Think of this as a warning. "Grab a cuppa..." as my friend Edie would say... this is going to take a little while.
This post is the result of a couple of terrific blog posts I read a few months ago. I absolutely loved them, I agreed with most of what both had to write in all three of the posts. Yes, I know... they're "modern quilters" but I'm not going to hold that against them. (And, yes, that's a joke. These are super-smart and super-talented ladies... for modern quilters... still a joke.)
R0ssie's post about describing the process each of us takes for making the quilts we make is what really stuck with me because... gee shucks, that's what I'm always asked about. It's probably the most frequent question ~ how does the idea for a quilt come about? My answer is usually about the same... "Uh... I dunno."
The process isn't always the same. Some quilts evolve while others are "birthed" fully formed without having a single change made from the original idea. Sometimes the starting point is a single block while other times I start with one element and then figure my way around the rest of it. The idea for the flying geese border came first when I made Toulouse, then I had to figure out what to put in the middle of the quilt.
No, I don't "design" on the computer. I don't have EQ6 or EQ7. I think the last one I bought was v. 4. It's a terrific program and I totally understand the appeal of it but that's not how my brain works. Every now and then I will draw something on the computer to play with a block layout or perhaps a color placement, but it is definitely the exception and not the rule.
I use pen/pencil and paper. Any pen. Any paper. Okay, I do have a few preferences there but nothing very impressive.
I love the Moleskin Journals ~ plain paper or grid in either black or that brown paper bag sort of one.
Just so you know, I used my Xyron thing to put an adhesive back onto a piece of pretty wrapping paper to recover my notebooks ~ I've even photocopied my favorite fabrics for this sort of thing. It takes me about ten minutes to do a couple of notebooks but the time is well worth it.
And those are my pens of choice ~ a regular ballpoint ink pen (though these Pentels are my favorite because of the pretty colors) and the Extra Fine and Ultra Fine point Sharpies.
I know. I'm so cutting edge.
The idea itself doesn't often become a sketch until I'm writing the pattern. Once the idea starts coming about, I usually start making some notes to remember the setting and a couple of specifics, but that's about it. A real picture of the quilt doesn't usually happen until I'm doing the diagrams for the pattern.
The only part of Heartland that I drew out ahead of time was the setting ~ mostly so I would remember how many setting triangles I had to make.
This is where the process part of it gets a little hard to describe so bear with me ~ or abandon ship while you still can still wade safely to shore!
I have been wanting to make another log cabin quilt for a little while but I also didn't want to make a "log cabin quilt". Many years ago, I saw a Delectable Mountain block made using a log cabin block for the large half-triangle square part of the block and it stuck with me.
When I decided to make this quilt, I already had the color scheme and fabric in mind ~ red, white/cream and blue using my big pile of Minick & Simpson fat quarters. That was the easy part.
I had to start thinking about the size of the block to make.
This is where the computer might come in helpful, but seriously, this isn't how my brain works... all logical and orderly like. I do all of this in my head ~ usually while I'm working on something else, driving to the printer or work, trying to fall asleep (which is not when I'm driving), blow drying my hair (which probably explains my hair somedays...) and so on.
If I make the half-triangle squares to finish at 2" x 2", then my blocks will measure 8" x 8" or 10" x 10" finished, with a 6" x 6" or 8" x 8" finished log cabin. Given the diagonal measurements of those blocks ~ about 11.3" and 14.1" ~ that would make my quilt about 68" x 68" or 84" x 84" for 60 blocks. The 10" block has some appeal.
Or if I make the half-triangle squares to finish at 1 1/2" x 1 1/2", then my blocks will measure 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" or 9" x 9", with a 6" x 6" or 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" finished log cabin. Given the diagonal measurements of those blocks ~ about 10.6" and 12.7" ~ that would make my quilt about 64" x 64" or 77" x 77" for 60 blocks. The 9" block is the winner here... even though it means at least 120 more half-triangle squares.
Before I decide, how am I going to finish the quilt? Is it going to have a border? What kind? Or will I do something with the setting triangles? If so, what?
In thinking about the quilt, I decided that I wanted a simple finish on the edge ~ which meant I wasn't going to add a separate border. I don't think every quilt needs one. So this is what I came up with ~ and this is the part I actually drew out in my notebook so I would remember how to piece it and, more importantly, how many setting triangles I would need to make.
On a side note, by piecing setting triangles like this, you can add something that looks complicated but isn't. How much trickier would this have been if I had used a plain setting triangle and then pieced the sawtooth border and fit it on the quilt? This way is so much easier.
After deciding on how to finish the quilt, I knew that this would add a couple inches to the finished size of my quilt top. How much it added would depend on the size of block I used ~ anywhere between about 3" and 5".
The other factor in deciding which size block to use was proportion ~ how much of each "color" did I want to use in the quilt?
If I used the 6" log cabin blocks ~ the red was going to be a bit more dominant than the blue and the cream in the log cabins, regardless of which size half-triangle square I used. And to make the quilt bed-sized, that would have required making a lot more blocks. A lot more... especially half-triangle squares.
Deciding between the 10" x 10" block made with the 2" x 2" half-triangle squares and the 9" x 9" block made with the 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" half-triangle squares was pretty easy. And no, it wasn't because there would be more half-triangle squares for you to make with the smaller block.
That was just one of life's little gifts.
First, the 10" block was going to be more difficult to divide evenly for the setting triangles. Five seams. Prime number. Five rows in the setting triangle? Do-able ~ there are only 24 setting triangles. It makes the finished quilt about 88" x 88". Another option is to divide the setting triangle into two rows ~ that makes the finished quilt about 92" x 92". I didn't like that idea at all because it will make the sawtooth border too "heavy" for the rest of the quilt as the proportion would be off.
That is also why I kept coming back to the 9" x 9" block. Proportion. Balance. I liked the balance of the smaller half-triangle square to the rest of the block. In addition to keeping the blue and white/cream a little more prominent, the larger half-triangle squares were "heavier". I wanted them to be a strong accent but not the focal part of the block.
Using the smaller half-triangle squares also helped me decide to use just one background. And that made it easy to choose to use that same background for the setting triangles.
After all that, making 600 half-triangle squares didn't seem like that much work.
And neither part was as much work as reading all of this was.
But there you have it ~ the process I went through for making Heartland. It's been quilted and bound ~ in blue ~ and it's been getting it's picture taken this past week. The finished pattern should be ready to go in about another two weeks.
I'm off to work on Eventide ~ hope to have it done by early next week so it can be quilted, bound and photographed too. That one came about in a very different sort of way ~ the idea for it came from the fabric, Luna Notte by 3 Sisters. If you would like to read about my "process" for that one, just let me know.
Have a terrific weekend.