I was really inspired by Rossie's recent post about talking more about the process of making quilts and have taken her "process pledge" to write more about (and especially show more pictures of) the process leading up to a finished quilt. Here's my first attempt.
As some of you might remember, February was "my month" for the Bee-autiful Quilting Bee. You can read my original post about the blocks here. The quilters in the bee were so generous and sent me more blocks than I had expected. After everything was said and done, I found that I had 28 blocks ranging in size from about 8 x 9 to about 16 x 18!
I can't stress enough how much I love the way these blocks turned out. In fact, the only reason I hadn't yet started sewing these into a quilt is that I didn't want to start until I had a clear idea what I wanted to do. If I ruin blocks that I make, it's no big deal. I really didn't want to ruin blocks that others had made for me!
The first problem I had was scale. With blocks this size and style, 28 is a lot. I could have easily made a gigantic quilt top, but I really wanted to make something smaller.
The obvious solution was to use the blocks on both sides. But how was I going to determine which blocks went on which side? My first thought was to use fewer large blocks on one side and more and smaller blocks on the other. I sorted the blocks by size and quickly found that, while there was a vast difference between the very largest and very smallest, most of the blocks were similarly-sized and somewhere in the middle. (So, basically, that plan went out the window.)
Then I started to think about how the blocks could be grouped differently on each side. I though about piecing them into strips, sort of like a stacked coin quilt. I thought about joining several of them together to make bigger blocks. But, once again, I thought about how different people had put a lot of time and energy into making the individual blocks and I didn't want to piece them in a way that would detract from the lovely compositions that the individual quilters in the bee had created.
The amount of movement in each block fascinated me. The little pieces were all wonky but, somehow, I got a very strong sense of the vertical and horizontal axis -- as though the movement within each block was being controlled by something pulling it tightly in both directions. I decided that the best and only way to display these blocks effectively was to go for a kind of "floating in space" look. I also decided that the sides of the block needed to be parallel and perpendicular to the sides of the finished quilt (i.e. not wonky).
That brought up the issue of sashing. I had been assuming all along that I would go with a white sashing, but I found that, the more I stared at the blocks, the more I was drawn to the deep red pieces. The variation in the pinks is lovely, but the red is what really holds it together.
At the risk of completely overwhelming the composition, I decided to add more red.
I went to buy solid fabric without a real idea of how I was going to use it and came back with 5 yards of Kona Rich Red and 5 yards of Kona Pale Flesh. The Rich Red is the same red in the blocks. The Pale Flesh is the same value as the Pearl Pink in the blocks, but is much warmer.
Here's a block on the Pale Flesh fabric.
And here's a block on the Rich Red. I love the look of both, so I quickly decided to sash all the blocks on one side of the quilt in the Pale Flesh and all the blocks on the other in Rich Red. I divided the blocks into two stacks of 14, trying to distribute the differently-sized blocks as evenly as possible.
I fretted a little about how to do the sashing. The most obvious solution seemed to be to piece wide swaths of sashing around each block and then cut them all down to a uniform size. I liked that idea, but I didn't want the semi-gridded look it would create.
In the end, I decided to piece the blocks on each side into 12 uniformly-sized squares, but with the blocks in a corner of the square, rather than being centered in the middle. My thinking is that, when I go to piece the squares together, this will result in a stronger scattered/floating look than if the blocks were sashed on all four sides.
Here's a peek at one of the red blocks. I'm going to piece the blocks for both sides into squares like this and then decide how I'm going to move forward with them. I'll keep you posted!