My recent post on project process summarized the steps in project development and implementation. As fancy as project flow charts can get, it really comes down to this, a simple set of procedures that can help you make a quilt, build a highway, or write a blog post. I’ll outline how these steps apply to making the Wind River Beauty quilt, one of my current projects.
Identify problem or objective
The problem to solve or objective to meet was to create a quilt using the New York Beauty block I made in a workshop last year. The original block I made, before modifying, is below.
The fabric in the center was fussy cut from a border stripe fabric. I experimented with the symmetry as shown in this video:
When thinking of potential solutions to any problem, you can switch into brainstorming mode. Think of a lot of different options, at first without evaluating them as good or bad. When you get stuck, consult one of the many articles online for tips for more brainstorming. Remember, one of the best questions to ask is “what if?”
Making the block wasn’t difficult, but I wasn’t interested in making more. That meant any quilt using it would use only the one. It could be a small quilt like a table topper; a larger ungridded quilt, such as one using the block as one of many blocks of various sizes and designs; a larger gridded one, such as one using a number of other blocks the same size, but different designs; or my specialty, a medallion quilt, featuring the New York Beauty as a center block.
Honestly, I didn’t really brainstorm. I seriously only considered making a medallion quilt, as that was my intention as I made the block. There are still infinite options open within the category “medallion quilt,” so that decision alone didn’t determine my solution, but it did give it a framework.
Beyond that, I wanted to use and honor the fabric I purchased at a trading post on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, south of Yellowstone National Park. A traditional quilt style for some Native American groups is the Lone Star, also known as Star of Bethlehem. There were many quilts of this style for sale at the trading post. If you google “Lone Star” or “Star of Bethlehem,” you’ll see lots of beautiful examples. Here is an illustration from EQ8 of the basic format:
Constraints and resources
Prior to taking the workshop, I assumed that the block, if successful, would be used to center a quilt. The feature fabric mentioned above was both a resource and a primary constraint, since I had a limited amount of it.
In fact, fabric availability is often one of the biggest constraints for my quilts. I almost always start with stash, filling in by shopping only if needed. For this project, I had to create work-arounds for multiple fabrics. I designed my border treatment to use the limited length of the feature fabric. Some colors from the center block required substitution fabrics. The yellow used for the star’s background was a particular issue. The photo below shows two yellows I tried for background. The bright yellow in the lower left corner was too strong, while the soft butter yellow served as an appropriate foil for the stronger colors of the block and star points. You can also see two different purples, and two different rusts. (The color that might look like red in the star points is actually rust in real life. The colors, in general, do not show well in the photos.)
Besides materials, time and skills are both resources and constraints, too. There is no deadline for this project. In that sense, time is a relatively unlimited resource. My skills are a resource in the sense that I’m capable of the design and piecing for the quilt (although there were piecing problems, discussed in the next post.) However, my quilting skills are “intermediate” level. Over time I’ve chosen to do custom quilting more often for my quilts. As I do, I learn more and upgrade my abilities. But I still can’t do all the things I want to do for each project.
This post is long enough! I’ll share more about the execution of my plan in another post. Thanks as always for taking a look.
I like the idea of “fabric availability constraints” for several reasons, one of which is that it led to some interesting designs in antique and vintage quilts.
Absolutely. It isn’t a bad thing until you get to actual scarcity, not just substitutions! 🙂
So interesting to see this written down! I know there are phases, but mostly it’s all in my head.:)
Yes, I’m sure you go through them all. You talk through much of it in your blog posts.
What you did to mirror your fabric designs reminds me of Paula Nadelstern’s kaleidoscope quilts. Amazing how much more intriguing fabric can become. And dealing with yellows, very tricky, but you got the right one.
I do find yellows hard unless using a lot of them. Otherwise, it feels like I need to use THE RIGHT ONE. That means not too vibrant, not too dull, not too orange, not too green, not too patterned, not too plain… Very fussy.
Yellow is the hardest color to get right in fabric, especially a pure yellow.
worse than white
I’m with Gwen–I can’t imagine being successful at cutting and piecing those shapes! I like reading about your process, though!
I liked your comment in your own post (on the shawl) to someone else, who hadn’t been successful at crafting. You said you’d tried knitting and crocheting and those weren’t for you, but you found weaving. Lucky us, that we each found our best niche! 🙂
Yes, indeed–I only wish I’d found mine sooner . . .
The NYB makes a wonderful star center. I enjoyed the video clip! Were the mirrors fastened together when you got them or did you attach them?
The mirrors were on a costume jewelry rack at Younkers. I got them for cheap as the store was disintegrating. (That’s not the right word… ??? You get what I mean.) They were not attached. I told about it in this post https://catbirdquilts.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/mirror-mirror/
Thanks for taking a look today!
Very partial to star quilts – that one is no exception. The butter is perfect background. Always fun playing with mirrors. Been putting your pointers into practice – and sticking to my guns. Decluttering is quite uplifting!
Thanks, Koojie. I appreciate your kind comments. Yes, decluttering can feel great, and for me really helps me get on with other things, too. And mirrors? Yes, always fun!
Thank you for your problem solution article. It is helping me answer some questions on my quilting project. Also enjoy and learn from your writings. Please keep up the good work.
Thanks so much for reading and commenting!! I am so glad you’re finding it helpful.
So many different shapes in the piecing! I would be overwhelmed!
And I do love that butter yellow!
Thanks, Gwen. Yes, the piecing was challenging! It turned out quite imperfect. 🙂 But good enough to continue rather than abandoning the project. Sometimes that low standard is the one that needs to be met.
I need a category somewhere under your idea of “low,” for “sticks to the easiest piecing possible, and still manages to mismatch corners.” 🙂
You know, I don’t really think it matters. You enjoy what you do, you do it with love, and you give your quilts in ways that put the love farther into the universe. That is a high standard, easily met by you. ❤