Welcome to part 1 of a 3 part series about the quilt I made for my brother. These are long posts, so feel free to scroll to the pictures if you’re simply a curious non-quilter.
Creating a Pattern and Design Scheme from Scratch
Less than a year ago my brother announced his engagement to a wonderful girl that we were excited to have in our family. And like with my other siblings who’ve gotten married, I planned to make them a quilt.
This time around I solicited input from my brother and his fiancee, as they are artistic people who know what they do and do not like. I pitched a few quilt patterns to them but was pleasantly surprised when Greta said she wanted a fan quilt like this one:
I had imagined something urban/modern/simplistic for them, as they were both Chicagoans but I should have realized that a girl who loves antiquing and vintage glam would pick a classy pattern like Grandmother’s Fan (click the pic to read more about that particular piece).
I then took color requests. I know Greta loves aqua/turquoise and gold. Their wedding flowers were pink and orange. She pointed out some fabric in my stash that she liked, and I sent her pics of other fabrics I was considering.
She would tell me which she didn’t like and which she loved and I went from there. There was one fabric that I used that I know she doesn’t like: the green plus signs fabric. But since she was marrying my one and only brother I thought that I should throw in something that he would like. So he got the green, as he likes that color and we are fellow Michigan State Spartans so, “Go Green!” It also helped balance out the aqua fun.
Greta also said that she thought gold quilting would look cool, and I happened to have the perfect thread for it, that I had used on my sister Melissa’s wedding quilt! (Only I quilted that one in the ditch, as I didn’t know any different, so no one sees the expensive gold thread. Fail!)
It was so nice to get feedback on design, colors and scheme. I was able to move forward without agonizing over my choices. I’ve been trying to do that more lately–getting people’s favorite and least favorite colors so I know what to work with.
I then pitched background ideas to my Long Distance Quilter friends. I was originally thinking white until one of them suggested off white and I thought, “duh! That is perfect!” I was on the cusp of investing in several yards of white fabric. Thank you, LDQ girls!!! See how great it is to get feedback on creative endeavors?
Designing a Pattern
So, I can never do things the easy way. Ever. There were a few fan patterns to choose from on the web, but none of them had enough fan blades. Or if they did, I found other problems with them. This one is nice, isn’t it? And the tinkering was already done for me and it was 11 blades. Only I didn’t like that the blades weren’t all exactly the same width.
I tried drawing a proper pattern block by hand, but it wasn’t exact. Because I’m not an engineer.
After agonizing for several days over how to create a pattern, I finally turned to the internets for help. I asked my Facebook friends if any of them had software that could draw a bisected circle … several of them did! I was amazed. Why did I waste all that time trying to hand draw a stupid pattern???
My friend Stephanie quickly created the image I needed and I cut a quarter piece out of if to make my perfect 11-blade fan! Maybe I should call this a Stephanie’s Fan block instead of Grandmother’s…
Still with me? Isn’t this all exciting? It’s not, unless you’re into this sort of thing. But now you get an idea of the time it takes to just get to the part where you are ready to assemble the quilt. I enjoy this process but my life has precious few hours available to tinker with creating patterns and doing fabric pulls. Doh!
There was a lot of finagling beyond that to get it to print perfectly on an 11×14 page, as I needed over 30 copies and printing on the big paper would be very costly.
And then there was the printing part. Kinkos is hit or miss when you go. My first trip went smoothly and the rep printed exactly what I wanted. The second trip (after I realized I needed more prints – see part 2 of this series) was not so fruitful. The worker told me that their printer could not physically complete the job I was asking for. To which I countered that the previous employee DID print the job on that EXACT machine. This baffled him and a silent battle of the minds ensued. I won. Though not without mental casualty.
I’m not even remembering (or wishing to bore you with) every single detail that goes into creating and printing a pattern. It is not easy work so when you buy a quilter’s pattern, be grateful for all the work they did for you on the front end so that you can happily cut out your fabric and piece to your heart’s content. It took me several hours to create this pattern, and I didn’t even have to worry about writing out instructions, which is the bulk of a pattern maker’s task. Thank you, pattern designers of the world!!
Deciding on Block Layout
Even though I had my fabric choices narrowed down, I still wasn’t confident in my placement of the fabrics. I made a few test blocks before I committed to making dozens of fans and boy was I glad I did! I showed my ideas to my husband and he helped me rule out my original idea, which included navy at the center of the fan.
He then suggested having pink be the base of the fan. I had worried that this would make the quilt too girly (since Greta told me initially to avoid pink, as Tom wasn’t in love with it) but I really wanted a contrast with the aquas/mints and pink went best, according to my husband.
Finally, after weeks of working on “getting started” I finally had the pattern ready and my first block made. Time to make another 35!
Since I’ve become quite windy on this subject, I’m continuing the saga in another post…