Friday, January 8, 2016

Diamond Sky

My two year old daughter has many pastimes, but one of her favorites is to sit on my lap and watch the music clips from Aladdin on YouTube. She watches all of the songs intently, but completely zeroes in on "A Whole New World." Her eyes sparkle, she smiles and she even tries to sing along. There is something about flying, exploring and SEEING on that magic carpet that really captures her attention.

(Princess Jasmine:)
Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feelings
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky
A whole new world!

I've listened to that song a million times, but I never sang along with as much fervor as I did the day after I had a checkup at the doctor's office last month. During the course of a routine set of labs, it was discovered that my thyroid wasn't performing very well. My doctor prescribed me a teeny dosage of thyroid medication and KA-CHOW!!! A whole new world, indeed! Let's just say these quilts look exactly how I feel right now.

I originally chose this color run of 18 fabrics to fulfill the requirements for the Rainbow Mini Swap. I'm not so in love with swaps in general, but I love the challenge of doing something that I wouldn't normally do. This is my first rainbow quilt and I am sorry that it took me so long! Working with these colors was the perfect antidote to winter blahs. This quilt finishes at 12" x 24." I quilted it in a matchstick design with grey Aurifil thread and used a scrap of Quilter's Dream Request for the batting.

I had been considering a different log cabin variation and thought that a making a mini would be a pretty painless way to test it out. I constructed this quilt using a method that I keep coming back to. I made myself a scaled piecing map that I slipped slabs of improvisational piecing into. I've done this in The Lovely Woods, Red Letter Day, Heading West and Tumble. As I've gone along with this process two things have happened--I've gotten a whole lot better about estimating size and my scaled models have gotten smaller. For these quilts, I used blocks of four different sizes: 2.5" squares, 3.5" squares, 2.5" x 3.5" rectangles and 2.5" x 4.5" rectangles. I drew out the whole quilt, colored in my fabric choices, free cut all of my fabric into strips and started building from left to right. After piecing the first small chunk of reds, I discovered that I didn't need to fully complete the last round of background fabrics for every block. I started peeking around at my design wall every time to determine which sides of the rainbow log cabin needed a gray spacer. Not only did this cut down the number of seams on a piece that already had a million of them, it also added to the "soaring, tumbling, freewheeling" effect and disguised the mechanics of my construction seams. You may have to look hard, but there are definitely lots of long straight seams in these quilts!

I was very happy with how the mini worked out, so I expanded my plan to finish one at 18" x 36" to keep. In the smaller version, I had used two different shades of heathered gray for the background. The two-tone effect was very subtle, but still noticeable. I wondered if the difference in the fabrics could be amplified if I concentrated the lighter tone of gray with the lighter log cabin blocks. I think it created a luminescent, shimmery glow in the center, but I'll leave it to you to decide if it was worth the extra bother. I quilted this mini in a straight line design with grey thread and a scrap of Warm and Natural batting. 

I've been struggling with my feelings about my scraps recently. I am careful to save, categorize and store and have been feeling burdened by all of the boxes of fabric scrap stuff that fill up my sewing space. I attempted to actually use my carefully curated collection a couple of different times over Christmas break with uninspiring results. The part of the quilting process that I derive the most pleasure from is the interaction of color. To say that it just didn't do anything for me to start combining random solids together is putting it mildly. So, I challenged myself to use my project scraps to make something/clean up and keep Mt. Saint Scrapmore manageable. I used up every last free cut strip from my basket except for about an 8" strip of the lightest pink. I can live with that. This mini was completely inspired by Nancy Crow. If you also have a lot of strings in your scrap basket and don't feel inspired to use them, I highly recommend her book called Nancy Crow. It isn't an instruction book, just an archive of her quilts. I pretty much have it on permanent check out from my guild's library collection, but I've also seen it in my public library. Look and see if you can find it somewhere as it's definitely worth checking out. This mini finishes at 17" x 17." I quilted it in the ditch with Aurifil thread in dove and used a scrap of Quilter's Dream Wool for the batting.

The weather totally didn't cooperate for my plans on the photo shoot and I was bummed. My neighbors have the most beautifully patterned concrete on their front stoop and I thought it would be a great backdrop for all those rainbow colors to really shine. By the time I got over there, though, a warm snap had started the snow melting, gotten that lovely concrete all wet and completely obscured the pattern. I thought about it all night and was so excited to wake up to a foggy morning and a new idea. I dropped my boys off at school and took my daughter out to the same place where I shot The Lovely Woods. I was able to find a few cooperating branches and used a combination of clothes pins and safety pins to get the shots I needed very quickly. Since coming home I've changed my socks, shoes, pants and shared a cup of hot chocolate with my intrepid assistant. Totally worth it. 

This whole process has been a great reminder to look for the rainbows, the opportunities AND the silver linings. Happy new year!

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.