Sunday, March 04, 2007

February Journal Quilt

You may have noticed I didn't post goals last week. It felt like one long catch-up session all week, and carrying forward of most goals from the week before. Among other things, I found I needed to complete some paperwork for the business, so creativity got totally sidetracked.

Since my journal buddy & I were frantically trying to complete our challenge quilts last Saturday, which was our scheduled day for journal quilting, we moved February's journal day to yesterday. I was looking forward to it much more than the first round, and it went more smoothly too. It was a genuine happy play day, enhanced by the strains of Barenaked Ladies on the stereo.

February's calendar theme was "simplicity" and the quotation was from Plato: "Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity." Oh great, no pressure here. So for my interpretation, I decided to focus on the simplicity part and hope that the style and harmony, etc., etc., would naturally evolve. I'm pretty pleased with the result.

I considered several ideas from my sketchbook, but settled on the idea of a simple gentle curve creating two sides to my piece. I used a technique I've been skeptical about for a long time, but when an idea of a variation on the theme presented itself, I found myself less skeptical. Here was my chance to try it out. The technique is a way to cut and sew gentle curves without using templates, registration marks or pins. For someone like me who has a hard time loosening up and has spent years perfecting curved design and piecing the old-fashioned way, it was easy to believe it wouldn't work, or at least not give the level of results I'd require.

What changed my mind was the idea of inserting a bias strip between the free-cut curved pieces. I had a bunch of 3/4" bias strips left over from a Celtic applique project. All I needed to do was choose two fabrics to go with the strips and I was off and running.

Begin by stacking two fabrics right side up and cutting a gentle curve free-hand with a rotary cutter. Well, THAT got me hyperventilating. I so badly wanted to chalk the line first so I could tweak it and then cut it accurately. But that would defeat the purpose of this technique. So after a few trial passes in the air over the fabric, I cut...and got a nice gentle curve. Whew! This technique gives you two sets to work with as you can see from this picture. Top left half pairs with bottom right half and vise versa.

Sewing the bias strip to the left side posed no problems, but I soon realized I'd best trim back that seam a bit since it would be pressed toward the insert and run into the stitching line for the other side. Perhaps next time I'll just sew with a narrower seam allowance.

Sewing the other half on was a bit trickier because now I was getting the effect of sewing a concave section to a convex section. I kept the bias insert on top, and by sewing slowly and using my seam ripper as a guide, I succeeded in piecing a curved seam sans pinning that produced a flat unit when pressed. Yes, I didn't think it possible, but it worked.

I considered several quilting options, but decided to continue with the "keep it simple, stupid" approach. Using the width of my walking foot as a guide, I quilted lines that followed the curve of the insert - a gold & purple variegated King Tut cotton on one side and an off-white/muted yellow & green Oliver Twist cotton on the other. It was tempting to quilt around the motifs in the print and transfer some of them in quilting on the other side, but since I have another pair of these two fabrics to play with, I resisted the urge.

I finished it off by fusing a border of hand-dyed fabric that picked up on several of the colors in the print. Mission accomplished.

I think this technique has merit, and as you can see from the sketchbook page, there's more to explore here. Perhaps I'll even find time this week to play with it some more.


Anonymous said...

I really like this little journal quilt. A friend and I have started doing them too, you were my inspiration to just do it.


The Idaho Beauty said...

I'm glad to hear you're following through on the journal quilt exercise, and found a friend to join you! I think it makes all the difference in the world to have someone else helping you to stay accountable. And I think you will learn so much playing in this format.