PLAY! Three on One

Last week I started working on a new table runner for a cabinet in my dining room. I have a Christmasy one and a couple that work great for fall. But I didn’t have one in brighter colors for spring and summer. We’re throwing a party this month, and I thought this was a good time to add one more thing to my long list of stuff to do make one.

I’ve also whined to Jim oh-so-many times about not having cheerier placemats for our kitchen table. Really, who could fix that for me??? And certainly what better time to make placemats than now?

But here’s another thing: I didn’t have a plan, and I have a very hard time working without a plan. Should I design a block for the placemats? Or for the table runner? What should I make?Aaaaaaack! SO HARD! In fact, too hard. Lots of times I make things too damn hard, too complicated. This should be fun, easy. I should PLAY!

PLAY! My word of the year. So hard for me to do, which is why I need to practice that more.

I started with the table runner. Recently I’d sorted the scraps from my kaleidoscope quilt. (Still planning a post on it.) The 12 wedges that make up the star are built from strip sets. You sew together matching pairs of four to six strips, then cut shapes from the matched strip sets. The scraps from cutting the shapes are pieced from strips, too. That makes them harder to use than single-fabric scraps.

But in the spirit of PLAY, I took a rotary cutter to a couple of chunks, cutting rather perpendicular to the seams. I didn’t use a ruler so they weren’t exact. Then after wondering what the heck I’d do with those pieces, I found a fat quarter I like but have had a hard time using. (Do I say that about a lot of my fabrics?) So I cut strips from it, too. And without a plan, I built the centers for three blocks using the kaleidoscope scraps and a weird fat quarter. The block centers were different sizes once built. Then I framed the block centers with strips of another fabric, and I cut the blocks all to the same size. The frames are wonky because the centers are wonky. Narrow sashings between the blocks separated the frames. Then I bordered the whole thing with the sashing fabric.

Then I needed to make a back for the table runner. Again, I tried to make things too complicated. If it were pieced, the table runner could be two-sided. So I started pulling fabrics for a pieced back. Then I thought, no, maybe I’d make two table runners. Blech… Ultimately I cut a bunch of 5″ squares, thinking I’d just piece squares together for a second runner, and thought I’d piece a bunch more into sizes for placemats. Complicated, yes?

As I dug through things for that, I found a piece of yardage just the right size to make three placemats.

Here’s how it shakes out: I made a table runner. I pieced together a bunch of squares, which I’ll cut into two placemats. I cut a piece of wholecloth that will be three more placemats.

Then I found one of the ugliest fabrics I ever bought and used it to back all those things.

This afternoon I quilted them all. I loaded all at once on the ugly fabric, with an old piece of batting.

The wholecloth placemats are on the left, the pieced squares are in the middle, and the table runner with wonky blocks is on the right.

Binding still to come, but otherwise I’m reasonably happy with my play time.

20 thoughts on “PLAY! Three on One

  1. jmn111

    “Play” is crucial – improvisation is a must. Forget patterns, following instructions! Start with fabric you like and see hoe it speaks to you. A lot more fun.

  2. katechiconi

    I know exactly what you mean about needing a plan. I find making it up as I go without some kind of structure or concept to hang the thing on is virtually impossible. You have some lovely fabrics there, and I look forward to seeing the finished items once they emerge from the longarm. Gorgeous border on those wonky squares in the runner… deeply jealous.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes on that fabric. When I saw it the shop clerk asked how much I wanted. I said, “The whole bolt!” Now I wish I’d actually bought the whole thing, rather than 2 yards!

      You and I design differently in some regards but we also think alike in others. I don’t need to know what it will look like when done, but I do need the structure, as you say, to hang it on.

  3. snarkyquilter

    Home dec projects add another dimension to fabric choices – the color schemes of the room, furniture or dishes (for placemats, etc.) Too often I’ve made pillows that look great – until I prop them on the sofa and find those pillows belong in another house entirely. Kudos for letting go of the plan. Just remember to let your breath out.

  4. Alice Samuel's Quilt co.

    But really why is it so hard to play??? For me even when I start out with a pattern in mind, all i have to do is choose fabric and I end up making something else entirely! I love the freedom of working it out as i go 🙂

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Changing from my original concept is easy and I do that all the time. Working it out as I go — YES! Play… I’m thinking about what that means to me. Post coming in a few days. 🙂

  5. KerryCan

    I got tense just reading about your attempts to play! This is so alien to me, too! It’s good to see the pretty things you’re ending up with–it’ll remind me that letting go of plans can have a very happy ending!

  6. Quilt Musings

    Isn’t it funny how those ugly fabrics finds their way into our stashes! For me, making a plan (or at least a rough outline of a plan) and modifying it as I go are all play. I look forward to seeing your post on play and what it means to you.


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