» 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!



Images for the Gallery, Patterns, and Shop
Gallery Patterns Shop

Signup For Our Newsletter.

Get the latest news from Blue Underground Studios!  Enter your email below:

You've been successfully added to our email list!