» Stars and Stripes
July 4, 2017
I know that there are people out there who are really good at thinking ahead. I used to be one of these people. For example, there was a time when I would Christmas shop all year long, and then relish the fact that I had plenty of time to bake Christmas cookies in December and make a few decorations because my shopping was finished! Sadly, there has been a shift in my life and I am no longer that type of person. I’m sure that the time is not going any faster but boy, it sure seems like it! Now, inspiration to do something holidy-ish usually comes at the same time as said holiday.
So I was not surprised when I woke up yesterday morning with a sudden urge to make a Fourth of July table runner for my mother. I mean, it was only the 3rd of July today, so I had the time, right? Sometimes when inspiration strikes me this way it’s not a matter of ‘if’ I am going to make something but ‘when.’ I was merely laying in the semi-dark, going over the ingredients I would need for the potato salad I said I would bring when it hit me…..I hopped out of bed, grabbed a quick cup of coffee and went to work. Only the dog seemed at all phased at my choice to get up and sew at 7 am – mostly because I displaced her on the way out of bed. And, I could go and buy potatoes and mayonnaise at anytime!
Headed down my basement stairs I was busy figuring out how I could make this work. I ultimately decided that improv piecing was out. As much as I like that look (and thought it would be so funky in a red, white and blue adaptation of a flag quilt) there wasn’t time to have a big decision making fest in between rows. And I knew that would happen to me because I don’t improv piece very often. No, I needed to use a familiar pattern that I knew worked and maybe stick to fabrics that were already on the surface in my studio. (I always have a ton of fabric that doesn’t get put away for some reason. It could be because I keep buying it!) Before my feet hit the studio floor, I had decided on the rail/fence design. The stripes would be representational of the stripes in the American flag and having seen this pattern done in a red, white and blue color scheme before, I knew it would work.
The minute I started pulling fabrics I knew that this little quilt was going to look way different than the quilt I had in my head. First of all, I initially thought I might use solids. I really didn’t want to make something with a traditional Americana look – I was going for something a bit more modern. I had also thought I was going to use pure white for the alternate stripes. I actually couldn’t find any white at first, but I did have a bolt of Kona parchment at the ready. And several “non-traditional” fabrics in shades of red white and blue.
I immediately loved the look of the Handcrafted batiks with the parchment solid. However, I didn’t want to use only one type of print. I was really going for a more jaunty look. I am always amazed at the level of planning that happens subconsciously when first tackling a project. I find that I am not alone in this trait, and that quilters’ opinions about what goes into their work, including my own, can be quite strong. So here are some of the reds I pulled.
I liked the strictly red and white prints. But the others were a no-go. Orange. Orange was definitely not going to make an appearance in my patriotic table runner. And green. Green was not going to make it either. I guess I felt sort of like a purist about this project. And after giving it some thought, I realized that red and blue are primary colors. Orange and green are secondary. The only other color I “allowed” was pink, which appears in the top print (this is an old Kaffe Fassett fabric that I had in my stash). Pink, I reasoned, was so closely related to red (just add white!) that it was ok.
I followed the same line of reasoning for the blue fabrics. Although I dearly love the birds and swiss chard, they had to sit this one out because of the brown and tan.
After narrowing down the fabric choices I started cutting strips. I had been thinking of 5″ finished blocks from the start with 5 bars each. When I started cutting, however, my resolve to use 1″ strips vanished. I suddenly found myself cutting different width strips to make the blocks more interesting. And lo and behold….this planned project became improvisational.
I started with a few piles of strips next to my sewing machine and went to town.
I pulled strips randomly and put together sets, stopping when I thought they were about 5 1/2″ wide.
I trimmed each set down to 5 1/2″ and then cut it into 5 1/2″ squares. Each strip set yielded three squares. In the end, I decided to use the left overs from the strip sets as well, cutting them down to about 3 1/2″.
I ended up arranging the blocks into four rows of four units: each row has three 5 1/2″ blocks and one of the remaining 3 1/2″ pieces.
I worked quickly on this project and even had to stop a few times to get breakfast ready for my girls and get them ready for swimming. I really tried to make decisions and go with them. There wasn’t any time for quilting if I was going to bring this to my mom that afternoon so I decided to trim it down and pillow case it with the handcrafted red dots on the back, making a double row of stitching around the edge. (I love double rows of stitching – they add such a nice touch.)
The only “quilting” I did on this piece was to outline a few of the lighter color squares to hopefully keep the fabric from shifting when this piece is washed in the future.
Here it is wrapped up like a firecracker, ready to go by my mom’s.
I love the way this little piece turned out! It was so freeing to make something quickly and work intuitively. I would love to make a whole quilt with this technique.
A happy and safe Fourth of July to you all. I am so happy today and every day to live in this beautiful country!