The Mountain

Last Monday I began a new quilt. It’s been a while since you’ve heard that from me. I’ve been working on other projects, including a couple of presentations and also some writing. Quilting has taken a backseat.

I decided to start a medallion with a familiar blueprint (size of center block and widths of borders.) The blueprint gives proportions I know work. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The challenges, then, are to make the project interesting, make it fun, and learn something. And along the way, I want to make a good quilt.

My time is still a limited resource. One way to reduce the amount of time on any quilt, medallion or not, is to reduce the amount of piecing. Less piecing means less cutting up front, less stitching, and less pressing after stitching. One way to make a quilt interesting with less piecing is to let the fabric do the work. So I chose a stack of fabrics that don’t necessarily go together. There were a couple of batiks and a cute black print and an African fabric in brilliant orange. A wide variety of styles and colors made their way into my pile of possibilities.

I started with this and then changed it two more times before I was happy with the center.


Too much orange, especially with the peachy background. The points weren’t distinct enough.


I tried switching to a different color, but it didn’t work either. The large print mushed into the other large prints. (Irony at work here…)


This one worked better, with the darker large star points. I also like how the circles repeat the circular motion of the center patch and also the big round flowers in the background. But they all contrast with the angularity of the African orange.

Once I got going on this project, it really flew. I don’t take a lot of pix at intermediate stages, and I didn’t this time, either. So there aren’t more to share. But I do have a picture of the finished top. Its name is “The Mountain” and it is 60″ square.

IMG_20151018_134730 (1)

The Mountain. Unquilted top, October 2015. 60″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

I won’t work more on this for several days. Some time in November I can share the finished quilt and more process information with you. This I will say: it was both challenging and fun, and I learned a lot about using pattern. AND I LOVE IT!


18 thoughts on “The Mountain

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Karen. I have it quilted now and will show the finished version soon. I don’t remember how much you quilt, if at all. One of the things quilters are told early on is to mix sizes of patterns: use some small and some medium and some large prints, to make the most interesting composition. But I often use solids or small or tone-on-tone prints without the contrasting medium and large prints, and that works great. This time I wanted to try the reverse. LESSON: it works! as long as there still is enough contrast. Here the contrasts had to be in value and color, rather than size of pattern. Thanks for taking a look.

  1. Thread crazy

    I do believe you’ve outdone yourself with this quilt top. The dark circle for star points was a perfect match with the other prints. Then those black and white borders, bring such intensity to the quilt. Love it…great job.

  2. snarkyquilter

    In this one you go darker and deeper in palette than many of your quilts. I see you ditched that orange sherbet fabric with the brown stems in your final version. It’s a lovely fabric, but not up to the intensity of your other fabrics. And you wisely used that blue/orange circle fabric judiciously. That is so powerful it could easily take over. My favorite part of this one is the two way arrows in the third from the outside border.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I like those arrows, too. If you use the same shapes and arrange the values differently, it’s a completely different image. As to the blue/orange circle fabric, there is only a tiny bit left. So I *had* to use it judiciously! 🙂

  3. allisonreidnem

    Thanks for sharing your decision making processes in putting together this quilt. It really does have an African look to it. I especially like the way the black and white border compliments the centre square, it all ‘hangs together’ beautifully.

  4. katechiconi

    I love it too! I wasn’t so sure about the circles print until I saw it in the finished photo, where the colours are less muddy, and there it looks amazing. And that central black and white print is very lovely. What I love most, though, is how you have a border of ‘pyramids’ marching around the outside. The whole thing has a very north African feel…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I love the notion of pyramids marching around the edge. I hadn’t noticed that, truthfully. And yes, the lighting made a huge difference in how the colors turned out. Thanks, Kate. It means the most when other people I respect have good things to say. 🙂

  5. TextileRanger

    I love it!!! I love the really strong value contrast! I also love how your precise piecing showcases the hand-crafted look of the fabrics. I think it might be easy for those fabrics to make a quilt look as if it had been put together hastily, but your mastery of the craft lets them have their full impact.
    And if you are thinking of doing a second in the series, or you need fabric for the back, I have about 3 yards of a similar orange, black, and gold African-inspired print, right here in my “needs-to-move-on” pile! 🙂

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      There is a folk tale I read when I was very young. I’ve tried many times since to find it and haven’t, so I could have all the details wrong.

      There was a Japanese emperor who hired an artist to paint a rooster for him. The emperor was a patient man, so when the painting was not immediately forthcoming, he was not very concerned. Even so, years went by. How difficult was it to paint a rooster? The artist was benefitting from the patronage of the emperor, living in the palace grounds, eating the food provided, yet he had not produced the painting. After twenty years the emperor lost his patience. He went himself to the artist’s rooms to find out what was the obstacle to getting his painting.

      The artist was startled to be visited by the emperor, but he bowed deeply and invited the other man to have a seat. “Please wait here, and I will get your painting.” The artist retreated into his studio. The emperor could hear him, singing softly to himself, puttering around. After many minutes the emperor could take it no more. He leapt to his feet, as well as a now aging man could, and filled the doorway of the studio with his presence. “Twenty years I’ve waited and still you make me wait! Why should I not execute you now?”

      The artist stepped from his easel and said, “I am almost done now. Do you like it?”
      The emperor’s temper calmed as he saw the vision of the perfect rooster. In simple lines it showed the rooster turned to look over its shoulder at him, just as he’d hoped. But then the man noticed dozens, no hundreds of other paintings almost the same, lining every surface of the room. To his eye, they all looked perfect, too.

      “If you have painted all these roosters, why do I not have one yet? Why have I waited twenty years for something you could have done long ago?”
      “Oh, your Majesty, I could not,” said the artist. “It has taken me this long to learn how to paint the perfect rooster. None of those before were good enough to give you.”

      Which is all to say, my friend, that I could not have made that quilt before now. So thank you for the compliments. 🙂

      As to your African fabric, that is something very hard to acquire here. If you’re serious, I would be interested in helping you with a piece of it.


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