Not “Elegant” But It Is Downright Pretty, After All

I’m not sure what I expected out of this quilt, but the only word I can think of is “elegant.” The imposing center block with a rich border stripe surrounding it seemed to point in that direction. That isn’t what I got. But after all, I am happy with how it’s turned out.

This is what my new medallion looked like a few days ago.

DSCN2877

Because the border stripe is not a “nice” width, I used the red spacer border. The spacer border takes the center to an easier size, and helps define edges, and gives the eye a place to rest.

The finished size after it was 30″. Consider the possibilities for a pieced border. Divide 30 into equal parts. 30/30 = 1. I could have a pieced border with 1″ blocks. 30/20 = 1.5. I could have a pieced border with 20 1.5″ blocks. In fact, there are a lot of choices — 30″ is a great size. I could have blocks that are 1″, 1.5″, 2″, 3″, 5″, 6″. In truth there are an infinite number of choices, if I want to get a little weird about it.

I decided to make blocks that were 6″ long (lengthwise, along the edge of the center.) How many are needed for each side? 30/6 = 5. I needed 5 blocks for each side, and one for each corner. Having 5 blocks gives an odd number. That means that when using alternate blocks, they will alternate across the length, and then each corner will be the same kind of block. Like this:

A B A B A B A

See, there are 7 letters, including one on each end (A) and 5 in the middle (BABAB).

What if I used 5″ blocks? Then there would be 6 to a side. Then if I used alternate blocks, the pattern would be like this:

A B A B A B A B

There are 8 blocks, including A on the left corner and B on the right corner. If the blocks have a lot of contrast in style, color, or value, this difference can be rather unsettling.

These didn’t have to be square blocks, either, but that is what I chose. You can see in the photos below that the variable stars all have different red centers and caramel points, but the same background fabric. The hourglasses use a different but consistent background fabric, and the blues are scrappy.

DSCN2893

DSCN2888
After the variable stars and hourglasses, I added a narrow brown border, again to create delineation. At that, the center was about 43.5″. I could have chosen to maintain the straight setting. But I really wanted to turn the piece on point. Going on point enlarges a quilt quickly and would take this to 61.5″ (43.5 x 1.414 = 61.5.)

There are two problems with 61.5″. First, it’s another weird size to deal with. Second, I had a dark red border stripe with goldish-tan flowers, which I wanted to use around the edges. You can see it on the left and right sides of the photo above. I didn’t have enough of it to go all the way around. I also didn’t have enough of any light fabric I liked to make the entire setting corners. (How much would that take? I’d need 2 squares, each about 32″.)

I designed pieced setting corners using smaller fields of the pale value, a strip of half-square triangles, and the red border stripe. Beyond the stripe, I added a print of French blue and a bronzy-tan against a lighter background. The print is busy, but it is the right colors. It also would allow me to trim the center to a “nice” size for whatever came next.

After attaching the setting corners, I was ready to give up. This is what I said about it on Facebook: “Well, I think it is pretty awful, a hot mess. Maybe I’ll take a poll once I have a little more done and a photo. Maybe it isn’t as bad as I think. Maybe other people will love it. … blech…”

What had me so discouraged? That last print border was exploding ugliness all over my floor. It reminded me of something that happened to our daughter. One day she saw a big spider in her garage and stepped on it. When she did, hundreds of baby spiders scurried in every direction! The print was too busy and too wide, and looked like all those scurrying baby spiders going all over.

Solution: cut that print in half. I needed to square things up then, anyway. So I trimmed the print and agreed with Jim that it was better.

Still not convinced everything would work out, I didn’t want to put a lot more effort into this top. Rather than doing another border of blocks, I decided to add unpieced strip borders. They would contain all those baby spiders (!!!) and simplify what had become a busy design.

Constrained by what was in my stash, I added a wider border of somewhat paler red. The corner blocks use the beautiful medallion print that centered the whole project. Finally, the dark red from the center contains the whole, echoing the same value as the red border stripe.

DSCN2895

It’s about 75.5″, square. It will make a good bed quilt, and I’ve chosen the recipient. It isn’t elegant after all. Rather, it is bold and showy, but I do like it very much.

28 thoughts on “Not “Elegant” But It Is Downright Pretty, After All

  1. cjh

    Tremendous! The stars are just perfect, and the blues are a great spark against all the more neutral hues and reds. As for the two adjoining busy prints, bravo – they are just the right touch and give a certain movement – perhaps a “friskiness” – which peps up the mood. I LOVE it. Totally worth the agony and struggling through the math contortions, don’t you think?

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      The math contortions weren’t too bad, but some of the rest… ugh! Yes, I love it more all the time. I told Jim before I quite finished that I figured one key was to change my attitude about it, accept it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, and reconsider it for what it really is. Actually, that decision helped a lot. 🙂

      Reply
      1. cjh

        One of the side effects of design-as-you-go: it won’t often turn out like you thought. Sometimes the quilt takes on a personality and force of its own.

        Reply
  2. snarkyquilter

    I’m so glad you gave your quilt’s center room to breathe by using those large light colored setting triangles. I can’t tell if the fabric is a print, but it reads solid, so you don’t have competition for the “spider” fabric. And sometimes I know I forget to factor in the width of a border when choosing fabric. What may be overwhelming at 5 inches is just right at 2 inches. And your borders stop “invasive” prints. The whole thing is logical and lovely, but I particularly like those little medallion prints at the corners.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, the pale setting triangles are printed, but they are the creamy background with a small gold leaf on them. The leaf is actually sort of brushy, like the top of a goldenrod, if that makes sense. So it is fine enough that it gives some impression of texture/pattern but doesn’t distract.

      I love the little medallions, too. I was glad they worked in so naturally.

      Reply
  3. shoreacres

    I don’t think I’d call it elegant or pretty — it’s one that I’d call “striking.” I like it very much, especially the echo of southwestern colors. There are lots and lots of quilts I couldn’t live with, but this isn’t one of them.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      “Striking” works, much like “bold and showy.” 🙂 I don’t know how the colors appear for you on your screen. They’re actually sort of “Americana,” with the brick reds, dusty blues, caramels, browns, and creams. I did notice when I looked at the photo in thumbnail size that the style reminded me of southwestern, a thoroughly unintended effect, but one I’d like to play with deliberately in the future.

      Reply
  4. denmck

    Beautiful. Actually very elegant! Since I also design as I go I can truly relate to the struggle points. Sometimes that is part of the fun, other times, not so much. 🙂 Wonderful outcome!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Medallions are really simple in many regards. Don’t be afraid to give it a try. And don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions. I’ve run into most of the possible problems, so could help at least point you in the right direction.

      Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks — it’s a real adventure sometimes. I’m generally pretty good at envisioning each step as I go, but sometimes it’s a real surprise. Sometimes not a very good one! Thanks for taking a look.

      Reply
  5. KerryCan

    It’s amazing, Melanie! To me, everything changed when you decided to turn it on point–then it got those big off-white triangles, which give a little visual space and, yes, give it elegance. It’s so interesting to read through your thoughts processes and to know that you struggle at points–I love that you keep it real!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh my how I struggle! Can’t remember the last time I made a simple quilt. 🙂 And yes on two things: 1) turning a square on point makes a huge difference in how it looks. It can be the perfect solution, but I also made a quilt last year that I had to turn AGAIN, shifting the center block back to its original orientation. 2) The big pale setting triangles give it space, even tho they are also confined by bordering. They were the first step to solving the busyness problem.

      Thanks so much for commenting and following.

      Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I actually did leave out a lot of the decisions, since I design as I go. Not everything that works well in my head works great in reality! So I had some backtracking to do at various points. But this captures most of it. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Jim in IA

    It has been interesting to watch you process through this one. You started with high hopes. Then, you were ready to declare it a UFO and shelve it. Some changes here and there put it into the right frame of mind and fabric. It was quite a see-saw battle. You won! 🙂

    Reply
  7. jfeldman211

    Beautiful! And I totally know that “spiders scurrying everywhere” quilting moment. I feel like that happens to me with nearly every quilt LOL.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh, my! I thought maybe that only happened to me! I really just about hated it — the print seemed to escape. Much too busy. Seems like it’s under control now. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Reply
  8. farmquilter

    Nice finish!! Allison is right, it does remind one of an elegant tile floor! Love the way you handled the yellow border – looks great!

    Reply
  9. allisonreidnem

    This quilt is beautiful and, to my eyes, elegant! It reminds of the lovely tiled hallway floors found in Edwardian homes. Thanks, as ever, for sharing the math behind the quilt design.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for taking a look. I am so much happier with it than I expected! As to the math, I could have dragged you through ALL of it! Don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions.

      Reply

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