The first quilt I plan to tackle for the Lana Bates Memorial Quilt Project is the one I believe was intended to be a quilt as you go (QAYG). With quilt as you go quilts, the backing and binding are worked on with each square, essentially making several (dozen) miniature quilts which are then all sewn together into the overall quilt. When I opened the box for the Spring Florals QAYG, I saw each block stacked with various colors of calico prints in soft yellows, periwinkle blues, a cream and a navy print. Each block had a square of batting and a backing square in a yellow and blue floral print. The box also contained the scrap fabrics, selvages, and several pieces of cut applique in butterfly and flower shapes.
Calico fabrics are definitely not my style, though I think every quilter owns a few of these traditional, prevalent basics. Small prints are great to mix in to provide interest while not detracting from a larger feature print or elements when building your quilt fabric pallet. I would use them sparingly as a supporting cast member in any quilt I was making, but here, they are the main fabrics. Each background is a similar calico ditsy floral, leaf or swirl. The fabrics and their colors work well together in theme and tone. The periwinkle and slightly purple toned blues are lovely with the buttery yellows from the opposite side of the color wheel providing that dynamic color contrast that is so pleasing to a composition.
Since the squares were already cut and stacked together, I plan to go with them basically as is and finish it in the QAYG style. Therefore, each block will be made independently from one another and then stitched together at the end to join them into a larger quilt. All of the backing squares will be the deep blue and gold vine and flower print. Each block top will be one of the fabrics originally chosen by Aunt Lana.
I have no idea what the original plan was for this quilt. The only notes in the box are a few letters pinned to a few blocks and pieces of applique which I can only imagine were part of her original way of keeping track of her block arrangement and combinations of prints for the layout. Having nothing of substance to go on, however, it is up to me to create a new layout based off of what I have to work with and find pleasing. To begin, I placed all of the blocks out on the floor to see how many I had to work with and what I could do to make sense of the layout.
Immediately, I noticed there were the largest amount of periwinkle blocks with a small vine print. I placed all six of them in a diagonal from left to right on the floor as the centerpiece of the quilt layout. Working outward, I filled in with the other larger amount of prints to either side of the centerline in the contrasting yellows. There are not quite enough of either yellow print to make the five blocks needed for these rows, but there is a large scrap of each, so I will be able to cut the additional blocks needed. In the four-block rows, I went with another group of creamy yellow tones but tried to place the more muter colors next to the brighter tones so there was a little more contrast between the rows. The three-row blocks got the deepest tones in each colorway for balance and to pull the eye toward the outer edges of the quilt. In the two-block row, I repeated the periwinkle center color of a different print, again to pull that color to the outer edges of the overall composition. And finally, the cornerstones are the print that will mostly comprise the backing.
Overall, I was happy with the composition and only had three blocks left over. However, upon snapping a picture (above) and looking at it through that filter, I felt like the blues and yellows were bunched up in the bottom left and top right respectively. To more evenly distribute the gold and deep blue tones, I repositioned the deep navy to the opposite corners and moved the backing gold floral into the bottom row of three blocks balancing out the gold row in the upper right of the quilt. I have no idea what the intended layout was to be and perhaps it was meant to be all mixed together, which might explain my leftover blocks. However, to my eye, this was the best layout overall. I will make the two additional blocks I need for the four rows and use the batting and backing squares from the leftover blocks to complete them so they match the other blocks.
Next up I looked through the pre-cut applique pieces. Again, I have no idea if the original plan was to have a piece of applique on each block or only a few. There are not many applique pieces cut, but there is a fair amount of fabric still left in the box, so I have plenty of fabric to work with to make additional applique pieces.
The floral and butterfly shapes are pretty simplistic, making them easy to stitch around. I think my aunt did a fair amount of hand stitching, but I think these shapes would be very easy to machine stitch too and that is likely what I will do. Perhaps I will work the applique stitching in as part of the overall quilted design or I could just leave the applique as the main way each block is secured together. I will use the additional fabric to create more of the butterfly and simple florals and mix them throughout the blocks to complete the composition.
In addition to the applique that already exists, I pulled to other fabrics from my stash to possibly add into the mix. The deep green woodland print is a recent Rifle Paper Co. fabric I think tones in well with the greens and light periwinkle blues of the main pallet, yet adds a more modern twist to the floral motif. I also found this vintage floral twill I think might be great to fussy cut the florals from and add as layers behind the larger original appliques for a funky twist on the original concept. Pulling in both of these unexpected fabric elements will hopefully update the style of this Spring Floral QAYG quilt while also melding both my aunt’s more traditional style and my free form and artsy approach to quilting applique.
Over the next few weeks I will be cutting the additional blocks and working on the applique arrangements. I plan to have an update on the quilt’s progress, as well as a bit of the personal history behind this quilt and or my aunt contributed by my cousin for the next post. I hope you enjoyed a little trip into my thought process and plan for the first quilt of the Lana Bates Memorial Quilt Project. I am enjoying the challenge of trying to imagine what was to be and reimagine what I can do with the bits and pieces of each quilt.
I look forward to completing the challenge and hope you will enjoy coming along with me.
Thanks for reading and stay creative friends! Janice
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