# Untied, Unquilted

A few days ago I shared my new quilt top. It was buried deep inside another post, so you might have missed it.

Currently it is still a quilt top, unquilted. The name is “Untied.” This is a reference to both the African print that centers it, as well as to the freedom I felt in creating this piece. I did not measure anything, and no math was involved (beyond third grade skills, at least). I made things the size I wanted them without regard for the numbers. While I wouldn’t want to work this way on every quilt, I enjoyed it quite a bit for this one.

Step One — The Center
I began with the African print, a fat quarter I purchased a year ago. You can see the two tan batik insets placed vertically through it. Inserting those accomplished two things. First, they allowed me to stagger the rope colors, so the orange did not line up with orange, nor blue with blue. Having the colors offset is more interesting to me than having them line up. Second, the print design broke between vertical columns of rope. While that may have been an intentional part of the design, I chose to hide it in seam allowance. The tan insets have a similar feel, and they match well with the gold and brown spider-webbing in the background of the fat quarter.

To insert the tan batik, I used Debbie Bowles’ curved piecing technique, described here. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it’s incredibly simple. Having decided to use it on this piece, I didn’t hesitate because I was certain it would work well, and it did.

Once I finished inserting the batik, I squared up the center (made 90° corners, not made it square.)

Step Two — First Border
One of the considerations for a first border is whether to enclose the center or extend it. Diagonal lines tend to extend a center, which is one reason sawtooth borders work so well for a first border. Besides that, lines that are perpendicular to the edge extend the center. Lines that are parallel to the edge are like a hard frame and tend to close it in. My center has fairly strong vertical and horizontal lines. In addition, the pattern clearly runs off the edges of the fabric, and I wanted to maintain that effect. The border I chose does not frame the design, but extends it.

I knew I wanted to make irregular dogteeth borders for two sides. After pondering for a long time about method, this is how I did it:
1. Cut two strips of equal width and different colors.
2. Stack the strips with right sides UP for both strips. (Below both are solids, but right sides UP.)

3. Cut with rotary cutter through in uneven diagonals. I didn’t use the ruler to cut.

4. Slide a purple kitchen cutting mat under them to transport to my machine.

5. Move EVERY OTHER top cut patch to a new line. Move the ALTERNATE EVERY OTHER bottom cut patch in line with them. Maintain the order in both lines.

6. Similar to curved piecing, match the patches up with right sides TOGETHER to stitch, maintaining scant 1/4″ seam allowance.
7. Press the strip.
8. Trim the strip to desired width.

The main benefit of this method was that I got the wonkiness I wanted but ended up with a straight strip. Even though I trimmed farther, that was easy because I was simply knocking off edges rather than trying to make adjustments for it getting way out of balance.

Now here is the part of the story that goes back to design rather than construction. I planned on these two dogteeth borders to be left and right. As soon as I attached the first one, in orange and tan, I knew it was in the wrong place. Nothing is sewn that can’t be unsewn! I unstitched. I had planned to use the brown sticks print as the top and bottom, but they became left and right.

I made the lower border of reddish print and tan triangles long enough, because I made it after deciding it would be a top/bottom border. However, the orange and tan set was too short, so I need to add more to it. I chose a yellowish solid rather than more tan. It brightens the corner and makes the whole line a little more interesting.

The narrow blue strip separating the center from the top and bottom dogteeth borders is a Marcia Derse print. It’s also the fabric in the last border. The stripey effect reminds me of the texture on a rope, as well as animal stripes or even a blue tiger maple.

Step Three — Second Border
This narrow solid teal strip is the same color as the teal rope. With its hard line, it serves as the enclosure to the center.

Step Four — Third Border
This border uses four different fabrics log-cabined around. The top and left are relatively narrow and muted. The right is a wild batik with a lot of distinct pattern and color, including oranges, teals, and blues. The bottom is one stripe of a two-stripe pattern from fabric sent by another blogger. Gwen the Textile Ranger sent me this lovely African print. Amazing, huh? When I started this project, I knew I would use a piece here. I chose to center the pyramids on the teal box, rather than on the whole length of border. This adds emphasis to the teal as a frame.

Step Five — Fourth Border
This was harder and stumped me for a while. First I added a narrow strip of a fabric that didn’t end up in the quilt. I liked it, but after contemplating what came after, I decided to remove it and was very glad I did!

This border had to be light to add some value contrast and allow the prior border to shimmer. At the same time, it had to have enough heft that it maintained the unity of the piece. Unity? By that I mean that nothing looks out of place, it all looks like part of a whole. If the border was light and wimpy, it wouldn’t stand up to the drama of the prior work.

I found a mottled creamy-tan print, with black spatters on it. It seemed close but not close enough to actually cut it. (I’m glad, as it will be greatly useful on some other project.) I looked through all my light stash multiple times, considering creams/tans and greens and anything else. Finally the fabric used for left and right landed in my hands at the right time. If you click on the photo at the top, it will open in a new tab. Then you may be able to enlarge to see the detail. The fabric looks like a jacquard but is actually just a print. I had less than a fat quarter and pieced it so my lengths were enough. I added the blue inset on the left side to extend the interior line of blue.

Though the border needed to be light, I also wanted to add color. The top and bottom includes the other colors using an improvised framing or sashing method. This was done all freehand and with scissors, unlike the dogteeth triangles described above. I never used scissors so much before! Can’t say I would switch, but it’s good to remember that they are an available tool, and appropriate for some use.

I attached the top and bottom with the same curved piecing method as before.

Step Six — Fifth Border
Final border. I wasn’t sure this would be the final, but as I looked at the center so far, and had the blue next to it on the design wall floor, it seemed to be the right punctuation.

I cut the blue across the width to capture the striping. Of course it was not quite enough length, so it was pieced to make the left/right edges. The top and bottom also were pieced. They were a little tougher to add, because of the curved piecing. In addition to the curves, the prior top and bottom had a fair amount of stretch and splay. Ultimately I got them on and then trimmed the whole to square it (made 90° corners, not made it square.) It’s not perfect and there is a little ruffle in the final top and bottom edges, but they’re workable.

Step Seven — Backing, Quilting, and Binding
It will finish at something like 43″ x 48″, though likely I’ll trim it once more when quilted. At that size, it’s best as a wall-hanging. I don’t need a fancy back so may use muslin. I don’t know how I will quilt this, but I’m considering at least some big-stitch hand-quilting. Binding will probably be a bright rusty orange, but teal is an alternative, too.

Thought Process and Stories Told
In my prior post, I pledged to share process more often. A lot of times I get wrapped up in a project and simply am not motivated to talk about it until I’ve a) completed a step where I know what I’m doing or b) figured out a step where I don’t know what I’m doing. That just means you get the full data dump when I’m done, like today. I don’t include the inspirations I have just as I’m drifting off to sleep. I don’t tell you about when or where I bought particular pieces, and what other quilts I’ve used them in. The stories you get may be true, but not complete and not always very interesting, no need to protect the innocent.

Even so, there is value to me in explaining, and I hope there is some value to you in the reading.

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read my blog.

# Round Robin Challenges

My friend Janet made this beautiful block. She is in my small quilt group. As you may remember, last year my group did a round robin project. This year we are again, but we’re doing mini-medallions. The finished quilts must be no larger than 18″ to meet the rules of our larger guild’s annual challenge.

Because of the small size, only four people will work on each quilt. Each owner began their quilt with a center block. After that, three people will add borders, with the total width of the added border no more than 2″. I’ve added the first border to Janet’s. Her appliqué is lovely and traditional. I wanted to honor it to highlight her work, but also setting the piece up for later borders.

While it would be natural to continue with the reds, greens, and creams, I thought about some color problems I’ve had with my own medallion quilts. More than once I’ve backed myself into a corner by using too few colors in the center. I was afraid if I stuck with those, it would be hard for later borders to broaden the spectrum. While sometimes a quilt is intended to have few colors, this one doesn’t need to.

My first thought for a new color was cheddar. In the early 1800s, chrome yellows and cheddar oranges often were use to accent red and green appliqué quilts.