Thursday, February 27, 2020

I'm Retreat Bound Again!

For the past couple years, I've been confining the retreat projects I haul out of the house to hand stitching only!  It's so much easier to pack and I'm more relaxed while at the retreat which makes it more fun to be away from the studio.
This weekend, I'm working on my 2019 #sharksdinnerBOM blocks.
I went back through my blog photo archive and was surprised to discover how few pictures I've shared on the blog?!?   
I shared lots of pics on my Instagram feed!! 
But these are the only four process pictures I shared on the blog?!? 
All my tile fabric assortments began with a large scale multicolor print from Kaffe Fassett.  I then worked to use other non-Kaffe prints and along the way, many of my "nature" themed prints started to become a regular feature of the tiles.
It has been a "sew my stash" project from beginning to end!!
These English paper pieced "tiles" were designed by Elisabeth @lemonshark in Switzerland and shared via her blog during 2019 -- twelve designs in all.  Each tile has the same exterior shape, but all of them have a different interior breakdown.  Then everyone making the tiles laid out the darks, mediums, and lights in different ways individualizing the finished look of each tile!  You can check some of them out by searching the hashtag #sharksdinnerBOM2019 on Instagram -- here's a link. (Scroll way down to see some of the variations more easily.)  

She did not however design a "setting" for the tiles so everyone has taken their own approach to this step. Kim, in England, has been designing crazy quilt looking backgrounds to English paper piece around each tile as she squares the blocks up.  I've been a bit intimidated by her ideas and in awe of her energy but one of her designs inspired me to design (a much simpler) machine pieced background for my blocks.

Working on graph paper to full scale, I designed a set of triangles that will frame each tile.  I contemplated random low volume fabrics but settled on black and white to emphasize the drama of each tile.
After the first test block to make sure my idea worked, I set to work every afternoon for the past two weeks piecing the backgrounds and basting the tiles to the backgrounds in preparation for a weekend of hand stitching to applique them in place. 
Each corner consists of a triangle with a mitered stripe border to I was able to use my Set-In Piecing Simplified tricks and my Marti Michell mitering tool to perfect results! 
This is what each finished background looks like -- the tiles are 18" across and I left that big empty center primarily because I didn't want to "waste" any of my terrific low volume white and gray prints!
I alternated the "sashing" borders between black and white which turned out to be better than I expected!  It sets off each tile beautifully.  The position of the tiles in the final layout isn't set in stone at this point, but the primarily "cool" tiles will definitely alternate with the primarily "warm" tiles as you see here.
Once a background was finished, I spent time removing all the papers which were thread basted in place.  (Sorry "glue lovers" but I don't like glue basting one bit and I've given it a fair try.)
Then with the background laying perfectly flat, I positioned the tile and basted it 1/8" from the folded edge.
As I left for the weekend, all twelve tiles are basted and ready for a weekend of stitching. 
The finished blocks are about 20" square (my design wall is not long enough, so they are overlapped here) and I did a quick trial stitch earlier this week and am predicting it will take about 90 minutes maximum to finish each block!
I'm feeling confident I'll return home with twelve big finished blocks ready to set together and contemplate borders!  (I packed a couple other hand work projects just in case, too!?!)

So often when we start a BOM based on someone else's ideas/designs, we become disenchanted for various reasons.  That happened with this project for me -- 7 months ago I couldn't imagine how I would pull these tiles into a cohesive quilt so I was losing interest.  It felt like I would end up with a bunch of big pillow covers!?!  Individually, I loved the blocks -- but together???  Not so much.
As I shared my frustration, several of the makers on Instagram encouraged me to keep at it with helpful comments that made me aware of what they were seeing that I didn't see.

I put all the tiles up on the auxiliary design wall to allow them to simmer in the back of my mind.  That's when I realized the warm versus cool color palettes and how much fun I was having incorporating some of my nature prints.  So I forged on with a new sense of purpose -- balance the warm and cool blocks plus include a nature print in every tile.

When I basted that first tile onto the background, it felt right!  Can't find better words than that?
The backgrounds are unifying the crazy fabric/color scheme so much better than I expected.
I'm so glad I shared my frustration and grateful for everyone's input.
This is going to be an awesome quilt!!

So if you feel letdown about a project, get it out and put it up someplace where your subconscious can work on it.  Share it with folks and get their perspective!  Carry on!!

Hope your weekend is a pleasant one!


  1. These are absolutely beautiful.

  2. Oh my, I do like what you did with these blocks and your layout!

  3. I love the black and white frames to the 'tiles'. They unify the whole.
    Like you, I have been taking only hand sewing to retreats. I am off next weekend. I have my main UFO project chosen, but I know the car will be full of back-ups, in case I need a change or make more progress that I thought.

  4. Your blocks are so pretty, the black & white frames are perfect!

  5. what a perfect background you have designed for these tiles! I've saved all of the blocks for future piece work. Look forward to seeing yours.