Monday, December 31, 2007

December Journal Quilt

Here is the final journal quilt of the year, the last of the series based on themes and quotations from a 2004 calendar entitled "Simplicity: Inspirations for a Simpler Life." December's theme is "Insight" and the quotation from Aldous Huxley: "The smallest fact is a window through which the infinite may be seen." I didn't have to think twice about what I would use to interpret this. I'd saved an article from the September 2007 issue of Quilters Newsletter by Margit Morawietz about "Folds, Pleats, and Tucks" which showed how to manipulate pleats to reveal diamonds of fabric - a little like Cathedral Windows blocks. I didn't expect to see "the infinite" through my "windows" but at least I might gain some insight into a new dimensional technique.

I started by picking two fabrics: the green would be my main fabric and the multicolor batik my contrasting fabric to be revealed. Here also you see the magazine article with Margit's intriguing quilt using this technique.

Her measurements struck me as a bit fussy, so I rounded them off a bit. Essentially, you cut the fabric to be revealed twice the width of the top fabric and add 1/2" for seam allowance. In my case that meant 2-1/2" strips of the batik and 1-1/2" strips for the green. I cut the two outer green strips slightly wider to allow some wiggle room in case things shrank in the stitching.

These strips were alternated and sewn together into what looks like a stripset. I figured accurate straight seams were important, so used my trick of pressing a small PostIt note pad next to the presser foot as a guide.

Next, seams are pressed open. I used another trick of mine - draping the piece over a tailor's seam or sleeve roll. This effectively keeps the seams on either side of the one I was working on out of the way of the iron.

Here's the pressed strip set ready for the next step - folding and pleating.

It's difficult to get a picture of this first fold, but if you look at the top, what I've done is folded back the green strip right along the seam line. Each seam line gets the same treatment.

Now for the pleating. Margit likens this to box pleats you find in skirts (maybe you have to be of a certain age to remember those?). I finger-pressed a short fold on either end of the batik strip to mark the center of it. Then the fold along the seam is brought over to that line and the pleat it forms pressed into place. This was a tedious and time-consuming task, I discovered.

To hold the pleats in place for the next steps, it was necessary to pin, then sew lines of basting across them.

Here is where the process started breaking down for me. Normally, this pleated section would be inserted into a larger quilt top design. In this journal quilt, it WAS the whole design. Before doing the tucking part, I was supposed to "complete" the quilt, i.e., layer it, quilt it and bind it. The pleated section was to have no quilting on it. Well, that wouldn't do, so I set my machine to an undulating decorative stitch, put in some gold metallic thread and stitched two horizontal quilting lines that divided the top into 3 more or less equal sections. I sewed on binding to hold the edges in place, but didn't totally complete it because of the way I print a label and fuse it on as backing once I've completed all the sewing on my journal quilts. I still had technique to work through, so was lacking all the information I would want to put on the label. I also wasn't sure if I'd be doing more stitching all the way through the layers. If so, I wouldn't want that happening over the label and obscuring the information there. I'd just have to hope I could continue on.

Up to this point, the directions had been very detailed, but now that I needed specific information, the directions went general: "Using a thread color of your choice, tack the edges together with a few stitches..." I could see from the photos what I was to do, but there was no suggestion of how to secure those tacking stitches. I tried several things, and eventually realized I could leave the knot on the front because it would be hidden once the tuck was taken and stitched. A backstitch along the side of the tuck followed by pulling the thread through the loop to knot it didn't show much, and I could pull the thread end into the fold. Nowhere could I see that you were to run any stitches all the way through - the entire pleated and tucked section just sits on top of the batting and backing unsecured. I am really uncomfortable with that.

But what bothered me even more was the way the whole piece buckled as soon as I tacked a tuck. My three sections, as you can see below, undulate like swells on an ocean. The thimble placed in one of the "windows" gives you an idea of how deep they are. I don't think this will flatten out with ironing - if it does, I think it will change the look of the tucks to something undesirable.

Bottom line: This is far more dimension than I am comfortable with. It uses a lot of fabric and takes a lot of time to sew and press. And unless I missed something, I can't imagine how you could ever have a nice flat and well-hanging quilt inserting this kind of dimensional accent. I doubt that this is something I will ever use. As always, clicking on any picture will pull up a larger view.


carrie said...

I can see why you are not happy, but I really like what you have done with this piece. I wonder if using stiffer fabric, or maybe starch would help

Feather on a Wire said...

I learnt doing this sort of stuff many many rears ago from Jenny Rayment, she would have used strips cut on the bias and then the fabric would stretch to the fold and there would be less distortion.
By the way despite the distortion I think your piece worked out really well and the colour choice is fabulous.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Carrie, no I don't think stiffer would help. I failed to mention that this was backed with Decor Bond for stability. There's just too much pull on those tucks.

Which brings me to Feather's comment. Oh, I am doing the head slapping thing. Of course, bias strips would solve the problem. It was so obvious once you mentioned it that I went back to the directions to see if I'd missed that. But no mention of it - perhaps it was edited out by some well-meaning person at the magazine. You've made me pull the idea out of the garbage and consider trying it again.

Thanks for the compliment on the colors - I too really like the way they work.