Finished at Last, My Gradient Quilt

final design

Finished quilt top

For what is essentially a small quilt (final size 37″ x 20″), it took ages to get this one right. After having to give up on the circles (dots) that were in the original plan, I was pleased to come up with a layout I liked and that used asymmetry and negative space.

With the tough part done, the tougher part was about to begin.  I had been thinking about what to do in the open space throughout the design and construction periods. Although quilting is my least favourite part of making a quilt, I knew I had to step up to the plate on this one. After all, I could hardly feature negative space and leave it blank.

The first thing I took into consideration was that I wanted the diamonds to stand out, and for that I had to densely quilt the background. Did I think of trapunto-ing the diamonds or using a wool batt? Unfortunately, not. Not until the quilt was finished, that is. Hopefully I’ll remember these options next time.

My second consideration was that there was too much negative space to fill with just a single quilting pattern, so I’d have to delineate sections and use a variety of patterns. I uploaded a picture of the quilt top to my computer and, using PowerPoint, drew different quilting layouts.

Three options for quilting the quilt. In the end I used a little of each of these.

Three options for quilting the quilt. In the end I used a little of each.

It was easy to decide what to do for the left side of the quilt since the coloured section ended in mid air. The wavy strips felt free and fluid and I continued with that vibe, quilting wavy lines interspersed with pebbles. The upper-right corner was more challenging. Ultimately I opted to have sections radiate from that corner.

Rather than using straight dividing lines in the top right corner, I echoed the angles of the diamonds by using a zigzag design. Talk about over thinking and trying too hard! It can be difficult to know when less is more versus more being more. On this quilt, I think more quilting is great. More angles? Not so much.

Painters tape indicates where the different quilting patterns will go. Between the orange/red diamonds and the green strip to its right, you can see how the sandwich puckered.

Painters tape indicates where the different quilting patterns will go. I quilted around all of the diamonds first, and you can see where the quilt puckered between the orange diamonds and the green strip to their right.

Generally I quilt from the middle out. This is probably the first time I started by outlining components, then filling in the surrounding spaces. As a result of this strategy, and/or the quality of my basting, I ended up with quite a few unintended ripples and ridges. I was able to fix a number of them by ripping out the quilting stitches in a few really bad areas, holding down and distributing the fabric from the resulting fabric bubbles, and quilting over them. The remaining ripples, however, are noticeable enough that I won’t be able to enter the quilt in competitive quilt shows.

Fully quilted but not yet trimmed.

Fully quilted but not yet trimmed.

The facing on the back of the quilt.

The back of the quilt

After trimming the quilt pretty close to the pieced design, I finished it with a facing instead of a binding or birthing-style finish. This was new for me, as was glue basting the facing before hand stitching the facing down.

Finished quilt against woodI gave DH this vertical quilt. He turned it horizontally, something I had never done, and it’s amazing how different it feels. When the quilt is horizontal the wavy lines in the bottom right corner look like water flowing over pebbles. It’s very peaceful. While it is a known design fact that vertical compositions have more energy and horizontal compositions are more relaxing, it is cool to see this in play.finished quilt horizontal againdt wood

Detail of lower corner

Detail of lower corner

You may perceive two different shades of grey background fabric. This is not a play of light on the photos; it is real and unintentional because I didn’t realize I was using Kona Shadow at times. The whole quilt was meant to have been made in Kona Silver, and the two colours are so alike that it wasn’t until the quilt was quilted that I noticed I had used two shades of gray in the background. Despite the various setbacks and compromises, I’m quite happy with this Gradient quilt. In fact, I’m quite proud of this quilt as long as the viewer doesn’t get too close smiley face - cropped

Okay, We’re Sticking With Diamonds. Now What?

big and small IMG_2627 compressedAfter scrapping the strips of diamonds and dots I had previously sewn for a wall quilt for DH, I was back at the drawing board cutting table. One thing I knew for sure was the diamonds had to be more delicate, so I  cut narrower diamonds making the top and bottom angles 30° instead of 60°. In the thumbnail to the right, the bottom two diamonds are the original size and the top is the new, smaller size. They’re a bit wonky because they haven’t all been sewn together and the bias edges have stretched a bit.

Original, larger diamonds, looking lonely by themselves

Original, large-size diamonds, looking lonely by themselves

Reluctantly, I acknowledged that with the shrinking of the diamonds the circles/dots would have to be dropped from the pattern, otherwise they’d have to be scaled down too much to be an effective design element. The rest of my plan remained intact: colourful diamonds against silver Kona cotton in columns of varying lengths.

Now, to my eye, the chains of larger diamonds (left) look sparse. And with the four strips measuring a total of 12 inches across, I couldn’t imagine using this layout with smaller diamonds. My first approach to adding width was to sew thin, straight strips of different fabrics between the diamonds (below left). I don’t know about you, but I think this solution sucks out all of the energy the diamonds bring to the design. My second attempt was to swap out the straight strips for curved strips (below right) and I am really happy with the effect.

I switched from straight strips (left) to wavy strips (right)

I switched from straight strips (left) to wavy strips (right).

After auditioning various colours of strips and stitching the winning combinations together, I played with the layout. Here are examples of six; six of about 20. The right-most layout in the photo immediately below, is what I had in mind when I first designed this quilt, not counting the curvy strips, of course.

Trust me when I say I started going cross-eyed looking at all these options. Most of them I like, which makes it all the more difficult to decide on just one. Although it is tempting to make up a few with different layouts, I’m not sure I’ll have the patience to make this quilt more than once.

Now I have to figure out which layout I like best and see if I can incorporate the last of my original design objectives: significant amount of negative space and asymmetry.

To read the final post about this quilt, click here.