving the white ones blank to be filled in later with central quilting. Since the white squares were untouched, the grouping of six rectangles from the white and print half-squares formed a wavy pattern.

I decide to play that up with some parallel wavy lines. I did some previews – just a few – on plastic sheet protectors to decide the spacing. I hesitated to get too densely quilted so soon into the project, but the ½" spacing really looked more to scale and better than the wider 1".

I kept my guideline of not quilting the orange peel pattern in the white half-squares but the disjointed appearance was jarring in the white half-widths and disrupted the flow I had going. Perhaps I would pick out those half arcs later. I stitched them in only a few places before deciding I did not like them.

You can see the orange peel pattern only in the print squares and the wavy effect I quilted in the half-square rectangles. I was a bit wobbly initially but I gradually got  better the more lines I did.

The small neon pink donut on the hopping foot is the Handi Quilter 1/2" echo foot accessory I used for the spacing on those parallel wavy lines.

As I did more of those parallel waves I wished I'd thought more about how to terminate them instead of abruptly squaring them off. But when you do not plan, you get what you get. I was leaving how to do the white squares for a later decision.

Staring at those wavy lines for a bit reminded me of gusts of wind. The prints from the Storybook charm pack were sky related: laundry drying on a clothesline, hot air balloons, clouds, and mini-airplanes. The sky and wind theme gave me the idea of putting wind swirls at the end of those streamlines of air. There was a stitching line across on the seam line that stopped the unfettered flow but I chose to stay with my guideline of not ripping out. Perhaps one night, when the quilt is finished, and I am watching TV, I might pick at it, but not for now. Had the thread been white, removal would have not been called so much into question. 

I was determined to forge ahead and not rip out. In one case I had connected the spiral to the wavy lines incorrectly (left image, below). I pseudo-corrected by strategically adding more spirals in the right image. Now the air streams appear to join up. But look carefully. It is not quite true.

It is like an Escher illusion of the staircase that never ends, also discussed in the Wikipedia article as the Penrose Stairs.

There were white squares that had no connectivity to an airstream. In these I doubled the orange peel pattern but softened it with a central spiral so that swirly feeling continued. That spiral, depending on the number of turns I gave it allowed me to travel from corner to corner as I needed to.

Did you catch me? That bottom left white square was adjacent to a wavy line block and so should have been connected. But my rule was to not rip out! Besides, it is at the edge of the quilt and the wavy block the full white one is next to is technically only half a wavy block. Those two facts are my rationale for leaving it. The half-block may very well be the reason I messed up made that design decision in the first place.

There was one goof I really did have to take apart. I accidentally caught my backing folded over under the batting and so caught it in the orange peel and central spiral stitching. (Nobody has ever done that, right?) When I noticed it, I was kind of hoping it was the same white square that should have been a swirl from an airstream. No such luck. Even from the back you can see it was beside a set of wavy lines and not at the end of them. This error required undoing and so did not break my rule of no unnecessary ripping out.

Here is my backing and binding. I just happened on the Cotton and Steel fabric for half price in a clearance bin last month and thought it would be perfect. I blogged about backing choices in my post for 6/7/17. I like that the non-rigid grid adds to the whimsy. The taupe tone was a key inspiration for my thread choice.

Here is the completed quilt. I am pleased I was brave to use a contrasting thread color and was not hampered – well, not too much – by analysis paralysis for the quilting pattern. My original focus was to have the printed squares pop and the white recede. I was not very successful with that goal, but I was successful in my more desirable goal of learning a lot and increasing my confidence to just go for it. I do not intend to invest time in a fancy label. I'll just use a fine line fabric marker to write the year 2017, the quilt name Storybook Charm, and my name in some yet to be determined location.

A closeup reveals a few glitches but overall I am pleased. The saying is not to worry about it if a mistake cannot be noticed by someone whizzing by on a galloping horse. In my case that horse had better be a Kentucky Derby winner with a myopic jockey.

Linking up now with Let's Bee Social #184.


  1. I think this is delightfully whimsical! My rule for taking out stitches is to only do it if a good washing/drying won't hide it. That, I have found, covers just about everything. Well except for that unfortunate problem with the backing getting caught. Yup, been there. I like how your quilting on the front echoes the color of the backing.

    1. Thanks, I too like the whimsy. My dissatisfaction with my goofs has diminished as my FMQ ability has gotten better. Perhaps someday they will meet in the middle. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  2. Thanks for sharing your process! It was fun to read! I have a really soft spot in my heart for this fabric line because it is what I used in the first quilt I ever made. I LOVE what you did with the quilting and the air stream effect. Even though you know where every flaw is, the overall effect (which is only what anybody else will notice) is fantastic!

    1. Thank you. If you post a photo of your quilt from that fabric storybook fabric please send me the link. I would like to see it.

  3. Is this a baby quilt? It has such soft colors, perfect for a new baby girl or boy. Great job!

    1. It is 54" x 54" so maybe a tad big for an infant but certainly toddler worthy.

    2. Is this the quilt that you sent to Anna? If so, it's perfect for her nursery!

    3. Yes, I thought the taupe-grey would go with what you said Anna likes. Thanks for letting me know.