This quilt is a story. Several of them, actually.
"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 hereTo watch his woods fill up with snow."
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!|
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