Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lotsa stripes

Have I mentioned I like working with strips and stripes? I am sure I have…you know, once or twice.
I do, I confess, love working with them. It’s a great way to use up scraps, or cut up material which is just…too much when in a big chunk. Strips are versatile in the way you can sew them, cut them up, and resew them to make your design. They are fun and colorful. The challenge with them is layout. I find I need to redo the layout of stripes quite often to find the right balance, especially when working with a scrappy stripe piece.
Another thing I find lots of fun, is working without a pattern. Piecing together a piece that grows as I sew, with only a general idea of how it will end up, is challenging, and rewarding. Some of this has to do with not knowing, and a lot less control than when working with a pattern. This is both challenging and rewarding. I find it liberating. It can, however, be difficult as I have only my (sometimes skewed) sense of color and composition when putting a piece together with no plan. The strippy scrappy piece below is one I’ve been working on for a long time. This is another one of those WIPs I’d determined to finish this year. 

I started this, oh, about 4 years ago, planning it as a couch quilt for my sister in law.  I started by using scraps of mine, left over from borders for other pieces, which were all the same width (2.5 inches). To these I added some strips from colors I know she likes, greens and browns. Then I realized I wanted to add some from her own stash of fabrics. 

Back story: years ago my sister in law took a quilting class. The project there was a sampler and my sister in law bought some material for the class. She found she was not enamored with this kind of craftiness and the quilt sat in her closet for a few years. During this time she got married, had a child, and found that her interests really lie elsewhere. She made costumes for the kids for Halloween, but did not do much sewing other than that. About 10 years ago she gave me a box with her stash of fabrics, having given up on trying to finish the sampler quilt she’d begun in the class. As a birthday present I finished the quilt for her, and since then I’ve held on to her fabrics, using them in my own projects. 

And now that I was making a quilt for her, I wanted to use her fabrics as well as mine. A constant pleasure for me in quilting is recognizing fabrics from projects past and giving them new meaning in new projects.
At this point I had a good number of strips, and I began laying them out. Since they were all different lengths it became clear that the design would be scrappy all around. Not just each strip would be different, but each would be made up of several different fabrics. 

I also realized the piece would be bigger than a couch quilt. Unfortunately, it was not enough for a bed quilt. However, since time had gone by, I now had plenty of other scraps to incorporate into the quilt.
I sewed a bunch of strips together into bigger pieces, and started messing about with layout.  I couldn’t figure it out. For a reason I could not identify, it was not coming together right. So I put it away again, while I worked on other projects, trusting inspiration would come and the piece would work sometime, somehow. 

Months went by and then 2011 came along, and I decided on my challenge of finishing WIPs. It also happens to be a year my sis-in-law celebrates a big birthday, so I had double incentive to finish it for her.
Here is a close up of what the piece looked like then:

I realized it needed different colors to break up the palette and add some detail, so I found some blues, and incorporated them as well, and the piece looked something like this:

I was pretty happy with this, and sewed all the strips together to make a generous queen size piece. I trimmed the edges to make a rectangle. But it still needed something.
I laid it down on the floor, to see if I could match borders to it to add the missing element. I tried several colors and came up with the brick reddish/brown, but it was still not enough. I kept trying more colors, thinking a double, or maybe even a triple border would do the trick. But nothing worked. Frustrated I left it, on the floor, and went to do something else. When I came back later that day, I saw my leftover trims of strips, and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do: break up the brown/red border with the trims. Like so:

And the finished piece:

The piece is now so big the only place I could lay it down for the picture is on the floor in the kitchen, once I'd taken the table and chairs out (you can see the edges of the fridge on one side, and the oven on the other). The cat in the picture was VERY curious. She's not allowed in my sewing room (as she likes to pull pins out of fabric and snuggle in the batting). But in the kitchen, well, there was no keeping her off the quilt.

The back has a traditional-looking fabric in cream and burgundy (a bit of calm to offset the strippiness of the front):

I gave it to my sis-in-law for her birthday last week.  She was pleased, and so was I.


  1. I am totally fascinated by this. Lately I've seen alot on various blogs about using scrappy strips and your quilt is additional inspiration. Thanks for sharing the quilt and it's story.

  2. Thanks very much Gayle, for the kind words.
    What blogs do you find particularly interesting?