Tree of Life — Trusting the Process

I’ve been working on my Tree of Life quilt. The other day I showed you my second start at it. The first go was … worthy of trying. But it wasn’t working out for me. I count it as a successful experiment, one from which I learned a lot.

I removed the side borders and began again. I showed you this much already:

The black strips in the picture above are attached now. That border took the finished size to 30″ x 36″. Those dimensions work well for a block border of 6″ blocks. Of course there are a lot of other ways to solve that problem, too.

I imagined the next border as an enclosure of variable stars with pale backgrounds, and centers and points of the same blues, greens, browns, and reds. With 6 blocks on each of the longer sides, 5 blocks on each of the shorter sides, and 1 in each corner, I needed 26 blocks. I wanted the backgrounds scrappy, too. Checking scraps first, I found pale golds and pale greens for backgrounds. I cut so there were an equal number of warm backgrounds as cool. I also cut points and centers with equal numbers of warm and cool. This technique works well for me when a quilt doesn’t naturally tilt to one side or the other.

After building 13 of the 26 blocks, I put them on my design wall around the center. Scary! They were so wild, so vibrant, I was afraid they would take over, overwhelming the beautiful center. I hollered at Jim to take a look.

“Looks like a celebration!” he said. We talked through my concerns, but that’s what I want — a celebration. So we agreed I should go ahead.

“Trust the process. Trust the process,” I kept muttering to myself the next day as I finished making those stars. “The process” is the process of experimentation, of taking a vision to its point of evident success or failure. I figured there was nothing lost by continuing to make blocks. If they wouldn’t work, I’d have 26 great blocks available for a different project.

And here is the work so far. Finishing at 42″ x 48″, it’s ready for another 1″ black line all the way around. After that will come its final borders, to finish at about 56″ x 62″.


I like that the star backgrounds are paler than the pale caramel in the sawtooth border. The value contrast helps keep the focus on the center, rather than mushing it all out into a sea of mediums.

I trusted the process. I continued with my stars, knowing that I might not use them. But that lack of confidence did not stop me. Don’t let it stop you, either. Trust the process. Experiment. No bad thing will happen. Trust me.


27 thoughts on “Tree of Life — Trusting the Process

  1. snarkyquilter

    Wow, wow, wow! In this one your color work is much freer, more exuberant. The light background of the stars really makes for an airy effect and complements the inner panel. The sand colored background of the first HST border helps make the transition from the panel to the outer stars beautifully.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That panel (squirrels and birds picture) was designed by a wonderful illustrator named Julie Paschkis. I bought it as a piece of printed fabric. I’ve added to it including and past the red frame with my own work. Her amazing design has made my job easy.

  2. KerryCan

    I love the attitude you bring to this–to experiment, to dive in, and, if necessary, to start over. I can suffer from hesitation and over-thinking–I need to try and work the way you do!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’m getting better at starting over — more practice! In fact this morning I’m going to start some major surgery on it to fix a couple of construction issues. Wish I’d paid attention to them BEFORE sewing a lot of parts together. grrrrr!

  3. katechiconi

    What an inspirational find that centre panel was, dynamic, lively and filled with fabulous colour. I really love your talent for medallion quilts, and this one’s going to be exceptionally special. Lucky recipient! I know what you mean about process. Sometimes you just have to stop and listen, and open yourself to whatever your mind and the quilt are telling you! I’ve never known a quilt to make a mistake – I make plenty, and sometimes my execution is faulty, but the quilt knows what it needs.

  4. farmquilter

    Your beautiful scrappy stars could easily overwhelm a less intense center, but the vibrant colors of your tree of life, combined with it’s black background totally keep the quilt centered on it. I can’t wait to see what then next border adds!!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I can’t decide if the stars look like stars to me, or more flowers in the garden. And the HST remind me of leaves continuing out from the center. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You are too kind. I won’t be selling it, but thank you. It has an owner already and it’s not even ME! (Some quilts give themselves away. This one claimed its owner as soon as I restarted on it. Go figure.)


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