I’ve taken the summer off from my colored pencils to travel and work on other projects that have been languishing. I went to Paris and Normandy, studied web programming and started a king size watercolor quilt.
Watercolor quilts were popular in the late ’90s; they are a great project for people like me that love to buy fabric! Over the last 15 years I collected over 1,500 different fabrics! All it takes is an 1/8th of a yard – but that still creates quite a stash.
A watercolor quilt is created using 2″ square pieces of fabric. Quilts can be a rendering of a scene or image which looks like an Impressionist painting. My favorite style is either a geometric or traditional quilt pattern that explores the hue, value, and visual texture of the fabrics. In this post, I want to share the beginning of the process.
First things first; actually 3 things carried on simultaneously. I pull out all my quilt books for inspiration. Since watercolor quilts are created with 2″ squares of fabric, I tend to steer away from patterns with circles or lots of diagonals. Circles are just plain hard to make and diagonals slow down the works because they have to be cut in two. Diagonals are not a problem with smaller quilts but this one is 8’x8’…. My squares are sorted by color and value, laid out on pieces of cardboard that display 36 fabrics each, stored in bins under my bed. Since I have not made a quilt in several years, I have a large assortment of fabric that has not been cut. Cutting and sorting is time consuming but a wonderful way to get immersed in the color. The third thing is determining the size and graphing the pattern. This last thing sounds pretty straight forward but I rotated a pattern that was laid out on the diagonal, 90 degrees. Two accountants and an engineer – we came up with 3 different numbers of blocks needed! My head was spinning!
The quilt pattern is printed in black and white so that I can see value only.This particular pattern has 4 values, I am going to be working with 3. The medium blocks vary in range of value and some gradate from dark to light so I think there will be enough variation to distinguish medium dark from medium light, there just won’t be an even number of blocks.
The only room in my house that is large enough to accommodate all my palettes is my dining room. When I start working, I will use at least 3 more tables to lay the palettes out.
The third image shows the initial sorting right after the squares are cut. Since I have made several quilts in the past, I have been collecting fabrics for future projects. Unfortunately I never quite got around to cutting them up! My cutting set up is nice – I have a 5′ cutting table which is at the right height for standing and working. I use a large cutting matt, rotary cutter, and a clear quilters ruler. It is pretty easy to cut 5 fabrics at a time with the larger rotary cutter. Fabric stores that sell quilting fabrics will usually sell 1/8th yard pieces which will yield 2, 2″ strips of fabric. I save 1 strip for possible strip quilting or replenishing my supply and I cut the other strip into 2″ pieces – this gives me 22 pieces to work with. The type of fabric that I am drawn to can be cut in this automated way because the patterns are big and fill the square. Sometimes the design is more spread out and I have to pay attention to how I cut it – called fussy cutting – otherwise I may end up with mostly solid color squares. As you can imagine, fussy cutting takes much longer! Once the squares are all cut, (since I have cut 5 at a time) I have to sort my piles into individual stacks.
One would think that with around 1,500 different fabrics to work with I’d be set. But… My quilt is going to be created by value and hue. I started out wanting to create a color wheel but couldn’t satisfactorily turn a round object into a square plus I could see needing much more fabric. I decided to make the blocks a single color. I need 128 blocks (per my calculation) and I have 10 basic colors (red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, brown, and white) to spread over 32 light blocks, 32 dark blocks and 64 medium. Each block contains 49 2″ squares (that means 6,272 squares) and I try not to use the same fabric twice in a block. After several blocks, I realized that I needed more fabric! I have been to every fabric store in the Triangle, they have all been very nice (patient) but I have to mention JoAnn’s in Cary. I filled up a cart with bolts of fabric (35 bolts) and got in line.
A sales clerk eyed me and volunteered to wait on me – we enjoyed talking while she cut, one bolt at a time, and when she finished I told her that I would be back for another round unless she wanted to cut more right then. She said she was willing so 2 hours later I left with 76 1/8th yard cuts that I paid $75 for. I am so grateful for sales clerks like her!
Block #32 is the first milestone – 25% done!