A few months ago I added Ruth McDowell’s Design Workshop and Piecing Workshop books to my collection. I love how she uses prints and batiks in her art quilts to such great effect! So many art quilters only use solids or their own hand-dyes. While I might admire their results, that kind of approach is just not my thing.
So when I signed up for this “Working in Series” class at Quilt University, and began sketching some possible quilt layouts, I knew right away that this would be a great opportunity to try out McDowell’s design/piecing method. Which is very, very fiddly and time-consuming. Her instructions are excellent, however, with so many tips and examples and details that it takes two books to describe it all. They are worth it for the eye-candy alone, but be warned: once you see what she creates you’ll want to try this method yourself. (Hmmm, I see looking at Amazon that they appear to be out of print, but they may be at your library. And she’s got another “expanded” piecing book that is probably work getting.)
Here’s my capsule summary:
First, create a drawing for the quilt you’d like to make. Ruth assumes you’ll be working from an inspiration photo.
In my case, I wanted to play with ulu leaves. In order to trace the leaf outlines from my digital files, I placed a piece of plexiglass (from an old poster frame) in front of my laptop screen and put the tracing paper over that. I traced three good leaves from my photos, then took those to the copier and enlarged them 200%. I glued those to an old manila folder and cut out three leaf templates, which I used to create some sketches like these. I used both 5″ and 8″ squares, then resized them to one scale in photoshop:
As you can see, I’m going to be working in a square-within-square format, and focusing on the ulu leaf outline and round fruit shapes. For the first one, I’m working with the sketch at top left.
The next steps are to create a full-size drawing (mine is 16″x16″), plan section and seamlines, trace that design onto the backside of freezer paper, label every little piece on the front side, cut apart (in sections, as you get to them), fuse the little freezer paper bits (some are small!) to the wrong sides of your chosen fabrics, cut around each template with 1/4″ seam allowance, and phew… finally you are ready to sew a seam. Have a box of pins ready, you will need them.
I’ve got my original full-size drawing pinned to the design wall, and am pinning the prepared fabric pieces and in-progress seamed sections to it as I go along. Here’s where I’m at so far. It was not speedy:
Some of those seams are as tedious and fiddly to sew as the templates are to prepare. That green “fruit” hemisphere has six pieces and took about an hour to get right (one piece had to be recut when I decided I didn’t like the original fabric placement, and one seam got a do-over involving the seam ripper) but the results (so far) are so nice it’s worth it.
Whether I will feel that way by the time this first rendition is done remains to be seen. Plan A is to use this method for the series of six quilts dictated by the class with variations in layout, color, and value placement. Plan B, should I discover that one small freezer-template quilt is enough for a lifetime, will be to play with construction method as the variable.
I’ll keep you posted as things move along.
In other news, I made my first Etsy sale! The aqua-white 16-patch quilt has gone to a new home (kitty not included), and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Especially as this $36- online quilt class is going to end up costing me several times that much in new fabric indulgences. This far into quilt #1 I can see that the time has finally come to address the huge gaping hole in my stash that should be occupied by pale neutrals. And there’s a blue Kaffe FQ assortment I’ve got my eye on for future ulu leaves…