I thought you might be interested in my process while I made a medallion top. The top is a sample I developed for the Medallion Sew-Along. A key aspect of the sew-along is that I invite you to design as you go. There is no pattern prescribing what border to use. I provide a lot of examples and ideas. You take it from there.
But design-as-you-go can seem mysterious to those who’ve never worked that way. So I’ll step through this example and talk about the decisions I made, and my assessment of success or failure on them. I’d love to hear your opinions, too, both positive and negative ones. This is how we learn.
I started by making a 15″ center block.
I love the medallion print in the middle patch, and I like the interplay of blue and browns. The cream background is one I’ve used in a number of “important” quilts. It’s almost gone and I’ll miss it. The churndash pattern is a favorite of mine. Overall the block works with good color and value contrast, and good balance.
I decided to turn the block on point. I had a solid blue of the same color as the blue print used above. You can see here I’ve pinned the first setting triangle in place. (Lots of thin pins to hold the bias edges without stretching!)
Once the four corners were sewn on, they seemed too strong, too vivid. And other than the strength of color, they weren’t very interesting. So I built NEW corners, trimmed the blue, and attached.
Then I framed with rusty brown to take the center to 24″. This works well for the most part. I still think the solid blue strips are slightly too wide proportionally. But for me, the worst part is that I lost the look of the churndash. Once turned on point, it’s an interesting block. But it’s not a churndash.
The color set for the quilt was established at this point. Rusty brown, brown, cream, pale blue, and navy. There was a little gold in the blue print and in the brown paisley, but not much. In retrospect, the limited color palette makes the finished quilt top a little dull. Any great ideas about what accents could have helped? I’m still not sure what would have given it more spark.
The next border is from 4″ hourglass units. I’ve used this on a few other quilts, more successfully than here.
There are two different brown prints in the hourglasses, but the colors/values are too similar. They needed more contrast. On the other hand, the browns balance the vivid blue well. I do like the pale blue print brought out again. I only had a fat quarter of it. It needed to do a lot, for such a small amount of fabric. I also like the repetition of squares on point, echoing the center block.
The next border set included a 2″ spacer and a 6″ pieced border, taking the top to 48″.
The blue 2″ border is actually a different fabric than the prior solid blue, and it has a fine pattern on it. I made the 6″ border harder than it should have been, as you can tell in my post AaarrRRGH!!! Once that got straightened out, it too echoes the squares-on-point impression, though the patches are straight-set, not on-point. I like the lacy effect of the combination of cream patches and the particular rust print.
And still I wanted to turn the center block again, taking the churndash back to its original orientation.
Doing so would require large setting triangles. I’ve used them before on these two quilts:
On the first one, the setting triangles are not pieced. On the second one, they are.
I wanted pieced triangles for this project, to actually build borders in the triangles.
Setting the 48″ top on point would take it to almost 68″. The setting triangles needed to be at least 35″ (approximation — ask me if you want to see the math) to be large enough. I have much better success when I make setting triangles oversized. I decided to create triangles that would finish 36″ on each side. That allows for six 6″ blocks around the edges. The end blocks actually were “half” blocks, and needed excess to give room for trimming diagonally.
Shoofly blocks are the plain cousins of churndashes. They are simpler. Using them in the border allowed the emphasis of the churndash shape, without distracting complexity.
I drew up my idea on graph paper, and then tested it with some of the millions of 6″ churndashes I’d made (and not used) for another quilt. They didn’t work for the other because they are too fussy. But they gave me an idea of what it would look like with shooflies.
I wondered about the difference between using unpieced spacer blocks or 9-patches.
Pieced blocks looked richer, but still subtle.
Using triangles built like this would make them oversized. The 48″ square would “float” on them. See how the point (rust with cream patches) floats on the 9-patch pieces?
After attaching the triangles, the top needed to be framed. The frames enclose the rest, and repeat the beautiful navy print, giving unity to the whole.
The completed top is 85.5″ square.
Thanks for taking a few minutes to read. I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts, questions, critiques.