Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Presidential material

Advice to non-quilters: You can pretty much skim this one. Read the first & last paragraphs of the post, as well as the paragraph before each photo and you'll know as much as you probably care to.

Our quilt guild is a new organization, just beginning its second year. As the first president neared the end of her year, she mentioned what I know is a tradition for many guilds: each member makes a quilt block for the outgoing president. In some groups, the president sets the blocks together herself, or uses them in some other way. I know one who requested blocks in a traditional house pattern she liked. She made herself a jacket out of the blocks, and called it her "House Coat," naturally.

Anyway, in our case the outgoing president did not select a particular block design, requesting only that the blocks feature the bright colors she is known to favor. Of course a size was specified, and at each meeting we reminded the members about the size, the colors, and the deadline.

We are going to actually construct the quilt, rather than just giving Carolyn the blocks, and somehow I found myself offering to put the top together. Knowing that the blocks would not really be the specified size (they never are), I had a thought about a setting that could compensate for differing block sizes, and I wanted to try it.

We received 25 blocks in all. Unfortunately, I figured I would wait and make mine when I was putting the whole thing together, and having 25 makes me want to maybe not make one myself. I do have a placeholder fabric I can add in order to round up to a suitable number of blocks, but it sure is tempting to stick with a 5x5 layout and let the assembly of the top count as my contribution, thereby avoiding the piecing of a whole sixth row just for the sake of including a block of my own.

Today I laid out the blocks - many of which don't really feature the bright colors requested - and tried to balance out the colors and shades that we do have.

Here's what I came up with:

Yesterday at our board meeting we selected five bright fabrics that I will use to frame each block before assembling the top. These individual block borders will have several jobs:

  • The five fabrics will start to tie things together by introducing some consistency among all this diversity.
  • The colors will help brighten up the whole, since a lot of the contributors didn't seem to be comfortable using the bright colors requested.
  • And, most critically in practical terms, the borders will compensate for the irregular sizes, since the blocks can't be sewn together unless they are all the same size.
Rather than a traditional border of straight strips, the bright fabrics will be applied in the form of four triangular strips. This will result in new, larger blocks, with each original block sitting on a slant within its new, bright border. Then, when I trim each block down to a specific size, the tilted orientation will hide the fact that some have to be trimmed more than others.

I have five bright fabrics and 25 blocks, so the system is pretty clear cut. I need to pair each block with a fabric that complements it, and hopefully avoid repeating any border fabric color in any given row.

I didn't even try to go all Sudoku and avoid repetition of border color within the columns, although this is largely because it didn't occur to me at the time.

I think it would be great if I could distribute the border colors better, but I also have to pay attention to the distribution of the colors, values (darkness/lightness) and general effect contained within the blocks themselves. So I don't know.

It's not the challenge of finding a decent layout that daunts me, but the fact that there are 125 pieces at the moment, and they just love to fall down off the design board (once again, I'm using a batting-wrapped mattress, but this time it's not one we need to sleep on tonight.) And when the border triangles do fall, they can easily peel six or eight other pieces off with them before I can get ahead of the cascade.

So anyway, here's what I've got at the moment. I had to take the picture from a pretty sharp angle and I've messed with the perspective to bring it back to approximately square, but it may still look a little wonky. Also, of course, this is all just laid out. It will be much more precise when it's actually sewn together.

When choosing the border fabrics, we also selected a sashing and border fabric. Sashing is an extra border between each block - think of the wooden lattice that holds a multi-paned window together. However, having laid these out like this so far, I'm thinking it may look better to sew the blocks directly together, rather than separating them with an extra strip of fabric.

The sashing fabric is yellow, and there's a green & blue-green batik for the outer border. If I end up putting the blocks together without the sashing, I guess I'll have the option of using either the green or the yellow for a border. Or both.

The nice thing about working on this quilt? I'm the current president of the guild, so what I do here sets the bar for how nice a quilt I get next year!

So this and the kaleidoscope quilt are the two main projects that need to be finished before I leave, two weeks from tomorrow. I also have to do my taxes (automatic extension due to living outside the US, so they're not late yet), attend one last board meeting, attend one quilting get-together and host another, and of course finalize the plans for the trip. As Twitter-watchers will already be aware, it turns out that I'm going to have to make all the reservations directly with each hotel and service provider because I've selected inexpensive enough lodging that it's not worth the travel agency's while to do it for me.


Sandy May 16, 2007 10:30 PM  

Jennifer, PLEASE leave it like you have's stunning! If I were receiving it, I would cherish it forever. I honestly don't think it needs the sashing. You have done a wonderful job and have given me an idea for putting together a block swap I was part of where all the blocks were not the same size even though we were told the size to make it. Good luck on your presidency and have fun with it. Will I get to see you while you are in the states?

theotherbear May 16, 2007 11:20 PM  

It looks so good with all the squares at angles like that. Much better than square in the first shot!

Dad May 17, 2007 4:57 AM  

WOW! That's BEAUTIFUL! I guess you inherited your artistic talents from Mom; certainly not from me.

Practical issue: Could you stick a pin into each piece - or at least each block - so that when one block answers the call of gravity it doesn't create a landslide (well, clothslide?) Or maybe the mattress isn't dense enough to hold pins...

Note to Lisa: Have a quiet bedroom available for Jennifer for the first 24 hours after she arrives!

Jennifer May 17, 2007 8:09 AM  

I am using pins in a few places, but since each block has four border pieces, and they all have to overlap each other, it's not that practical to pin everything.

Today, I think what I'll do first is sew the borders on the blocks that really need to have a certain color. Then at least those ones will be more stable and I can decide how much rearranging to do. The repetition of border colors in vertical columns is bugging me. (See? My Tucker genes are contributing to the project too!)

Tomme May 17, 2007 8:17 AM  

Jen -- I think it's wonderful! She's gonna love it. (heh heh - I like your comment about setting the bar for your own quilt next year.)


Jennifer May 17, 2007 8:36 AM  

Hi Tomme!

I didn't know you were reading here :)

Dad May 17, 2007 12:27 PM  

"The repetition of border colors in vertical columns is bugging me. (See? My Tucker genes are contributing to the project too!)"

Tucker genes? TUCKER genes? I'm afraid I'm esthetically challenged. For me, most of the time, function is all. Your mom is the artist in this household.

Of course, if you're talking about anything compulsive or perfectionistic, I may have to quietly agree.

Not, mind you, that I have any desire to avoid credit for anything good you may do, which is lots!


Jennifer May 17, 2007 12:40 PM  

It's the perfectionism I'm referring to. I actually got out 25 Legos in 5 different colors to try and figure out how to arrange them. Tell me you don't identify with that...

lisa May 17, 2007 2:33 PM  

Okay, Dad. Jennifer actually took a moment to publically identify herself with your side of the family, and you're going to quibble? This kind of thing doesn't happen every day, you know.

Sandy May 17, 2007 8:58 PM  

I need a close up of how you pieced the borders on the blocks when you have done one. A step by step commentary would be good here. Unlike you, I can't do anything without a pattern. Thanks.

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