Tag: quilt design

The Creative Process

Adapting Patterns

Artists, writers, crafters, architects and designers are alike in that each employ the creative process in their work. Many books have been written on left brain/right brain thinking processes. And most attribute the right brain to creativity. Thus, the left brain is relegated to the “boring” stuff. Like math.

However, as a quilter, I know you need both sides of the brain. Especially if creating a new design or adapting an existing pattern created by someone else. Such is the case with my current quilt project.

Recently, I found a quilt that looks perfect for the newest baby in the family. The discovery occurred while searching through my quilt books and old magazines. The little guy is almost six months old and still trying to catch up…preemies take a bit longer to develop. Since he is finally doing a bit more than eating, sleeping, and well you know-he needs a quilt to play on.

But the quilt in the magazine is bigger than desired and the companion infant quilt is not what I want. So, alterations need to be made. Cue left brain action!

Math and Quilting

Long ago when learning fractions, someone in class asked why? What is important about partial numbers? I don’t remember the exact answer, yet I am sure quilt design was not included. It should have been.

Quilters normally use quarter inches as seam allowances as opposed to the 5/8ths used by clothes designers and seamstresses. Of course, the quarter inch applies to all sides. So, blocks are actually a half inch bigger at the cutting stage.

Things get quite complicated at times. Such is the case with my adaptation of Family Tradition from McCall’s Quilting Vintage Quilts Spring 2014 edition. (In turn, the pattern was originally published as Easy Breezy in their Fall 2001 release.)

The finished size as published is 71” by 77 ¼” which is much bigger than I want. Therefore, mathematical adjustments need to be made before the creative process can take over. Cutting the size down by half would make the resulting quilt smaller than I want.

Since I like baby quilts to equal the width of standard fabric, I need a width at or below 44 inches. So, reducing the size by a third was also out of the question. Complicating things further, the original squares called for 3 5/8” (the laptop doesn’t even recognize this fraction!)

Creative Process-More Than Art

The creative process includes thinking outside the box. Therefore, I counted the squares on the top border and divided the number into the desired finished width. A slight adjustment was made, dropping the measurement to the next lowest eighth of an inch. Then, the seam allowances were added back in.

Next, I adjusted the width of the inner borders and made multiple calculations. I decreased the 6 ¾” (with allowances) to 4 ¼” and recalculated the length based on the nine patch squares. As you can see in the photo, the measurements were spot on.

The hardest equation involved the right-angle triangles in the corners. Basic algebra and a scientific calculator helped. I hope my math will be correct when I reach that point. The hypotenuse is known and the base and perpendicular sides are equal, so I divided the hypotenuse by the square root of 2. Tweaking will need to be done since again the number is not a nice fraction. And the seam allowances can’t be forgotten.

Design with Color and Direction

The magazine depicts the quilt with a lot of pastels. The little guy will receive a version with earth tones sparked with vibrant teals and greens. My inspiration is more of ocean meeting land and rugged rocks. The nine patches in the middle have the same brown. Since the brown has directional lines of gold, red and teal, placement was intentional. My creative process requires a certain structure in the design. I like a top and bottom and consistent direction when possible.

Two additional fabrics complete the center square. Although both feature greens, they differ in tone and style. One is a child print, a traditional green plaid background with sail boats, fire trucks and the like. The other is a pebbly abstract in various shades of teal. Both complement the brown.

My last decision will involve whether or not to include a top and bottom single row border as designed. Or I can leave the quilt as a square within a square. So many decisions in the creative process!

Quilt in browns and teals with four nine patches in center, solid inner border and pieced block outer border.
Quilt in Progress

Path Not Taken

Often books focus on the path not taken such as The Little Paris Book Shop. Other times an author may provide more than one ending like the Choose Your Adventures my kids used to read. Or entirely separate plot lines like Heads You Win. In life, the fork in the road takes us down very different paths.

In my case the path not taken was not forging a career in New York City. My undergraduate degree came from a small women’s college in Connecticut. Thus, during a few very formative years, New York City beckoned to me. I still remember crossing the GWB (George Washington Bridge) for the very first time.

Trips to The City during those college years were infrequent but not rare. The vibrancy of New York is enticing. Favorite haunts included the museums near Central Park, Wall Street and the World Trade Centers (My fond memories of Windows on the World atop Building 1 defy the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.) and last but not least the Garment District.

I love the Garment District. Too short to be a runway model, I focused on the fabric. Every texture, color and design pattern can be found. Additionally, there are stores that sell nothing but notions. Ribbons, buttons, lace, zippers and threads to adorn any design.

Much has changed since my college days. I met my husband, a farm boy, at one of the land grant universities west of the Mississippi. I have only been back to New York City four times and two of those visits kept me on Long Island. But on one visit, I shopped in the Garment District and mourned at the site of the towers.

Changes from the Path Not Taken

Marriage is a major fork in the road. In my case a very major fork. Even though we lived in major cities the first three years together, the remaining years, over 30, have placed us in small towns. Towns of ten thousand or less are very small by my standards. I am a city girl at heart. Furthermore, the employment options are a bit limited.

Investment brokerage firms are not standard in rural America. Post Internet that is not a problem for investing. But employment in that career path is limited. So, I ended up teaching at a community college in the Business/Information Technology department. This actually complimented the other major path change.

Four children takes you down a very definite path. The needs of others becomes an essential part of life. Celebrities and movie stars manage large families. But my bet is they have a lot of help in the form of nannies, housekeepers (or at least a cleaning lady on a regular basis) and drivers. I had none of these, although I did carpool on occasion and even participated in a babysitting co-op in one town.

I concentrated on raising my family during these years of my life. But sacrifices occur if this is the path taken. My writing took a back seat. For several years I drove close to two hundred miles to participate in a writer’s group on a monthly basis. This gets old. As the kids grew so did the demands. The writer’s group had growing pains of its own, so I stopped making the trip. My family was happier. The writing took a hiatus.

New Forks

The kids are all adults now and busy choosing their paths. But, I still live in a small town. So some options are not feasible. New technology allows me to write. Blogging is not equivalent to important American Literature but it fills my need and I enjoy it.

However, design work is limited. The demographics of the area I live in are not conducive to earning a living through interior decorating. This is unfortunate. Somehow, I have the ability to throw together colors, textures, and patterns and the end result is amazing. Perhaps all the time spent designing quilts spilled over into other areas.

Thinking of the path not taken is fraught with what ifs. For example, if I had stayed in New York and chosen work in the Garment District instead of Wall Street, would I enjoy the process of design today? Actually, enjoy is an understatement. Creative design work whether a quilt or a back splash, defines me at this point in time. I love what I am doing. But would it be the same if I had followed another path?

That question is unanswerable. But I know the answers to others. I would never trade my time spent raising children. So, the path not taken remains a mystery. We have choices to make. Some are emotional, others are financial. Occasionally, a choice is made for us.

Each time we take a fork in the road we start down a new path. Can we backtrack? Perhaps to some degree. But we cannot erase the past. Thus the path not taken twenty years ago would not be the same now. If by chance the road loops around a second time and then you choose the other fork, the experience will differ. Thus, a path not taken remains unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designing Panel Quilts

4 patch quiltI am currently working with  panels designed to be made into a table runner but I plan to turn the material into a crib or lap quilt. Panel Quilts allow my creative juices to flow. But I don’t make them often and have only turned one into a kit. Sometimes panel quilts can be difficult to work with.

 

School Quilt

Many years ago we had a quilt store in our little town. The owner was a neighbor who has since moved up the valley. I designed a quilt using a panel and coordinating fabrics from her store and she sold a few kits from the design. There were two panels of equal size. I turned it into a fancy four-patch. The two panels are on a diagonal. For the other two squares I used a rail fence design and yet another four patch based pattern of which I have forgotten the name. If someone recognizes it please let me know in the comment section. The rail fence fit the block size perfectly, really just a matter of division. But the four patch split a row at the top and bottom. I honestly can’t remember why the design is like that.

View of second panel in School quilt

Sunflower Quilt

The easiest designs for panel quilts use the panel as the center block. Then you build the design out from there. I used this approach in the Sunflower Quilt. The center panel showcasing a sunflower arrangement has a row of three Ohio Stars on each side. To create interest, I tilted the stars. Solid yellow stripes separate the panel from the two side pieces and form a top and bottom border. The side borders are pieced squares turned on point. Hand quilting highlights the stars. The quilting of the panel is more free form.

View of sunflower quiltQuilt panel with 3 Ohio Star Blocks

The Love Quilt

Currently I am in the process of designing and making what I call the Love Quilt. I bought a kit at a discount. The panel pieces and the template for the table runner don’t match so I have decided to make a small quilt instead. Panel quilts often come in kits. I failed to check the package to verify the panels exactly. However, I am happy to make a small quilt.

The process starts by decided the size of the finished quilt. The backing I want to use is 45 inches wide and 63 inches long. So I need to make sure my quilt top will fit inside these measurements. Since I want borders on the quilt, I subtract six inches from both dimensions. This means a border of three inches all the way around. I must add seam allowances to all pieces, so I will actually cut strips three and one half inches wide for the border.

Panel pieces in rough layout for quilt
Block layout

Designing Panel Quilts

Next is the creative part. The two panels that came in the kit were not the same size. Therefore, the quilt cannot be symmetrical like the School Quilt. Therefore, I think I will take an approach similar to the Sunflower Quilt and center the larger of the two panels. I call this the Love Panel. It is 20 ¾ by 14 ¾ and I will add an inner border to the top and bottom to reach a 24 ½ inch height.  On each side of the Love Panel will be two twelve inch blocks (not counting the seam allowances.) So the center of the quilt will measure 24 ½ by 38 ¾ including seam allowances. I do not know which block designs I will use yet.

Panel with word love in center of heart
Love Panel

The smaller panel, dubbed the Always Panel will have top and bottom borders as well as side borders.

Heart with word Always in the middle
Always Panel

The side borders will have die cut hearts. This bordered panel will be between two rectangular blocks of stripes.

For balance, an equal sized section will be below the Love Panel. The center of this piece will be an applique block utilizing more die cut hearts arranged in a flower pattern. This is based on a pattern in one of the many quilting books in my library. Again, the rectangular stripes will frame the center of the block.

Measuring Panel Quilts

I take an outside-in approach to the measurements. The finished size is determined first. Then I decide what type and how wide my borders will be. Then the math takes over. I add up the lengths and widths of the set pieces and make sure the measurements will fit within the allotted space. Inner borders help fill gaps. It is important to remember the seam allowances. They are an an essential part of the equation.

Graph paper with diagram of quilt blocks
Diagram with measurements

I am looking forward to completing the top. Once it is done I will work it into a follow-up post. Let me know if you have any questions! Panel Quilts take some work but are fun!