» 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!

 

 




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