Have you ever seen a quilt design, whether in a magazine or in person, and fallen head over heels?
More often than I’d like to admit, I see a modern quilt that captures my heart and all of a sudden my imagination goes into overdrive. I start by scrolling through the mental Rolodex of fabrics in my stash and then I deliberate over how the quilt design would change by using these alternative fabrics or making slight modifications to the design. For many quilts, I don’t quite make it to the final step of creating the quilt I’ve dreamed up based on that beloved quilt pattern.
The first time I set my eyes on the Forest Daybreak Quilt designed by Brenda M. Ratliff and quilted by Kathy Koch, it captured my heart. I was charmed by the overall flow of the quilt and its promise of simple piecing. As a woman who wears turquoise glasses, I can’t deny the fabric choices in ranges of gray, teal, and pops of chartreuse fueled my desire to make this quilt.
Not only did I start dreaming up what my version would look like, I started showing it to anyone and everyone in the office who quilts. Wouldn’t it be great to see a variety of interpretations for this one improvisational quilt? What colors would other quilters choose? Would everyone follow the cutting requirements of the pattern, or would they deviate with wider or narrower strips?
In reality, I could only talk one person into making the quilt with me. She is in the final stages of binding, while I am still in the throes of quilt design decisions. My persistent indecisiveness paired with my questionable fabric choices, featuring a rainbow color palette and polka dot prints, make figuring out what to do with my strips so much more difficult than I anticipated.
Right now, I’m calling it my Polka Dot Disaster Quilt, but I’m hoping you all can help me remove Disaster from the title.
In my head, it seemed like a brilliant idea to use various polka dot fabrics with light and dark backgrounds and a mix of solids, some pastel and some bright. Apparently, outside of my head, this wasn’t such a stellar idea…or maybe my approach to this improv quilt is the culprit.
I began my version by pairing one light strip with one dark strip and sewing them together. Here’s where I may have created a problem for myself: I always matched a polka dot print with a solid, I didn’t sub-cut my strips so the pieces are all roughly the same size, and almost all of the diagonal seams are going in the same direction. So, it turns out I didn’t really allow myself to improvise at all.
I’m not sure how to resolve this quilt design issue so I took it to the handy dandy design wall looking for answers.
Here the black polka dot pieces create a bold line with a horizon of pastels (and maybe light polka dots) fading into the background?
Or, perhaps the polka dots meet in the middle with solids on either side? In this version of that idea, the large polka dot prints create columns within that section breaking up the zig zag of light and dark.
Here the darks, mostly polka dot prints with a few solids, create the diagonal horizon line.
I even roped our Social Media Manager, Carrie Sisk into the room to see if she could unravel this design disaster! We started talking about the possibility of adding narrow black strips in between the columns of color. Or maybe I need to make sub-cuts so I have smaller pieces to wield during the design process. I think diagonal seams going in the opposite direction is a must, but that’s the only thing I feel sure about.
Instead of recreating the quilt exactly as pictured, I decided to try to expand my horizons by choosing different fabrics and using Brenda’s directions as guidelines. I’m wishing I would have chosen a medley of fabrics in a limited color range or a fat quarter pack of coordinating fabrics. Or better still, the creativity within boundaries a quilt kit has to offer would have been helpful in preventing this design dilemma.
I walked away from the design wall, my strips in tow, feeling heartbroken and defeated by the Polka Dot Disaster Quilt. I am afraid to cut the strips down without a plan and I certainly don’t want to seam rip the little sewing I’ve done. What would you do if this quilt was yours?