In April, shortly after finishing the Organized Chaos quilt-top, I cast about for another pattern, but soon realized that I wouldn't be satisfied creatively unless I designed my own. I decided on a dandelion motif.
But mostly, I enjoyed the happy, sunshiney flowers dotting the front yard. Dandelions grow best in soil which is cared for least, and our yard was freshly disturbed (from when Dad dug out the cellar) and then ignored, occupied by a dog, and never sown with a proper lawn. So it was dandelion central!
The oft-maligned dandelion has planted its taproot in my heart. I admire it. I like how tenacious of life it is, how it can thrive almost anywhere. I am charmed by its beauty, but also its gawkiness: its rangy base and tall stems. I like its uneven, lopsided leaves, dentate, but gappy like a hockey player's smile. It has personality.
(I started this design last month, but I'll use present tense for the sake of blog continuity. I tend to put my project diaries in present tense as that feels natural for storytelling.)
I begin with a feeling/idea, then a structural foundation that I can use to express it. I want to explore the dual impression of a dandelion: simultaneously light and bright and bouncing on the breeze, yet grounded at its base with pointy roots, serrated leaves, tangled with itself and everything else. So I imagine a child's view of the flower, eye-level with the grass. I draw a rectangle (the shape of a blanket), and divide it horizontally into thirds, with three rows of blocks in each third. The top third is the sky, the middle the flowers, and the bottom the dark green of leaves.
But to keep the stripes from looking artificial, I let the bottom row of one third and the top row of the next blend together... a gradient of color from light blue to dark green.
Being still a newbie quilter, I decide to populate my design with a variety of basic blocks, which I can tweak to fit the theme. I also play with scale, making some blocks larger to draw attention to them. I think it'll be fun to do the larger blocks with appliqué and the regular ones with piecing, so I can learn more techniques in one project. I number the blocks and write a list of what I think might work in those spaces.
The next version of the design is more fleshed out. I draw it on pattern paper and color it to see how it looks:
I number (and re-number) the blocks and letter the appliqués, hoping to stay organized. Then I do some math to try to figure out how much fabric I'll need. The math looks something like this:
Hmm... Block 1 is easy: 12 inches finished, so 12.5" square. Lemme look just one side, that means I need to cut 12.5" length to get one block. Block 1 is repeated six times, so that's 6 x 12.5" = 75" length. Let's say I have a fabric of 40" wide, I divide 75 by 40, and get 1.875. So I need to cut two strips at 40" width of fabric to get length enough for six blocks, and the strips need to be 12.5" wide. Okay, so in terms of the fabric yardage to buy, for Block 1, I need two strips of 12.5": 12.5" x 2 = 25", or 0.69 yards. Write that down.
Eventually, I realize that I can just tally up all the inches of yardage and then convert the total to yards at the end, instead of calculating yardage after each block. That (hopefully) keeps me from overestimating. Eventually I have done the math for several blocks and colors. It's tiresome work, and once I've finished one calculation I immediately forget how I did it, and so have to have faith that the me of several minutes ago did the math right!
I hate math. Numbers in general, really: they are all indistinct in my mind, as like each other as potatoes in a sack, and as hard to pin down as to nail jello to a wall. I forget my own age, my phone number, my banking PINs, my SSN, dates... everything expressed in digits is white noise to me. The math for this quilt is elementary (MDAS, simple operations with decimals, geometry concepts with squares and rectangles), yet it makes my nose itch with frustration. I take nearly a week to (fail to) finish it, because I can only work on it a little at a time.
Nothing but a desire to see the vision realized would impel me to flail through the math part. Thankfully, I am saved by Rosanne, who informs me that she has a quilt design software on her computer called Electric Quilt 8, which I can play with. She shows me how to open a new project, and sets me up with tutorial videos and a printed manual... which I ignore because I'm stubborn like that. I chafe at the slow pace of learning a program that way, so I end up up diving in with no instruction, making annoying mistakes, and then consulting the resources to fix the problems that I just made. (For example, the EQ8 instructions teach you the whole program by walking you through making a sample quilt, and I already have my own quilt design that'd I'd prefer to spend my time on!)
Look at the picture: Medium green is used for about a third of the green blocks, and the leaf appliqué. How on earth is that four yards?! (Maybe EQ8 gives me the wrong yardage because I put the information in wrong, which I'd know if I took the time to learn the program properly!) Nevertheless, when I buy fabric, I do buy 4.375 yards of Medium Green, thinking that I might as well give EQ8 the benefit of the doubt, and if it's wrong, I can use the extra as quilt backing. Better to have too much than too little.
Though the EQ8 printout gives me cutting diagrams for the angles and such, it doesn't show things in a way that makes sense to me, so I'll probably end up figuring out my own cutting and assembly. The leaf appliqué, in particular, is just a placeholder; EQ8 has a bunch of Hawaiian designs, but no dandelion leaves; I will make something more appropriate when the time comes.
I get my fabric at Pioneer Quilt Shop, where the ladies are supportive and encouraging (and just as nonplussed as I am at the 4-yard request!). I am drawn to bright, saturated batiks and blenders, perfectly expressing the feeling of a summer dandelion under blue skies; I can't wait to sew with these!
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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