23 March 2021

Slow but Steady

 A quick update on my String Tulip QAL progress,

the three blocks on the RH side are not sewn together 
right now, but will be tomorrow along with the remaining three

Mine are a smidgen smaller in size than Ann suggested, purely accidental
in that I trimmed a little too much off when squaring up,  I'm calling it a happy accident!

The tricky part for me will be the tulips, I tend not to hand applique if I don't have to do so,
I prefer to use the sewing machine so I need to think how I'm going to
'attack' the next part of the QAL.

18 March 2021

Trying to Catch Up

I forgot to post a pic of the final result from the Hourglass Prompt. Using the hourglass units for the sashing turned out to be a fun play on connections. So interesting to see the unit totally change in looks and effect simply by placing them side by side. 

Hourglass prompt

I got very distracted, obviously, by the applique tulips and almost lost sense of what the prompt was all about in the first place! So happy that I was able to find a good place for these units though and not let them just languish untouched in the orphan totes. There's something niggling away at the back of my brain with the idea {or two} of another hourglass try, so don't be surprised if they come up again in the future. There's something very intriguing about the almost deceptive simplicity of this particular unit that makes me think it's a little under-appreciated!

Positive Thinking prompt

This other challenge has been tough to get focused on. I'm starting to think the reason was because I ended up going in a different direction for the background of the middle three words. Then I couldn't get a handle on how to bring it all together in a good way. The other day I brought the parts and pieces out and just MADE myself finish up the letters. Just said, 'That's it! Not going to work on anything else until something on this project is resolved!' Finished sewing the word 'willingly' together and then decided to use the original cream shirting print for sewing the last three words. It was touch and go, with barely enough left to get them made. Did you notice they are mostly skinny letters? 

For now, the goal is to get the words sewn into a background fabric and have one solid piece to work with. There's simply not enough of any shirting fabrics to use for that purpose, so I brought in a bit of yardage from the stash totes that I thought might work. Ta da! It's stripes! So complicated and yet, not at all. All in perspective, right? I'm cutting it all on the vertical stripe and letting it match up {or not} where the pieces join together. Then, and only then will I figure out the possible addition of applique, borders etc. 

09 March 2021

Forty-Six - Moving Forward at Last

Suffice it to say that I have spent HOURS and HOURS of time
pondering the seemingly millions of options for completing
the current AHIQ String Pieced Tulips QAL challenge.

I don't do hand appliqué so that route was not an option.

I've made dozens of string quilts including my Dumpster Diving series.

Which left the concept of tulips as the remaining challenge focus for me.

But with my chosen color palette inspired by the glorious images
from January 20, 2021, I was stumped over how to incorporate
all of them into a coherent whole.

So what am I going to do?

1.  Edit my palette.

2.  Honor my own way of doing things as well as the squirrel in me.

3.  Stop pondering and start making.

Step one was to edit my palette.

caused a massive attack of "blank journal page syndrome"
aka utter creative paralysis.

So it has been folded like yardage and put back on the stash shelf.

The colors that struck me the most on Inauguration Day
were those worn by Jill Biden, Kamala Harris, and Amanda Gorman
namely their aqua/teal/turquoise, purple, and that glorious yellow.

So the dark blues, pinks, creams, and reds were returned to the stash shelves.

But with several hundred inspiration images still haunting me,
now what?

Step two involves honoring my inner squirrel.

So I pulled another project from the gestation closet - 
one that featured even more inspiration from this book 
and that project's stack of  aqua/turquoise yardage.

By combining that project's ideas/yardage with Forty Six's challenge
and my own sensibilities, I have finally found my path forward.

I sorted through that box of hastily cut strips,
removing the reds, blues, creams, pinks, and blue violets
leaving only the red violet, yellow, and aqua/turquoise groups.

Step three involves MAKING instead of more thinking.

I will make the tulip centers from these newly-string-pieced yellow slabs.

I will make the left and right tulip petals from
the newly-string-pieced red violet slabs.

The stems and leaves will logically be from the basket of scrappy greens.

All of these will then be machine appliquéd in place.

 I will make my background blocks from this range of yardage - 
meaning those boxes of leftover teal/aqua/turquoise strips in the previous photo
 will go back to the closet for future Etcetera projects.

While any backing choice is still up in the air 
I plan to use this colorful batik for binding.

* * *

I cannot tell you how good it feels to have forward momentum again!

07 March 2021

The way I see it now

Thanks to everyone who took the time to post suggestions in response to my previous post; it's helpful to see all the different options you came up with.  I have been pondering this QAL a lot and, although I don't have a fully-fledged answer to my tulip dilemma, I do have  clearer sense of how I need to think about the whole project.

I realise that it makes much more sense to me if I think of Ann's monthly posts as a series of prompts rather than sets of instructions.  Thus, month 1 was 'make string blocks' and month 2 is 'make tulips'.  I could choose to ignore a prompt and veer off in another direction if I wanted to, but if I want tulips then I should get over the questions of technique.  I am mostly a piecer, so I want to piece tulips.  I am improvisational by inclination, so I'm going to have a go at improvising them. 

What I know for certain is that if this doesn't work, it will just be a step on the way to something that does.  Sitting here scratching my head for too long, on the other hand, won't get me anywhere,

03 March 2021

Love tulips, don't like to applique

Here's a puzzle for you to consider.  I like Ann's tulips a lot.  I like to applique much less (actually I like how it looks, just don't want to do it). So I have started making these little string blocks for a tulip quilt, knowing from the off that I want to applique as much as I want toothache.

I have been searching the web for inspiration but so far nothing hits the spot. 

I could EPP, but that is not a thought that fills me with joy and lately I don't much want to do anything that isn't adding joy to my life.  

I could piece, but the only examples I have seen are very block-y and tulips are such a lovely, elegant flower I would prefer to come up with something more curvy.   I love the simplicity of  Audrey's latest tulips, but of course those are appliqued.

What to do?  I have no answers as yet, but did come across this interesting post on one of Barbara Brackman's blogs that gives me pause for thought.  

Any bright ideas?  

02 March 2021

Month 2 of String Tulip QAL

 Welcome to the second month of the #AHIQStringTulipsQAL. How did the first month go? I anticipate many inventive variations of the ESS blocks. And explosions of color and creativity. 

Three people have already shared the blocks they've finished to date. Look at them all and compare how the choices they made change this block. Each has interpreted the basic directions to suit herself. None is "more right" than the others. It's simply a matter of choosing your own way.
  1. Sharon at ascensionheart already finished all her ESS blocks. Wow. Her light sides make the Xs stronger and the colors are bright and cheerful.
  2. Maureen posted hers here and on MysticQuilter. If you read her blog you'll know she's a master gardener and it shows in the sophisticated prints and selections that make her Xs look like flowers in bloom.
  3. Kaja's blocks frequent use ofa  blue and white gingham at or near the center strengthens her design. She was the most free in the placement of her values. Notice how the Xs weave from side to side depending on her placement of lights and darks.

This time we'll decide on the center background, and cut and sew the tulips. More thinking this month and a bit more time to finish the ESS blocks. 

String Tulips quilt

Size the Center

Before making tulips, we need to calculate the size of the center of the quilt and choose a background that works with the borders. Remember we are working like a kawandi - from the outside in. Measure your blocks to determine the center size. For my baby quilt, the sum of four string blocks finished is the finished size of the center. Add seam allowances. 

Then add another inch or two because sewing the appliqué often causes the base fabric to shrink a bit. Just remember to re-square the center when the the appliqué is finished. {I learned that from Audrey. Thanks!}

My blocks are 5.5" unfinished or 5" finished. Four of them equals twenty inches finished or 20.5" for the unfinished length. I cut my center 22" and marked a 20" perimeter with washable marker inside it to locate the maximum extent of appliqué. If it pulls the center in, there will still be a bit more "open space" before that seam; i.e., the final seam will be between the marked line and the outer edge.

Choose the Background Fabric

Over-planning kills creativity. My quilts are more creative when I just play with the strings first. The end result is much freer than if I plan the center and try to match strings to it. So now that you have a free-spirited collection of blocks, look through all your stash with open minds for unconventional and unexpected combinations... as Rod would say.

A twenty-two inch square is larger than a fat quarter. Some choices. 
  1. Use a larger piece of fabric like String Tulips 1 which I cut from 2/3 of a yard.
  2. Piece the background from a single fabric like String Tulips 2 where I sewed the extra width from a half yard to enlarge the background.
  3. Piece several different fabrics together. These could be four quarters or an off-centered arrangement. Audrey’s Seedpod quilt is a lovely example. 
  4. Sash the center.
  5. Think of another way yourself.
Lay the ESS blocks around an open center and place different fabrics inside until you find one {or more} that pleases you. It's surprising what pops so try many values and colors. Don't worry about the tulips until the background is settled.

Create Tulip Templates

Because the crossed tulips are radially symmetrical, I only needed a quarter of the design {in my case that's ten inches of paper} to plan my tulips. I taped two sheets of graph paper together, marked off the side measurements and added a main diagonal to keep it symmetrical.

I wanted three separate petals that filled up most of the space. My working sketch shows how I enlarged the tulip repeatedly to fill the area and create larger outer petals. If you don't want such full-blown tulips, adjust your sketch. Paper is cheap.

Tulip sketch fills
a quarter of the center

If you choose to use leftover ESS blocks as your side tulip petals {as I did}, double check that the templates {and seam allowances} fit inside a scrap block by laying them out and making sure there's room for the seam allowance. Here's mine laid over a string block on my light table. 

Checking template size against ESS block size

Once the tulip looked okay, fold the sketch along the diagonal and cut both sides at once, choosing the side that looks better to you as the cutting template.  Or make both sides different. You're the designer here.

Tulip template folded and cut

Trace that tulip on a new sheet for backup. Adjust as needed. {That's where the copy came in handy.}

If you want room for additional applique {such as those circles, leaves, or birds which may be centered between two quadrants} make the tulip smaller.  If you don't want to use ESS blocks for a petal, the templates can be longer. A narrower center template will draw the tulip together. 

Templates with seam allowances on all sides

When you're satisfied, cut your template into the three pieces, trace them, and add seam allowances. If you choose to raw-edge applique your tulips, they only need seam allowances between the petals themselves.

You are welcome to use my tulip template for a twenty-inch center. Cut and add seam allowances as required.

Pick Tulip String Colors/Values 

Consider what values will show up best on your background. The green and chartreuse center of String Tulips 1 is a dark medium which meant the tulips needed to be much darker or lighter to contrast. The medium values of most of my ESS blocks got lost. So I sewed more blocks before making all the tulip petals. {That's how the black tulips were born.} On the other hand, lighter tulips fit String Tulips 2. No new blocks were needed. 

My current ESS blocks work well with the pink background but the prepared tulip {in the middle} gets lost. If I want to use this background, the tulips should include strips like the dark set or possibly the whites. 

Strip choices for tulips
against a pink background

Determine Strip Direction

Most antique tulip quilts run the strips across the petals but I ran them vertically the length of the petal. What would other directions look like?

Tulip petal template on ESS block

Warning 1: Because several seams crowd the bottom of the tulip, vertical seams can make it difficult to turn a seam allowance on the outer edge. If you choose vertical strips, try to space them so bulky seams are minimized. Remember there are two more seams when you sew the three pieces together.

Warning 2: The 1.5" rule for the corners of ESS blocks applies here, too. Is there enough room to turn the last string under or will it just be multiple seam allowances?

The center petal can be more strips running the same direction or perpendicular. Or it can be a single piece of fabric. {I chose the latter.}

Pin the templates to your fabric or strip sets and cut them out. OR sew new strips on top of each of the eight petals, remembering that the side petals of each tulip are mirror images. 

Two string tulip petals,
back of left side and front of right side

Prepare the Tulips

Sew the side petals to the center petal. Pin together matching start and ending points. Start a few stitches from the first pin and backstitch to it. 

Backstitch at the beginning
and end of the seams

Then sew straight to the final pin and backstitch a few stitches. This stabilizes the sewing and makes turning the seams under an easier task. 

Stabilized seams with
more ease to turn seams

I folded and pressed seam allowances around the tulip. I like the end result but it is bulky. There are many other choices. You can needle turn the tulips, finish with raw edges, sew them interfacing and turn. What else? Use a method you like.

Tulip on light background

Next month we'll attach stems and tulips to the background. In the meanwhile, play with your ESS blocks and choose an exciting background. Then seriously consider the strips that would create a showy tulip. 

These directions are posted here and on my personal blog, FretNotYourself.

 There are many ways to imagine the center. Consider what else you want to add and make sure you have enough room. There was a beautiful applique quilt from Pennsylvania at the American Folk Art Museum a few years ago. Do any of these motifs strike a spark with you? Would your tulips prefer to be in a vase or set individually? 

Have fun! Ann