Wind River Beauty, Project Process Part 1

My recent post on project process summarized the steps in project development and implementation. As fancy as project flow charts can get, it really comes down to this, a simple set of procedures that can help you make a quilt, build a highway, or write a blog post. I’ll outline how these steps apply to making the Wind River Beauty quilt, one of my current projects.

Identify problem or objective
The problem to solve or objective to meet was to create a quilt using the New York Beauty block I made in a workshop last year. The original block I made, before modifying, is below.
The fabric in the center was fussy cut from a border stripe fabric. I experimented with the symmetry as shown in this video:

Potential solutions
When thinking of potential solutions to any problem, you can switch into brainstorming mode. Think of a lot of different options, at first without evaluating them as good or bad. When you get stuck, consult one of the many articles online for tips for more brainstorming. Remember, one of the best questions to ask is “what if?”

Making the block wasn’t difficult, but I wasn’t interested in making more. That meant any quilt using it would use only the one. It could be a small quilt like a table topper; a larger ungridded quilt, such as one using the block as one of many blocks of various sizes and designs; a larger gridded one, such as one using a number of other blocks the same size, but different designs; or my specialty, a medallion quilt, featuring the New York Beauty as a center block.

Honestly, I didn’t really brainstorm. I seriously only considered making a medallion quilt, as that was my intention as I made the block. There are still infinite options open within the category “medallion quilt,” so that decision alone didn’t determine my solution, but it did give it a framework.

Beyond that, I wanted to use and honor the fabric I purchased at a trading post on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park. A traditional quilt style for some Native American groups is the Lone Star, also known as Star of Bethlehem. There were many quilts of this style for sale at the trading post. If you google “Lone Star” or “Star of Bethlehem,” you’ll see lots of beautiful examples. Here is an illustration from EQ8 of the basic format:

Constraints and resources
Prior to taking the workshop, I assumed that the block, if successful, would be used to center a quilt. The feature fabric mentioned above was both a resource and a primary constraint, since I had a limited amount of it.

In fact, fabric availability is often one of the biggest constraints for my quilts. I almost always start with stash, filling in by shopping only if needed. For this project, I had to create work-arounds for multiple fabrics. I designed my border treatment to use the limited length of the feature fabric. Some colors from the center block required substitution fabrics. The yellow used for the star’s background was a particular issue. The photo below shows two yellows I tried for background. The bright yellow in the lower left corner was too strong, while the soft butter yellow served as an appropriate foil for the stronger colors of the block and star points. You can also see two different purples, and two different rusts. (The color that might look like red in the star points is actually rust in real life. The colors, in general, do not show well in the photos.)

Besides materials, time and skills are both resources and constraints, too. There is no deadline for this project. In that sense, time is a relatively unlimited resource. My skills are a resource in the sense that I’m capable of the design and piecing for the quilt (although there were piecing problems, discussed in the next post.) However, my quilting skills are “intermediate” level. Over time I’ve chosen to do custom quilting more often for my quilts. As I do, I learn more and upgrade my abilities. But I still can’t do all the things I want to do for each project.

~*~*~

This post is long enough! I’ll share more about the execution of my plan in another post. Thanks as always for taking a look.

Advertisements

Project Process

I’ve been procrastinating on writing more about my Wind River Beauty project. The first two posts were about some of the math involved with developing the design, and my intention is to share my decision-making as I created it. With quilting still to do, it’s still in process and I don’t feel “late” with my report. However, it isn’t one of those projects that has flowed naturally from start to finish, as if freed fully grown like Athena from Zeus’s brain. As it was with making it, I’m struggling with knowing how to write about it.

To help organize my thoughts (and indulge in some productive procrastination,) I’ll write instead about the project process.

A hundred years ago I designed and wrote software, so I learned to think in flow charts. Later when I taught principles of wealth management to undergraduates at the university, I used a very simple idea to discuss the overall process. It’s the same process used for any problem-solving or project work. It all begins with identifying the problem to be solved. Here are the basic steps:

How does this translate to quilting? Anytime we undertake a quilt project, we first need to identify the objective. Sometimes that is easy and sometimes not. Possibilities include wanting to use particular scraps or orphan blocks, making a special-occasion gift, or creating for a contest or challenge. Really, the potential “problems” to be solved or objectives to be met are personal and related to a moment in time, for most of us.

After identifying the problem or objective, we come up with possible solutions. Again, there are endless options. However, they are limited by constraints and available resources. Special-occasion quilts are, by their nature, constrained. You generally choose to make a quilt for the occasion itself, or specifically to suit the receiver. Last year I made a graduation quilt in white and pale greys, based on the request of the graduate. Or perhaps you want to make a quilt with appliqué but your skills are limited. That probably will affect the design you choose. Resources can include time, money, or available supplies. Or, if you need someone else’s help, like a longarm quilter, their availability and cost might affect your plan.

Given all the possibilities and the constraints and resources, you choose the best option as you see it, and begin making. Once begun, almost every project has its share of challenges, which requires another cycle through the steps of problem and possible solution identification, along with the constraining factors. For instance, if you originally planned to make a baby quilt to present after a baby is born, but then are invited to a baby shower prior to its birth, your available time may be reduced by several months. That can call for a change in plans, perhaps simplifying the original design, or choosing to use only three fabrics instead of a range of scraps.

Finally (whew!) the project is complete. Of course, other challenges might arise from that, including how best to use scraps, putting away the supplies, storing or giving the quilt, and choosing the next project. And the cycle begins anew.

***

Though the basic look of the Wind River Beauty project was clear to me from early on, it’s had its share of challenges. To be clear, nothing in particular has gone wrong. I had to change strategies on construction at one point, and available fabric led to decisions that might have been different without that constraint. And my current skills at quilting (and its design) have slowed the finish. Is this very different from most projects? Not particularly. Perhaps none of them really are Athenas, springing fully formed from the head of the creator. 

The Key to Happiness

Some people say that the key to happiness is having lower expectations. Yesterday I had incredibly low expectations for myself and managed to beat them, which made me happy. So I guess it’s true!

Beyond going to the gym and doing a small amount of housework (emphasis on “small,”) I also learned a new skill that will help with an upcoming project.

My project will use an airplane in the center block. For a long time I figured to appliqué something, but recently I decided I’d rather piece it for better durability and so there isn’t the stiffness or chemicals of fusible web in the quilt. Hmm, piecing an airplane? That sounds like a job for paper piecing!

I have done paper piecing, and I’ve drawn my own papers for it, but they were quite simple. An airplane is more complex that a border of triangles. A search for available patterns didn’t coming up with the specific airplane I want, and I figured I’d need to draw my own. My next search was for tips on designing your own foundation patterns. Low and behold, I found the video at this link. It shows the steps to use in EQ7 for creating a paper-piecing pattern. (It couldn’t be embedded, so if you want to see it, you need to click the link.)

I have EQ8 software, but was able to “translate” the instructions to the current version. It helps to both slow down the speed of play and stop it regularly, to catch up to directions. I learned how to import an image into the block design worktable, and then use the drawing tool to simplify the image as a pieced block. The video then showed how to prepare the pattern for printing. It was so much easier than I could have imagined!

Here is my block, colored as if it were in fabric.

And here it is with the seam lines drawn in.

The software then separates and numbers the patches for the pattern. It is SO COOL.

Can I manage to keep my expectations or ambitions in check? Maybe not. Here is a list of things I have queued up:
* Finish quilting the rooster collage applique; bind and label it.
* Make the back for my Wind River Beauty project; load it, quilt it, bind and label it.
* Make and attach a label for a neighbor’s baby quilt, now that the baby has been born and has a name.
* Try creating the airplane block as above. If it works, move the rest of the project along.

I always think I can achieve more in any time frame than I really can. That might be optimism, and I haven’t unlearned it after all these years. It can make me feel a little disappointed and stressed when things don’t go as planned. But deliberately setting low expectations for a few days gives me permission to take my time, recapture pleasure, and look forward to the next steps. That’s the key…

I Love Lucy

Lisa was another band mom at the high school. Unlike me, she’d been through band-mom years before, and she taught me the ropes. We saw each other at concerts and volunteering with marching band. We roomed together on the band trip, taking 200 teenagers to Orlando. We co-chaired the sectional jazz band festival for two years. We called each other “Lucy” and “Ethel,” famous for getting each other in over our heads.

After our sons graduated high school, we didn’t spend as much time together, and we weren’t as close. But she is still very dear to me.

In 2011 I made a quilt for her using some “I Love Lucy” quilting fabric I found. She’s used it a lot over the last few years, and even more since the middle of 2017. In June that year she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.

She’s spent a lot of time in treatment and in recovery. She went back to work, and last Friday she was able to retire.

Monday she was admitted to the hospital. In late fall she was told the cancer had reappeared. Of course it was never fully gone. Treatment options are limited at this point, but they’ll investigate the possibilities.

This is the quilt I made for her. It suits her now better than ever. She is irrepressible, my Lucy/Lisa.

Wind River Beauty, Math Part 2

Wind River Beauty is the  name I’ve given to my current project. I’m using the New York Beauty center (shown below) along with 45° diamond star arms. The overall look is of a Lone Star or Star of Bethlehem variation.

In Math Part 1 I noted that my Wind River Beauty quilt center is 17″. In fact, the block as designed by Toby Lischko finishes at 16″, which is a more typical, or perhaps more useful, size for a quilt block or medallion center. I first built it as a 16″ block according to her instructions, and then I rebuilt the orange surround to finish at the larger size. The 17″ block allowed two things. First, it made the proportions of the block better, once the corner treatment was added. And second, it made the math easier for the next stage.

Proportion

I previously wrote about proportion in three posts (here, here, and here.) In the first post, I covered the proportions of the center block design. In the first picture, the circle is tangent to the sides of the square. The size seems to crowd the square, and may seem “too big.” In the second picture, the circle floats in the square and seems “too little” within a sea of background. The one on the right, to my eyes, seems “just right.” It is still related to the edges of the square while not touching them.

For the Wind River Beauty (my name for the quilt,) once I decided to create an octagon of the background orange fabric, I knew it would need to be larger. A slightly bigger block makes more room for the corners, without crowding the inner circle. As shown below, the width of orange is approximately the same as the width of the teal circle. If the block were 1″ smaller, the orange width would be skimpy. Overall, the proportions are better with it bigger.  

More Math

Another reason the make the block bigger is some more quilt math. The diagonal of the square is 1.414 times the length of the side. (See the Pythagorean theorem review in the prior post for details.) The diagonal measure of a 17″ block is 17″ x 1.414 = 24.04″, or just over 24″. Half of the diagonal, or just to the very center of the block, is 12″, which is much easier to work with than the result from a 16″ block.

Look at the illustration below of an 8-pointed star. The very fine line draws a square, representing the center block of the quilt. The square is 17″ on each side. The diagonal all the way from corner to corner is 24″. Half of the diagonal, represented by the dotted segment B, is 12″. Each of the star points in orange and turquoise is a 45° diamond. All four sides of a diamond are the same length. A is the distance along the right edge of the turquoise point. A and B are the same length, 12″. With the 12″ length I could build out the star with relatively easy piecing.

As mentioned before, the design of the quilt is a variation of a Lone Star or Star of Bethlehem quilt. The sketch from EQ8 below gives a glimmer of how this will work. On this picture I drew two squares the same size. One is rotated 45° from the other, around the center point. You might be able to see that the octagon formed by the overlap is marked with a heavier line.

If you compare the illustration with my center block above, you can see that the corners of my center block, in purple, are like the corners beyond the octagon.

In the next post on this quilt, and past most of the math, I’ll show you next steps for construction.