Friday, April 23, 2021

memories in an improv log cabin

brushing up on my fmq skills and even branching out into new designs. i really should have practiced the new ones a bit first, rather than just going for it on a new quilt i'm rather attached to. but i was too impatient. 

let's back up a bit and talk about this new quilt i'm rather attached to. 

in may 2015 (6 years ago? really?) i was in nashville, my high school years hometown, and got a chance to visit craft south, anna maria horner's shop, on opening day. (and let's not forget my long-awaited first experience with jeni's splendid ice creams a few doors down. it was a good day.)

i brought home a small stack of fabrics: a large AMH piece from the loulouthi collection and several quarter yard cuts that appealed to me. most of it was low-volume, which i was purposefully seeking to build in my stash at the time.

after getting home, i decided the various pieces i had randomly selected actually went well together and that someday i would like to make a quilt from them, sort of a souvenir of the trip. that pretty little stack has been sitting on a shelf next to my AMH stash ever since.

one fine spring day in march, after i'd spent all day in the dirt and sun preparing my garden, i found myself with a few minutes to sew. i didn't bother even getting cleaned up - i seized the moment.

and for some reason i seized that stack of craft south fabric and started cutting.

i'd recently been itching to make a large log cabin in low volume fabrics and this felt like the right stack of fabric for the project. the loulouthi print would make a nice focal fabric and statement piece for most of the backing (too bad i hadn’t bought a bit more) and all the low volumes would be pretty and soft together.  there is one piece of a two-toned french general floral that is quite saturated and dark, but because of all the other reds in the mix, it blends well and sets the other fabrics off nicely.

while i was at work, my oldest son called me and said he needed help altering some pants he bought at a thrift store which he wanted to wear at the decades dress up disco night at the skate rink on the weekend.

altering clothing of any kind is well out of my quilting skill set, but i will take any excuse to get my college boy home, so i told him we'd figure something out. he joined me in the sewing room, looked up some youtube videos, and put his engineer's mind to work on slimming down the waistline and flaring the bottom half of those pants.

i wasn't much help to him on the pants, offering a few ideas here and there and helping with pinning. so while i was hanging around him at work, i kept going on my giant log cabin.

i started with a nice-sized cut of that large scale loulouthi print as the "hearth" of my log cabin block and proceeded to add various sized strips around it. i wanted a rectangle rather than a square in the end, so i have thicker strips on the bottoms and right side, which also shifts the hearth off center.

this didn't take long at all. within a few hours, by the time my son was done working on his bell bottoms, i had a decent lapsized quilt top. i was a little unhappy with the last two pieces i put on and how the proportions ended up, but there was no more time for changing anything because i had to get to another family event. my niece was opening her church mission call and we were all gathering to be with her to find out where she would be serving (brazil!).

both of these events - spending that afternoon with my son sewing and my niece’s mission call opening - are now stitched into this quilt top alongside my trip to nashville, opening day at craft south, and jeni’s ice cream. so many memories in here already.

that night when i got home, i decided to redo the last two pieces i had added to the top, which required extensive unpicking. but i've come to accept this type of quilting chore as just a necessary part of the creative process to getting a project where i want it to be.

at this point, i was determined to use only fabric from the craft south stack for the front and back of the quilt, if possible. so i had to begin piecing a few things together and making some decisions about what to use where, particularly for the remaining piece of the lououthi 2 yd cut.

i did want to use what was left after i cut off the cabin hearth piece as one giant piece on the back. however, when i redid the front, i was in need of another long side piece. i figured out how to do that with a bit left over from the hearth piece and a narrow strip fussy cut off the backing piece.

i tried to pattern match the two pieces and nearly did it correctly. i was so nervous about getting it right! and in the end, even though i was off by 1/4", it turned out pretty good.

originally, i knew i needed to account for the seam allowance on both pieces by adding 1/4" to each line where the pattern would meet up. but somehow when it came to cutting, i forgot and only made allowance for the seam on one of the pieces. oh, well. not perfect, but pretty good.

piecing the back of this quilt was far more work and mental effort than the front, which I actually had a pattern in mind for while i was making it. the back had to be figured out piece by piece as I went along. 

i'm pleased with the results, and was able to make the whole thing from my original pile of fabrics. since i was already taking the time to piece it so carefully, i made the extra effort of fussy cutting the balloon fabric for placement within the strips. the designs on this fabric were very spread out on the fabric, with a lot of white space in between. i didn't want to loose the balloons and kites in the cutting, so fussy cutting was in order. it makes for some fun little "i spy" bits on the back.

now i'm to the quilting phase. i had this fmq book out on my sewing table for some reason and since i didn't know what i wanted to do for this quilt, i opened it for ideas. i've been trying some of the designs out on various parts of the quilt. really, i should practice them somewhere else first, but i'm too impatient for that. angela's designs are so beautifully executed after her years of extensive practice. i shouldn't be sucked in and think i can reproduce them instantly, especially when i'm so rusty. if i had at least doodled by hand a little first, i could have got the proportions of the short and tall bumps down better. i do wish i hadn't picked an absolutely new design for the balloon/kite print area because it's quite visible. but here we are and it is what it is. the final wash and crinkle usually help hide fmq imperfections a bit, too. that's what i'm counting on, anyway.

wish me luck on the rest!

while working on this post, i realized there are 12 fabrics in this quilt. so i'm going to call it "twelve south," which is the district in nashville where craft south resides. i like the symmetry and reference found in that.

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