Desert Flower Quilt mood board

Desert Flowers Appliqué Quilt

This year I want to get a little bit more experimental with my quilting and quilt style. I love to scrap book as a personal hobby and I watch a lot of arts and crafts videos on YouTube which I find to be so inspiring. I think the correlation between paper and fabric arts is extremely strong; both use color, pattern play, flat (or relatively flat) elements to create a scenic background, and operate within a defined border size. I think the scrapbook and paper craft zeitgeist has naturally begun to creep into my quilt design ideas just due to my personal exposure and the ease with which I think the materials translate.

To that end I plan to make quilts moving forward influenced by both paper craft, collage and traditional quilting techniques. Here on the blog I plan to share more in-depth looks at the projects I create using these techniques in hopes they will inspire more artists to create their own crossover projects. The first of my efforts in this direction in the Desert Flowers Appliqué Quilt.

Originally I made the half square triangles as part of a custom Etsy commission for a Modern Confetti Triangle Quilt in vaguely ‘Harry Potter’ colors. The quilt was commission as a twin size for a young boy’s room, and I probably made and trimmed several hundred half square triangles (HSTs) for that project. As you can imagine, I wasn’t going to waste a single piece of that effort, so I saved the few left over HSTs for the future. The HSTs became the background elements of this Desert Flowers Appliqué Quilt. I began this quilt around early summer 2019 with just a vague direction of wanting to set the HSTs on point into a cream background. Why cream? Well, that’s what I had a lot of that seemed to tone in well with the existing colors of the HSTs I planned to use up. It truly is that simple for me sometimes, and I definitely try not to overthink it if I don’t have to. The original idea was to leave a lot of open space for tonal quilting, but when I finally set the HSTs in there was just too much white space in the top left and bottom right corners. Having completed the assembly of the top, I didn’t want to cut into the background or rip anything apart. It was really hard to square up the top since I had made the background with many large strips shooting out from both ends and corners to get the on-point effect.  Not knowing where to go, but feeling the quilt definitely needed more interest, I tucked it away for a little while.

Collage work by Julie Hamilton.

On Instagram I follow a collage artist named Julie Hamilton whose work I find absolutely inspiring. Julie uses paper and mixed media elements to create her collage work for sale and illustrations. I’ve been following Julie for several years after I found her as part of the 100 Day Project. The desert colors she uses in a few of the collage works above spoke so closely to this project, it lead me to solve my dead space problem. I decided to create a somewhat stretched out flower shape from textured black fabric and appliqué them to the corners. Completely taking a cue from Julie’s work, I also hand cut some irregular circle shapes to have them add an additional “sprinkled” element in the area of the flower appliqué. In the same manner elements are added to diagonal corners in a number of designs, especially paper craft, the eye is drawn through the body of the quilt across the diagonal piece work of the HSTs and to the flower appliqué elements. 

To add additional interest, anchor the flower clusters and just because I had them and they matched, I used these pieces of vintage brocade and pom pom trims. The additional texture adds something more unexpected to the work I feel and enhances the tactility of the quilt. In addition to the texture, the pattern and color further repeat and emphasize the overall scheme of dark moody flowers and a slightly 1970s color vibe. 

The backing of the quilt was a great find! While searching my local thrift shop I came upon a set of name brand king sized sheets in excellent condition. The pattern of the 100% cotton sheet set was a neutral netting in tonal cream and camel. I knew I had to snatch it up for the $14 for all 4 pieces because that is a lot of great fabric that would be just perfect for so many quilts. I highly encourage you to scour local thrift shops for sheets in great condition, as they make wonderful, economic backing materials.

For quilting I used Aurifil thread in a cream color and a pop of bright orange through some of the linear diagonal sections for additional interest. Each cream block space was treated as its own section. I echo quilted (followed the outlines of the rectangles or flowers with a slight gap) within each of the rectangular spaces with the cream thread. In any of the truly square cream blocks I added different graphic straight line quilting reminiscent of sun rays. The effect is subtle to be sure, but after washing and crinkling a bit the stitching definition will be enhanced and become more interesting. That is something to love about quilts as an art form; the fact that they are used and change over time. The frequency our interaction and use of them changes them is unlike a lot of other art that remains relatively static regardless of life span. The way you treat and care for the quilt, the more you love to use it, the more it conforms to you and your life; it integrates it’s self into your being and shows signs of you in the art. I know that was a bit of deep connection there, but it is too true and lovely to me not to point out.

I bound the quilt with the same fabulous thrift sheet find. The subtle tonal pattern was perfect, so why go searching for anything else. Plus, I had a ton of it to hand and easy to cut into 2 1/2 binding strips. Why complicate when you can just create? I’m not entirely sure why I decided to round the comers if I’m being honest. I just looked at the quilt as I was measuring the binding and thought it needed a bit of softening around the edges. The interior design is rather harsh to my eye, and though I love that, it needed more softness to balance everything out. To create the rounded corners I placed a Ikea KVARNVIK box lid in the corner and cut around it. The corner wasn’t a very sharp curve and I had no trouble easing the binding around. 

There she is in all her wonky flower glory. Something about this quilt makes me feel free. I love the juxtaposition of the very structured background HSTs and straight stitching with the wonky hand cut flowers and dots. The combination has a playfulness to me. Using trims to add texture and an element of the unexpected, along with the fact that they are vintage and now completely used up from my stash, elevates the uniqueness of this quilt. I couldn’t repeat it in it’s entirety even if I wanted to. I love the totally evanescent quality of making like this. It is the only one that will ever exist exactly as it is; as completely unique as the person it will eventually live with.  

And with whom could the quilt live? I’ve created a little mood board below.:

I think the Desert Flowers Quilt would be perfect in a neutral desert designed home or nursery. Measuring 58in by 43 1/2in, the Desert Flowers Quilt would be equally suited for a child’s desert inspired nursery or as a larger wall hanging art quilt in a neutral desert themed home. The russet, mustard and cerise red tones would combine well with cognac leather, natural wood and terracotta. Adding in a little display shelf with cacti and collectibles brings personality and a place to display new treasures. Nubby textured rugs in a light cream or grass cloth rug would go well with the light cream background of the quilt and enhance each others’ softness. Pops of black in a graphic wall paper accent wall along with the black flower details of the quilt would keep the space feeling fresh and unexpected. Even though there is no green in the Desert Flowers Quilt it works well with the soft succulent greens as the are opposite on the color wheel and balance one another out. I found this crib sheet on, a great way to bring in more of the theme in a very affordable manner. The large statement cactus wall shelf is from Target and truly makes a neutral desert statement.

The Desert Flowers Quilt is for sale in my Etsy shop now. As I mentioned above, it will never be made again, so if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind piece for your home or child’s room, this may be the quilt for you. I will be making more collage and paper craft inspired quilts in the near future and will continue to dissect the process for you all. I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look at the Desert Flowers Quilt and will find inspiration for your home or your own quilt projects. Have an inspired day! Janice 

Inspiration and resources are linked where applicable. All written work and photographs are original content and are copyright protected; kindly give due credit by linking back to my website or source website if you use or share.

(©2020, Janice Bailor //

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