07 April 2011

Block of the Month Quilt...April...

Maple Star Block
Let's see—the opposite of procrastination must be obsession. That's my overdrive mode when that new packet of fabric and instructions hit my hungry little hands. I started this journey in March. This month there were only two basic block patterns—Maple Star and Milky Way.

I had Milky Way in March's blocks, but this month's was a little different—the three Milky Way blocks overlap. I am still not quite sure if the object of the exercise was to blend or differentiate the pattern. The three colors are distinct enough but when butted next to each other, some distinction fades.

In March, I showed you a photo of a completed quilt—objective in 8-10 months. (I'm still not sure if this is a 10- or 12-month program. I've seen conflicting information.) This time I wanted to give you a slight glimpse of March's finished panel, along with April's panel in the foreground.
Basic Block Layout

The manner in which the instructions are written and fabrics are supplied provides specific directions/fabric for the pattern blocks, but the backgrounds are completely free form. I do very little spontaneously, so it's not surprising that I started filling the backgrounds with carefully arranged, rotated, and repeated strips of four different combinations of six different fabrics each. When I needed to fill larger, smaller, shorter, or longer areas, I added or removed individual 2.5 x 2.5-inch squares to fit. The instructions provide basic graphic explanations, but I like expanding on them. I use Adobe Photoshop to plan out the whole project—in color, with grids, and cutting information. It helps me walk through the project and anticipate most possible concerns/challenges.

Bali Pops batiks framed in orange and blue
Since finishing on March's blocks/panel, I've been working on another quilt top. Several months ago I bought a Bali Pops pack of 40 brightly colored (Mangoes & Margaritas collection) batiks—2.5 x 42-inch strips. I considered different 'strip' patterns but eased myself into panels of finished two-inch squares. Shortly after purchasing the pack, I decided I must arrange all 40 strips into color spectrum order. Done. Then what? Okay—25 squares in each block; first block colors 1–25; second block; colors 6-30, then 1–5 at the end; third block, colors 11–35, then...etc. To not make it look so predictable, I serpentined the order of the colors and rotated the blocks to create a bit of visual chaos from just too much mathematical order. Don't believe me? I can show you the Excel spreadsheet I used to plan it. Yep, that's so totally...ME! I have only completed the top. I have more batiks in purple and yellow-gold to patch together for the back (in a much simpler pattern and fewer pieces). And it will get a vibrant lime green binding around the edge. Tom kind of adopted my first quilt and uses it for naps in the TV room. This one will be mine for pretty much the same purpose. So, do you think I'll be able to sleep under all that color?

Strip away the color and you're left with value
One thing I've been trying to explore is the importance color value. I've bought red and green filters to aid in this. Yeah, they work but I wanted something easier. This week I discovered I can use the digital camera on my phone (which has a black-and-white photo option) to not only take photos, but preview in grayscale. WOW! Compare the two photos of the same subject and you can see how different color values pop or recede. As I get more involved in designing my own quilts or choosing colors for others' patterns, I know this will be an excellent tool.

Now that I've got all this piecing out of the way, need to move on to some other projects. Stay tuned! I'll be posting illustrated instructions for making the pet food bags soon!

PS—Speaking of tools, I welcomed the arrival of a new sewing machine into my home last week! I've been perfectly content with my c.1975 Lady Kenmore free-arm machine for the past few decades. My mother had bought it new for herself in hopes of updating from a decades-old Singer Featherweight. She never really liked the new machine and never got the knack of threading it. My first sewing machine was also a Kenmore, but a bit farther down the line, features-wise. I think I got it in early high school. When she gave me hers (late 1980's?), mine retired and went off to a friend. So, welcome Bernina Aurora 440 QE. I'll have more about this a little later. I plan on naming her (another Gwen-inspired notion) but think the name 'Bernice' has already been taken.

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