Many of you know I started two long term quilt projects recently. One is a sampler quilt with lots of hand appliqué that’s going to take me the better part of a year to make. The other is Cascade, the curved braid quilt designed by Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Cascade is a scrappy design calling for a multitude of fabrics. In preparation I bought quite a few quarter-yard cuts and fat quarters. That’s something I rarely do, preferring to buy bigger cuts of yardage. In this case, I had chosen colors for my version of Cascade that aren’t well represented in my stash: lots of neutrals and muted golds and greys.
Two days ago a new muted gray fabric with a subtle gold metallic finish came into my local quilt shop and I quickly snapped up a quarter yard of it for my version of Cascade. Then a funny thing happened. I went back to the shop yesterday and bought a lot more.
The reason? Idyllic, a quilt pattern by Corey Yoder of Coriander Quilts. I bought her pattern last year and have been casting fond glances at it ever since, trying to decide what fabric I might use. When I laid eyes on that piece of fabric, I could see it in this quilt.
Here’s my test block:
Isn’t that striking? The block measures 14½” unfinished. At this point I have no idea where I’m going with this but I sure like what I see right now. I could potentially make star points for other blocks using scraps from cutting curves for Cascade or I could make an entire quilt using just the three fabrics you see here.
Could these fabric choices represent a seismic shift in my color sensibilities? Maybe . . . maybe not. You see, just a few days ago I made an earlier test block of Idyllic using a color combination you would more likely expect from me. Take a look:
Completely different look and feel, right? One of the things I love most about quilting is how color and fabric can completely change the look of a quilt.
I like both of these blocks a lot but it’s the neutral version on top that’s calling to me.
You’re looking at slightly under half of the curved braid strips making up one of the projects now on my design wall. The design is Cascade by Victoria Findlay Wolfe of vfwquilts.com and the curved braid strips were cut using her acrylic template.
I’m calling this “the second wave” because I’m putting the curved strips up on my design wall in three sections. (You can see the first wave and read about my initial efforts here.) The second wave isn’t complete but I thought you might like to see how far I’ve gotten.
This is an experiment in gradations of value and color that is taking me far outside my comfort zone on so many levels. Right now I’m working with medium light to light strips but very soon the strips will start getting darker. The lower half of the quilt, especially on the right hand side, will be quite dark.
See that strip across the top of the photo above? That’s a piece of grosgrain ribbon pinned where the quilt top will be trimmed after the curved braid strips are sewn together. It helps me visualize what the top of the quilt will look like, something like this:
The position of several strips has changed since these photos were taken a couple of days ago. I’m finding the placement of gold and grey strips especially challenging. I will persevere . . . slowly . . . trusting that by the time the third wave is up I’ll be happy with the outcome.
While I ponder the placement of curves in this very modern quilt, I’m continuing to work on Hazel’s Diary Quilt, the lovely traditional sampler quilt designed by Shelly Pagliai that I recently started. I’m getting ready to appliqué flowers and leaves to the center square of a block called Canasta.
Needleturn appliqué — now that’s a good project to have on hand as the coverage of the winter Olympics commences. Will you be watching the Olympics? If so, will you have handwork to carry you through the commercials?
“The Beast” is the temporary name I have affectionately given one of my new projects: a quilt based on Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s pattern Cascade (from her new book Modern Quilt Magic). Curved braid strips are cut from a template and then arranged to form a gradated wash of color.
Several challenges have presented themselves.
My color choices. As you can see in the photo above, Victoria’s quilt is a riot of color. I’m using a restricted palette of black, grey, gold, and white. Why this combo? I was drawn to a small group of fabrics at my local quilt shop that contained golds and greys and liked them enough to build a quilt around them. Normally I gravitate toward primary colors and floral prints so this is a quite a stretch.
Already I’m having trouble arranging the golds and greys because they don’t naturally blend with each other in the same way that, say, charcoal and medium grey do. Value is probably going to be more important than color in the long run. We’ll see.
Finished size. I wanted to make the twin size (72″ x 90″) but am going with a slightly smaller version that should finish around 63″ x 80″ or so. That decision was made because my design wall isn’t tall enough to accommodate all the curved braid strips. My sewing room and the spare room across the hall (“the Annex”) where my design wall hangs are on the second story of my Craftsman home, where the walls measure 81″ floor to ceiling.
I did replace my old design wall (a twin-size flannel sheet) with a queen-size batt. I finally have the luxury of a design wall that’s nice and wide. It’s also quite a bit longer than 81″ but the excess is rolled up at the bottom of the wall.
Layout, Part 1. Before sewing begins, every single curved braid strip in Cascade must be arranged on the design wall. There are two reasons for this. First, the placement of each curve is critical because of the carefully planned gradation. Second, the strips are sewn together from the bottom up. (I initially rebelled at this notion. Sewing from the bottom up seems so counter-intuitive. There must be a way to sew from the top down, I told myself. Well, there is a way but it involves partial seams. On curved pieces. Not a good idea, although I did seriously entertain it for a few minutes.)
Even with the adjustment to a shorter length, the curved strips will extend beyond the bottom of the design wall when I lay out the last rows. Think of all those ¼” seams that haven’t been sewn yet. Fortunately, the excess batting at the bottom of the wall can be unrolled onto the carpet to accommodate the bottom strips. Keeping Coco the cat away from them will pose another challenge. (Talk about taming the beast!)
Layout, Part 2. As if all that weren’t enough, I’ve thrown myself an added curve, so to speak. Look at Victoria’s quilt again in the photo above. See how most of the dark fabrics are concentrated in the upper left? I want my quilt to be visually weighted on the bottom right, so I’m reversing her layout. My quilt will still gradate from dark to light to dark again but the bottom half will be mostly medium darks and darks.
I’ve divided the quilt into three sections, roughly according to this diagram:
I think of the sections as waves. The letters on either side refer to value, ranging from D for Dark to L for Light. This is what the first wave looks like at the moment:
Look again at the diagram. See the horizontal lines at the top and bottom? The quilt top will be trimmed along those lines. I cropped the photo to give you an idea of what the top of mine will look like:
This could change dramatically before you see it again. That’s because of another challenge: every time I walk by the design wall, I pause to change the position of a curve . . . or two . . . or three. Then I have to stand back — employing “the 10-foot rule”– to see if the change was a good one. I’m still auditioning fabrics, too. I found three small pieces in a tub of scraps just yesterday that are being added to the mix. Some of the ones I initially chose have been eliminated.
I’m excited about where this is headed. It’s just going to take a while to get there.