Since we’re all self-isolating, I thought I’d post a bit about my process for a quilt I’m working on. I often post final pictures of things I make but I don’t typically get a chance to mention all the weird little constraints and decisions and mistakes that happen along the way. Maybe it will encourage you, too, to do Do A Things.
Sometimes I plan things to a fairly high level; sometimes I wing it. This one is somewhere in between — it’s still a pile of unsewn squares but already I’ve switched gears a couple of times.
First, while poking about in my stash I discovered a pile of nine fat quarters (a quarter metre of fabric, but cut into almost-squares instead of in thin strips) of the red fabrics from the Le Bouquet FranÃ§ais Moda collection. Nice; nine is enough to do something interesting with. There’s also a piece of a decent size for a backing, and a piece that looks big enough for the binding if I don’t go too wild.
I think originally I bought these fat quarters because I wanted to repeat this quilt I made some years ago, which you can see is made of nine 15″ blocks (three rows of three squares), each with four large pieces and four small triangles. I offset the rows that time for a bit more interest, but it was still constructed as nine blocks.
But (decision #1) I wanted to make it bigger, more like a throw than a baby quilt, and (decision #2) I wanted to make the small triangles bigger, and (decision #3) I wanted to also put small triangles on the corners of each square as well as in the middles of the squares.
Sadly, the link I had to the quilt pattern I used the first time is now dead. I know it was about 45″ square, though, so the big squares of fabric in each block must’ve been 8″ and I remember the small ones were half the dimensions, so 4″ to start off with. That’s enough detail for winging-it purposes. I don’t want this version to be wider than the original 45″ because the piece of fabric I apparently bought for the backing is normal width (between 42″ and 44″) and while I can usually MacGyver a few extra inches of something interesting to make it wide enough, more than that is a challenge.
Decision #1: Making it bigger
I had nine fat quarters, so I dug about in my stash to see what else might coordinate. I found three more fat quarters and one small piece of plain off-white fabric, so ok, that probably makes enough for a 3 rows x 4 squares quilt instead of a 3×3 quilt.
Decision #2: Making the triangles bigger
How many pieces of what size can you get from each fat quarter? Enough, as it turns out, to add an half an inch to each of the triangles. Not more than that, though. You can cut 3×8″ squares + 4×4.5″ squares from a fat quarter if you’re careful, but that’s it — 5″ squares are a big Nope. So 4.5″ triangles it is.
I don’t know what the visual effect of the extra half-inch will be but it feels reasonable. I don’t inherently grok Imperial measures and really wish sewing was done in metric, but it isn’t.
Decision #3: Adding more triangles
Here’s where I get out some graph paper and just draw out the darn thing and count up the bits to make sure I’m not mathing wrong and that I can actually cut the number of pieces I need out of the sizes and shapes of fabric I have.
The big square bits are easy — for a 3×4 quilt I need four 8″ squares in each of twelve blocks, so 48.
For the smaller triangles, I need 4 for the middle of each of 12 blocks, so 48 again. So far so good
Then I also need some for the triangles I want to add to the corners — 4 for 2 corners in each of the intersecting rows, so 8 triangles for each of three rows = 24. 48+24=72.
Now I go back to my fabric and my cutting charts and swear a bit. I am indeed mathing overly optimistically. If I want triangles in the corners as well as the middle of the squares, I definitely can’t fit that in the pieces of fabric that I have. Decision #1 (bigger) gets vetoed in favour of Decision #3 (more triangles). A 3 block x 3 block quilt it will be, because I think it’ll be more interesting to play with corner triangles than to have extra size.
Given that conclusion, now I need four 8″ squares for each of nine blocks, so 36, and for the smaller triangles, 4 for the middle of each of nine blocks = 36 plus 4 for 2 corners in each of the 2 intersecting rows, so 8×2=16, for a total of 52. That fits in the fabric I have.
At this point I feel bored with the planning stage and want to get on with it. I am reasonably sure that I can make something close to what I want, so I screw my courage to the sticking point and cut everything (I find cutting fabric very stressful), without thinking much more about how it’s all going to go together. I am putting off decisions about colour patterns or clever layouts and will from here on in be stuck with whatever I cut. Fine; I’m feeling I might like this quilt to be somewhat random.
Here’s the pile of cut pieces. You can see the smaller ones have lines drawn on the back to indicate their eventual triangle fate.