Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Lovely Woods

I am participating in a blogger spotlight coming up and was asked the question, "Why did you start your blog?" It's a difficult question, but I guess the most honest answer would be because I feel like I have more to say. Posting a picture of a quilt on a platform like Flickr or Instagram is part of it, but my blog gives me the chance to tell the rest of the story.

This quilt is a story. Several of them, actually.

 My oldest son is in first grade. Periodically he brings home a writing journal for me to read and I get to peer into his mind. The last journal he brought home had this entry:
 
      "One time I saw a red brid [sic]. It was little. It was on top of my house."

I smiled when I read it because I remembered that day too. I grew up in Idaho, and there are no cardinals there. Now that I am around them daily, I listen for their song and look for them everywhere. I guess my kids have picked up on my feelings and now they get pretty excited to see a cardinal too. One summer evening we started out on our nightly walk. Before we even got to the edge of our property, we heard the song and froze. High above our heads, at the very top of our house was a beautiful male cardinal singing his heart out. We sat quietly on the sidewalk and listened to the concert. He sang to us for at least a minute before he flew away. I am so glad that we stopped and listened. I am so happy that my son remembered and wrote about it. Happy enough that I put a pair of them in this quilt.


We aren't the only ones in our neighborhood that go for a walk regularly. One of my favorite walker teams is a man and his beautifully mannered golden retriever. Like clockwork, they came for their morning stroll around 9:15. Like clockwork, I would either be feeding my littlest her breakfast, or cleaning up and starting on some dinner preparations. Without fail, I would stop what I was doing for a moment and smile at them from the kitchen window. It was clear that they were devoted to each other and I loved how they moved together...a peaceful amble side by side. I heard the ambulance siren when I was dropping off my oldest at school. It sounded close, but I had no idea how close. Without much warning or interruption to the daily schedule, he had died in his sleep. I have been sadder than I can say about this loss. I am so glad that I stopped and smiled at them every day. I hope that he felt those smiles and that the warm thoughts of this stranger help carry him to his next place. Even without putting an actual image of a man and a dog on the quilt, they are in this quilt too.


"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow."

      --Robert Frost


As part of the New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop I took part in, I also agreed to join in a quilting bee. Each of us took a month to be queen. As the November queen, I got to choose what blocks I had everybody work on for me. I chose improvisational tree blocks on a low volume background. I referred my bee mates to the Free Pieced Tree Tutorial on Pinkadot Quilts. This quilt is made from the blocks that were sent to me by other members of the group. There were many hands that contributed to this forest, and I love the variety. Sometimes when I do improv, I look at my work and think that it is obvious that it was all made by one person who was trying to force some variety into each piece. That is not the case here. Each tree is speaking with a different voice.


I keep trying different ways to set improvisational quilts. To date, I've tried 3 methods. The first way I tried was to set it in rows, as described in The Flannel Pancake. Next, I tried putting one together in a kind of log cabin method. I started with a center piece, then added slabs of improv to the top, squared it, then to the side, squared it, to the bottom, squared it, then to the last side. I kept going until I had a lap size quilt. (You will see this one eventually, once I have the hand quilting done.) That way is fun, but as the size grows, it can get unmanageable pretty quickly. Since I wanted to turn the trees into a queen sized quilt, I knew I needed to think of a different way.



For this quilt, I got out my handy graph paper and made myself a map. I drew in where I wanted major design elements to be and budgeted a space for them. I set the scale for my grid to be at 3 inches, and then calculated how big different slabs of improvisation needed to be. For instance, in my map, I drew each bird in a 3 x 3 box. Since my scale was set at 3," I knew each bird needed to finish at 9.5" x 9.5" (The extra 0.5" is for seam allowances, I just added that in once I had done the math). If my bird finished a little short, I just sewed some more low volume pieces around it until I had what I needed, then squared it to size. I still could make instant decisions about fabric and placement, I just gave myself space constraints so I wouldn't need the world's longest ruler and the world's biggest cutting mat to have a square quilt.


This quilt top is entirely from my stash and scrap bins. For a couple of years now I have been faithfully saving my tiny triangle snippets from bindings, paper piecing and flying geese. I wish I could tell you that I used them all. Sadly, I did not even come close. The bucket's fabric level doesn't even to appear to have dropped, but that's probably just because I dug around in there and disturbed the flat piles of triangles. Nonetheless, it was very, very, VERY satisfying to use what I have and at the same time be grateful that I had it. Even the binding is made of all the binding scraps I had saved.


This quilt finishes at 96" x 96." I used Quilter's Dream Wool for the batting. I quilted it in an elongated meander (I was going for wind in the trees) using  50 wt. Aurifil 2021 on the top and 40 wt. Aurifil 2325 on the back. This quilt is already on its new home...my bed!

I think it's hilarious that Molly has chosen to lay right next to the birds!
 Here's to all the little things we can see when we stop and look. Thank you for stopping to look here.

My bee mates:
Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs
Pam at Sewing Wilde
Lin at Lin's Quilts
Debbie at Quilting Makes My Heart Sing
Christina at Wips and Tuts
Kate at Thread Everywhere
Afton at Quilting Mod
Stephanie at Late Night Quilter

42 comments:

  1. I love how all of our improv trees are part of a wonderful story

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    1. Me too. Those trees were a signature block. Many, many thank yous for organizing such a fun group!

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  2. Jill - it's so fantastic! I had so much fun with those trees. Mine were so tiny compared to everyone else's. I'll be bigger and bolder the next time I make them. Thanks so much for the opportunity to learn a new technique.

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    1. I am thrilled that your trees were a different size! The beauty is in the variety. Thank you for the Color Catcher. I used it to wash this quilt today!

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  3. This is a beautiful quilt! Thank you for sharing the story with us.

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    1. Thank you...and thanks for reading it.

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  4. I look forward to your blog posts because of the stories you weave and create just as beautifully as your quilts. I am sorry to hear about your neighbor, and I have to say my heart went out to his golden retriever. And what a lovely memory of the Cardinal to share with your son; it obviously means a lot to him as well. The quilt came together so well, and I really like the extra elements you added as you pieced it together (like the triangles framing trees and birds).

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    1. Peaches went to live at his daughter's house. I've thought a lot about her too and hope that her transition will be as easy as possible.

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  5. I loved every word of this post, as much as I love this beautiful quilt. I don't normally go for low volume, but there is something very magical and peaceful about this quilt.

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    1. That is EXACTLY how I feel about it, too. Part of it is the picture my husband said we "froze our baguettes off to get."

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  6. The trees are such a great idea for a bee block and I really love how you've combined them together. I'm not sure If I'll ever do a bee again, but if I ever do I want to keep 'different' blocks in mind insted of going for a regular 12" block that fits neatly in rows. There's something really special about this one and how you've put it together :)

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    1. You are so right! "Different" is good when it's improv. "Different" is very, very bad when it's seam allowances!!!

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  7. You have turned those trees into such a beautiful design and I love every bit of your quilt! It's so pretty! And it inspires me to go ahead and try something similar. And thank you for your lovely story!

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  8. Yay! Inspiration to go and make something of your own is the best compliment I can imagine. Share a picture with me when you do!

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  9. That is beautiful and I loved reading the story of this quilt. That design method looks like fun to try.

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    1. I hope you do try it. I think it makes improvisation more manageable.

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  10. This is gorgeous! Great colors and your quilting really works.

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    1. I have aspirations to be better at FMQ than I am. Maybe some day I will sit down to do the quilting and NOT think, "Oh please don't let me mess this quilt top up!!!"

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    2. That is exactly what I think every time I get a quilt basted! (except I go with the more drastic 'ruin' ;-)

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  11. I just adore everythingabout this quilt!!!
    amazing!!!

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    1. Thanks! I just looked at your blogs and found all of those great ideas for made fabric. I loved that book! I think a lot of my scraps will soon have a new home!

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  12. Thanks for all the info about how you plan your quilt design when doing improv. I found it very helpful. This is another amazing bird quilt!!!

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  13. I am graced by a pair of cardinals that sit in the evergreen tree in my front yard. It amazes me to see these red birds in my green tree. The female has a red plume and red coloring underneath her brownish gray feathers. I love seeing them against the snow as I feed the wild birds and they came to feast.

    Yes I will be making a cardinal quilt to celebrate these beautiful birds. I love your quilt too.

    tushay3 (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. Did you find the tutorial for the improv birds? I just recently posted it. I do really, really love birds too. I hope you make your quilt soon!

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  14. I love it! The quilt and the story. And the variety of trees. Just all of it....

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    1. I appreciate you reading it more than I can say. Thank you for mentioning me on your blog today. That was very kind.

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  15. Such a gorgeous quilt! I loved reading about how you planned it out and used scraps from previous projects. I love it!

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    1. Thank you! We have really enjoyed using it on our bed. I am going to need to get cracking on a new idea soon because the subject matter and the wool batting is giving it a seasonal expiration date!

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  16. I just found your blog via your birds on flicker. This is a wonderful heartfelt story. Your blog is a treasure. Thank you.

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    1. What a kind thing to say!!! My heart is here (my family + stories + quilting). I am happy that you liked it and stayed awhile.

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  17. Discovered your blog just now from Finish it up Friday from Crazy Mom Quilts. What beautiful work you do and what a fantastic writer you are!! This piece in particular made me stop and say so. Such sensitivity.

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    1. Thanks, Kim! I am sorry for the late reply, I just now saw your post! I'm glad you like the writing, I enjoy that part as much as I enjoy making the quilts.

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  18. LOVE your lovely birds, branches and blanc .

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    1. What a great comment, Marsha! I love the blanc, as do many other modern quilters. Silence can be golden.

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  19. Why is the font so small? Old eyes can't handle it.

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    1. Susie, in Google, type in "increasing font size in ________" (Outlook, Chrome, Windows...whichever you use) and you will find specific instructions to make the font size larger on your computer. That way EVERY website will have the font size that is easiest for you to read.

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  20. Wow! I adore this quilt - from the design, to the colors, to the scraps and most especially the story. Beautiful in every way.

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    1. Thank you, Luci! This is our bed quilt just because I love to keep it out and not have it tucked away in storage like so many of my other quilts. I am so happy to hear that you like it too!

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  21. Wow, Jill, your quilt is stunning!! I posted about it here: http://selvageblog.blogspot.com/ And there is a live link there to your blog.
    I love your improv saw-tooth frames around the trees. Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you! The sawtooth borders were a later addition to give more emphasis to the trees. I am glad you like it!

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