Designing from the outside in

Some quilts are meant to be, and some aren’t. Some fly together in flashes of inspiration, but others can take up hours and hours of time (not to mention the yards and yards of fabric) and still fight you all the way to the last stitch on the binding. Some quilts are labors of love, while others call forth emotions of a far less complementary nature. “The Misery Quilt” is truly living up to its name at this point, inspiring those “less complimentary” emotions at every turn. Last week, I threw in the pencil and got back to the machine to stitch up what I thought would be the perfect borders for this quilt. I put two of the finished borders on it last night, and I wasn’t happy with it. Again. I decided a retreat to my bed was in order, since it was late, and I was hoping things would look better in the light of day.

Nope. Didn’t look any better this morning. It’s not that the borders are bad, they’re not. In fact, they’ll be beautiful—on some other quilt. I took a picture of it on the design wall, and played around in PhotoShop for a bit, and decided I really was back to square one (or is it square three? I’ve lost count…), needing to figure out a curved appliquéd border. *sigh*

Kristin wrote a comment on the last entry about this monster of a quilt, about whether I’d retreated into my comfort zone when I decided to make the borders with the border print instead of the curved appliqué:

Don’t think of this as a retreat to the old comfort zone, but as a confirmation that your first ideas were the right ones. Sometimes the cliché or obvious ideas are the first ones you come up with, so you need to work through the problem to get to a more interesting solution. But often, our gut instinct knows what to do right away. I’s still beneficial to work through the options though — to confirm that your gut really did know what it was talking about.

Um, where does that leave my gut instinct now? 😉 I have no idea, but I think I just heard my friend Dawn say “I told you so!” I bent her ear about what to do weeks ago (on the phone long distance with pictures, no less), and she said it needed curves in the border. Okay, you were right! So I spent the morning deciding what to do, and the afternoon doing it. Back to the pencil, eraser, and freezer paper. For whatever reason, the very first thing I thought of doing worked out perfectly, and I was able to get one whole side done before dinner. So here’s how it looks now:

Bird quilt with both borders

The border print border is still there on the bottom, which makes for a great comparison. I’m much happier with the curves on the left. It just looks…better. So all of this gets me thinking again of just making patterns out of books about the whole design process. Would I ever have come up with this fairly simple but quite elegant curved appliqué border if I’d just kept drawing and erasing my way through the paper last week? Or was this detour into the border print treatment just a necessary part of the whole design process? Is it necessary to work it all out on paper or in Electric Quilt before putting rotary cutter to fabric? (I hope not…) I figure my next quilt will have to be designed from the outside in, since I have four giant borders with lots of lovely little satin stitching that I can’t let go to waste. Maybe since the border’s already designed and done, then designing the rest of the quilt from the outside in won’t be so hard?

6 thoughts on “Designing from the outside in

  1. Hi Didi…..I LOVE being right! HAH!!!
    Of course I can’t do a third of what you can but I can dream!
    Good luck I’ll call soon


  2. The embroidered border looks different in context! It was great when you showed a close-up picture, but you’re right — it’s just not the right scale when you see all the parts put together. Good for you for going back to the curves. They do look right.


  3. Hi Kristin,

    Scale, that was the word! Scale was obviously the ingredient that I ignored when I decided to do the border with the small border print. We learn (or remember) something “new” every day!


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