One of the people I follow on Instagram, Elizabeth Dackson (@dontcallmebetsy), recently offered a medium USPS box stuffed with scraps of fabrics for $16 or something like that. I happened to see it right after she posted the offer, so I ended up getting this box of happiness about a week later. Some of these fabrics were solids, and combined with my own sad stash of solid fabrics I had enough to try something I’ve been wanting to play with for a while. When I made It’s Loud in Here, it was my first time really exploring improv piecing. I enjoyed it and was scared of it at the same time, but I knew that I wanted to play with the idea more. And I wanted to use solids, but I didn’t have very many colors since I haven’t done a lot of work with solids in the past. As I was working on the Log Cabin Star (which also features a lot of Elizabeth’s scraps), I’d sew bits of these solids together into chunks. Then I decided to abandon the ruler when I cut them apart and sewed them together again, and this slab of color was born. It was about 15″ square, probably.
Soon it had some friends, and I started to get an idea of what I wanted to do.
After I finished piecing Queen of Fibonacci Squared, I cut up all of the leftovers from that quilt into wide strips for improv piecing, and chain pieced large sections into more slabs. It was so much fun! Then I tried to figure out how to put them all together into something usable, so I assembled the slabs into three vertical pieces about 18″ wide each. The next day, I decided to try to slash-and-insert a free-form tree with roots between the left two slabs. My intention was to have the tree be off-center, and the final third would be added to the right side after the tree was assembled.
I discovered that this process is a lot more complicated than I had anticipated, and it also devours fabric as gaps have to be filled in because of how cuts were made and how the inserts change the distribution of fabrics. I also had to adjust again and again to make sure that the fabrics would lie flat after pressing, which isn’t a simple task when you’re improv-piecing curves. I kept having to make more slabs from scraps to compensate for these issues, but ultimately I ran out of the solid scraps.
I finally caved in and started incorporating the right third of fabric into the spaces needed to surround the tree.
And then I had the whole tree together. There were a few branches that would require some applique to flesh them out, but the piecing part of the tree was done.
I loved the ragged borders and didn’t want to lose that, but I wanted to enclose the tree to settle some of the chaos, and I wanted to have a solid border to give the eye somewhere to rest. So I cut some strips of solid black and found an aqua border that I loved after determining that green and red would blend too much.
After an afternoon of challenging sewing (sewing, deciding it wasn’t right, ripping out, trying again), I had the quilt top assembled AND flat on the design wall. Hooray! While the edges were smoothed by the addition of the aqua, it’s still asymmetrical, which I wanted. And the black inner border is almost perfectly rectangular, which is something I had to fight for.
I layered and basted it last weekend. I’m using one layer of cotton batting and one layer of cotton/bamboo batting, and it will be very densely quilted so that there’s a lot of texture. Friday was close at hand for the basting process.
I started quilting organic lines in the background using a variegated gray/green Aurifil thread. I spaced them about 1/2″ apart, because I knew I would be adding more lines between in a different color.
Then I added another variegated Aurifil thread in a cream/orange/rust colorway, and it started to come alive!
I love the wobbly lines and what they add to the wobbly piecing.
Then Ella informed me that it was time to stop for the day, since the Duke game was about to come on. OK then.
6 thoughts on “In Process: Personal Growth”
So the tree is pieced in, vs. appliquÃ©d? This may be your best work to date, imo.
Love hearing your process
Love this! I’ve had these ideas but didn’t have the knowledge or courage to try them out! lol
I’m always afraid I’ll ruin the fabric with all of my “unsewing” haha. After seeing and reading your process I feel motivated to try. Thank you for being bold and for sharing your talents!!!
What you can see in these pics is 100% pieced. I have since appliquÃ©d two small sections where I wasn’t satisfied with the angles created, but it won’t be easy to tell where when I’m finished quilting it (unless you compare it to the process photos). Thanks, Barbara!
Go for it, Sylvia! It’s a challenge, definitely, but I’m already well aware that this is a rabbit hole for me– I’ll be following this path for a while.
I love how your brain works. I’m in awe.