For the last two (or maybe more) weeks, I’ve been trying to design the outer borders for the bird quilt (a.k.a. “The Misery Quilt“). I really thought it needed some curves in the outer border(s), and maybe some more embroidery of some sort as well. I did test stitch-outs of a couple of embroidery options, and just didn’t have that “this is it” feeling about any of it. I played around with a diagram of the quilt, drawing curved appliquéd borders, viewing with mirrors, and just wasn’t terribly happy with any of it. I tried designing an appliquéd border without planning any embroidery to go with it, and still wasn’t happy with it.
by Jinny Beyer
After a few really grouchy days (I get like that when I’m creatively stumped), I finally threw in the pencil, and headed to the bookshelf for inspiration. As I’d already been through all my books on borders and design, as well as all the books like the MAQS Founder’s Collection with all its prizewinning beauties, I pulled out Jinny Beyer’s Soft Edge Piecing for starters. I’m working with a border print and the soft edge piecing technique was in the original plan for the quilt way back when, maybe ten plans ago now. I really didn’t expect to have a flash of inspiration at that point, but desperation had set in.
Maybe the quilting goddess is smiling on this quilt (finally!), because I did see something in the Soft Edge Piecing book that had me grabbing for my fabrics to try it out. Here’s the result (click for a larger view):
I really, really like it! I had that “this is it” feeling immediately. The border print looks prefect between the light and dark borders, and I already know exactly how I’ll quilt parts of it, too. (Oh, and you see that tiny little satin stitching? I used the same technique on another part of the borders for this quilt and I used my Pfaff machine. I tried it on the Bernina this time, Continue reading Retreating to the comfort zone
Drumroll, please…I did get the center of the dang thing put together as I’d hoped to, and here’s the pic to prove it (click for a bigger picture):
The more astute among you will notice a distinct lack of curvy pieces anywhere. Yes, after all was said and done, the curvy pieces I had in my head never did materialize! And, the border pieces you see around some of the birds weren’t planned either. I had a really bad machine embroidery day, and things just kept going wrong. It was partly distraction and inattention on my part, and partly just the little hiccups that can happen with machine embroidery. It got down to the point where I was out of background fabric, and the bird I was working on right then was shaping up to be another mess, and I ended up going back to the first set of completed birds (the ones that were trimmed down to remove the fusible web and were thus too small to work). I stuck the too small birds in the corners, and added the border print frames to bring them up to size, and all is well. It looks better than it would have with the curvy pieces anyway.
Now, this is just the center portion of the quilt. I’m working on a Sawtooth border all the way around, and a very wide, 10″ or so, lighter border on the outside. There are still more design challenges to overcome though, because with the Sawtooth border and the 10″ plain border, the quilt finishes out at 77″ or something, which is just not a logical size for anything. I’m debating on an embroidered border, or a pieced and embroidered border or something like that, or maybe a curvy scalloped border around the outside. I’m determined to get some curvy parts in there somehow! I have three more hours until the family walks through the door after their weekend away, so I’m off to be creative!
Every time I try to work on this Feathered Lone Star quilt with the bird embroidery, I am forcibly reminded of Candy Goff’s Misery Quilt. You must go read that story. Don’t worry, I’ll be here when you get back.
Now, my quilt started innocently enough, really, about three or four years ago. I wanted to make something different, but small-ish, to enter into the AQS show that year. Life got in the way, and the pieces are still sitting here waiting for me to put them together. I pulled it all out earlier this year to see what I could do with it, and maybe finish it up for the Houston show this year. I wanted to do something a little different with the setting, and the only fabric I had that I liked, I didn’t have enough of. (How this could be, when I have this much fabric in my house, is beyond me!) I carried all the parts with me to the States when I went to the Diane Gaudynski workshop in Paducah, and looked in every quilt shop we could find between Nashville and Paducah, but couldn’t find any more of what I really wanted, nor could I find something else to substitute that I really liked.
After I came home and I started thinking about selling my Pfaff embroidery machine so I could get the Bernina 440, I had a sudden inspiration about this quilt, and decided I wanted to put machine embroidery in the setting squares around the star, which meant that if I sold the Pfaff, I’d have to get the embroidery unit for the Bernina 440 right away if I wanted to do this quilt. I made that happen, and did test stitch outs of all the birds I wanted to use, purchased more thread, and things were just clipping along, except for the missing fabric, of course. I did finally settle on something else that’s a different color, but it gives the same effect so it’ll probably work out okay. I got all the birds done, and I put the whole kit and kaboodle up on the design wall to see if it was going to really work. I had cut the curvy pieces to fuse to the outside edges of the bird blocks, and thought I liked the way it looked. I fused all the pieces, then had second thoughts. And third thoughts. And then I didn’t like it at all. Continue reading The Quilt That Refuses to Be