Tag Archives: Medallion quilt

Fierce Little Bear

The first quilt I completed this year named itself, as many do. It is called “Fierce Little Bear.” The bear in the name refers to the bear’s paw block that centers it. “Fierce” and “little” describe the owner of the quilt, my niece, a petite young woman who has faced tragedy and trial with grit.

I started the project last fall with a bear’s paw block, made with fussy-cut paws. In a post called Transformation, I showed you the beginning of it, including changing corner blocks to the dark blue you see below. 

I finished the top, posting a few photos on Instagram of the progress. By mid-November I was ready to load the layers for quilting. And by five days later, I took it off again because of tension issues. This photo of picked stitches gives a small sense of the trouble. I unpicked more stitches for this quilt than … any other since the last one I finished! (I’ll tell you about it soon.)

I’ve mentioned (many times, probably!) that I’m trying to learn how to tell stories better with quilts. There are many ways to do that, including the choice of fabrics, block style, and layout. Any words or pictures added through appliqué or other means can help tell a story. Another way to tell a story is with the quilting, which was a big part of my plan with this one.

Because I wanted the quilting to be special, and because my machine was having some erratic tension, as I continued to quilt, I checked the back every couple of minutes to be sure it was going okay. Now mind you, “checking the back of the quilt” while it’s on the frame usually means getting on the floor, scooting under the frame, craning the neck while holding a light up to the back, scanning across all the work done, burrowing back out from under the layers, and standing up again. All doable, but not always comfortable.

With holiday and project interruptions, I finished quilting and binding it early in January. At that point, the next step was delivery. My niece lives near enough to see in person but far enough that it requires a special plan.

And then! Then I saw that IQF had a call for entries to the Chicago show in the spring. One of their exhibits was Midwest Traditional quilts. Well, what could be more traditional than a medallion? So I entered it, putting off delivery of the quilt to my niece. It was not accepted — I think their idea of traditional was somewhat different from mine — but I’m glad I tried.

Finally at the very end of March, Jim and I took a short trip to see my niece Emily and her dad, who is my brother. I had three quilts with me and said I just thought she would enjoy seeing them in person, since mostly she sees my work on facebook. I showed one, then another. And then I had her open the third, Fierce Little Bear. Below is a gallery of photos of Emily examining it with her husband Adam. Click on any to open and embiggen.

Here is the quilt.

Fierce Little Bear. 67″ x 67″. Finished January 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The piecing design of this quilt, along with the fabrics, begins a story. The bear’s paw center is a traditional block design. Each of the “paws” is fussy-cut from fabric designed by Julie Paschkis. Here are two of them.

The combination of this fabric and the batik surrounding the center drove the color choices, including the emphases on cobalt blue, turquoise, and red. The Julie Paschkis prints also included black backgrounds, allowing use of black, also. This is a wildly unusual color combination. (And I will say, Jim and I took dozens of photos of this quilt, more than anything I’ve ever done, and in various set-ups for lighting. The colors simply do not show well together in photos, but they are quite beautiful in person. sigh…) 

The inner borders of turquoise and yellow create a faux-on-point setting, and also allow the illusion that the center block and its batik border float on top of the rest.

The middle borders are intentionally sharp and jagged, and have a subtle reference to Native American designs. And the outer border repeats the batik, tying it all together.

The quilting finishes the story. It reads from left to right as a whole picture framed by trees on either side, canopied in leaves and clouds. At the base is a field of flowers. Butterflies float next to the tree trunks. An owl hides in the tree on the left, while a squirrel is on the lower right. And a fish swims in an aqua pool. You truly can’t see the detail without close examination. Here are a few pictures to give you a taste of it.

This is a very long post and I am omitting so many pictures I’d like to include, but you have to stop somewhere. The last photo I’ll show will give you different information. It is a black and white image of the top, prior to quilting.

While I made this, I fretted a lot, hoping it would turn out well and suit my niece. She is strong and vibrant; she loves the outdoors; she is generous and kind; and she is unique. That’s what I wanted the quilt to be. Over and over I showed photos of progress to my brother, and he continually encouraged me, reassuring me that she would love it. But the colors, though beautiful, are no one’s idea of an expected combination. Finally, I looked at the top without color, in the black and white version above. And finally I was reassured that it worked. Exactly as I wanted.

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This and That

It’s better to have too much to do than too little, isn’t it? I’ve been getting a few of my “too much” checked off my list, freeing up space for other things.

Tomorrow is my guild’s auction. We have one about every other year, bringing in a real auctioneer to lead the proceedings, and it’s a decent fundraiser for us. Since I’m both on the program committee and also president, I’ll have double duty during the meeting, as well as prepping for the sale. Guild members donate unwanted quilty things — wonder fabric (I wonder why I bought this!), kits, duplicate notions, projects in process — and the committee sorts and packages them into lots for bid. I went through my own quilt assets to choose some donations. The “big” thing I’ll contribute is a 24″ x 36″ Fiskars cutting mat, lightly used. Since I am not much of a shopper and don’t accumulate a lot, I don’t have other notions to donate, and not a lot of fabric.

Another thing on my list was a small repair. If you’re like most quilters I know, mending is NOT a welcome task. We don’t mend, we don’t do alterations, unless we absolutely have to. But my favorite purse was coming apart, with the zipper coming unstitched from the leather. Do you ever sew on leather? I figured this would be a tough project, simply from sliding a needle through the leather to restitch. In fact, the holes were large enough for me to do that easily. It took a couple of inches of backstitches to mend.

I restitched the last couple of inches.

This is the purse I got in Cuba. I almost always get compliments on it.

I also worked on my house quilt (AKA, the pink and brown strip quilt.) With Jim as my consultant, I tried arranging the flying geese a variety of different ways. (Remind me to post about all the different ways you can use them.) Putting them beak-to-butt, chasing around the quilt, is a traditional arrangement. But it seemed like way too much activity for the subdued center. We agreed it was better using fewer of them, arrayed wingtip-to-wingtip. Also, the set of geese included both teal and brown ones, as well as pink and red. I chose to only use the pink and red ones. (There are more than 80 geese left, more than enough to make an actual strip quilt. But that will wait for another time.)

Then it seemed that all that pink and red was a bit unrelenting. To break it, I used teal in the corner blocks, and a narrow border of olive green.

Notice that there are only two pieced borders in this quilt, the variable stars middle border and the flying geese farther out. There is absolutely nothing tricky about it. The rich fabric of the inner borders makes it look more intricate than it is. And the spacer blocks and unpieced strip borders mean that piecing accuracy and even “quilt math” is pretty unimportant.

Another busy week coming up, and plenty on my list of things to do. What are you working on these days?

A New Plan for an Old UFO

I’ve often boasted about not having many UFOs (UnFinished Objects, or quilt projects that haven’t been completed.) Why that would be something to brag about, I’m not sure. But it’s true, usually I finish what I start.

There is one long-time UFO, started several years ago.

There were multiple reasons for not proceeding with this. One issue was technical — I wasn’t sure how to do the Y-seams to set the points in a background. (Above they are not sewn together, just arrayed on batting to show them.) Another was that, once set, I didn’t have a good idea of how to show them off.

Almost four years ago I posted More of an Idea than a Plan. In it I showed one option for setting these star points.

I didn’t do this. I still like the idea, but I’m really not interested in making those log cabin blocks. Also, it turns out that the center resulting from the star points is bigger than I thought. Adding all those log cabin borders would make this a fairly humongous quilt. If that weren’t enough, I still didn’t know how to set the star points in background fabric.


Recently I got the star points out again. It turns out you can avoid using Y-seams if you extend the points with background fabric. The blue lines below illustrate the extra seams. The star block has six big segments, each consisting of a star point and two pieces of background fabric. Put together two star halves, and then stitch the long seam to create the whole block. Easy peasy.

The constraint I faced was not having quite enough background fabric. If you look again at the block above, you can see that the star itself is not the same width as height. The star points do not extend all the way to the sides. To make the block square, it requires “enough” background fabric to make the height and width equal. I didn’t have quite enough.

That gave me the next opportunity for problem solving. The easiest two ways to make a center square are to 1) trim it to square or 2) add borders to make it square. I had nowhere to trim; adding borders of different widths was the best choice.

The photo below shows my solution. To all four sides, I added borders of floral print on cream background. The top/bottom borders are narrower than the left/right borders.

The one-inch strip border in coral encloses all that and creates the illusion of uniformity. At least, for me it helps make the width differences disappear. That strip takes the center to 42″ finished.

The final border so far uses 4-patches on point for the edges, and broken dishes in the corners. I’ve talked before about using “easy” widths for borders, to make them divide into square blocks. This works even with blocks on point. With an edge of 42″, I divided it into 7 equal segments to have a 6″ border. 42″/7 = 6″.  Then I used the math of diagonals to find the correct block size. 6″/1.414 = 4.25″. Each of the 4-patches is a 4.25″ block. When set on point, they make a 6″ wide border.

It isn’t magic, and it isn’t mysterious. It’s just math. If I didn’t know all that and still wanted to use blocks on point, I could have made them any size and simply had them not fit perfectly. AND THAT IS OKAY!! And TRADITIONAL!!

Alrighty. This post is too long already. I’ll finish it soon with showing you a couple of options for the remainder of the quilt layout.

Unstitched

Yesterday I began quilting a gift for someone special. You may have seen the top before in this post. It’s been patiently waiting while I ventured through the Delectable Mountains, completed (except binding) a project with my small group, and survived Fire and Ice.

Sometimes I have trouble getting the right thread tension, so I checked now and then and it looked very good.

I got done with the first pass of quilting. It’s an area about 16″ x 74″, or something like that. It looked good, went easily. I was happy. I rolled the quilt to advance it on the frame.  And I noticed … there was a big pleatey area all down the right side of the pass. The backing fabric hadn’t been pulled smooth and taut enough when I pin-basted the edge, so I stitched in pleats. 

I climbed under the frame to identify and mark the pleated areas with pins through from underneath. From the top, I found the quilting line that led through the pleats. I free-motion quilt, so the line can range a bit, wandering backwards and forwards, left to right. The quilting line covered a larger area than the pleats did, about 16″ x 12″. I made a fence with pins around it, to define where I needed to unstitch.

An area that took less than five minutes to quilt took more than an hour to unstitch.

Once I finished and removed the pins, I clamped the back fabric to pull it smooth. I sprayed the area lightly with water, on both the top and back of the quilt. With drying, the holes from stitching close up, and the fabric on the back dried taut, not saggy.

Today after going to the gym and errands, I’ll get back to the quilting. Wish me luck!