Windows to the Orient: Getting Started

Windows to the Orient: Getting Started

This quilt is the result of free shipping. No really, free shipping. Here’s how it happened – I wanted to order a fat quarter bundle from Craftsy.com. It was on sale, everything was great and I was nearly ready to check out. Low and behold – shipping was $9 unless I added $10 to my order to get free shipping. How could I possibly not trade shipping costs for fabric? I love Oriental fabrics, but rarely buy them or use them. As much as I love them, I never know what to do with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a few in charm size so I spent my $10 on these two Charm packs from Robert Kaufmann.

CharmPack CharmPack2

They showed up. As expected, I loved them but had no clue what to do with them. I sat them to the side and just let it brew a bit. Then came Lorna from Sew Fresh Quilt’s pattern, Modern Charm. When I saw her pattern, I instantly saw Asian and knew exactly what to do with my charm packs. I knew Modern Charm wasn’t perfect for what I wanted to accomplish and I wouldn’t be able to follow it step for step. It was close enough though that I went ahead and bought it for the basic layout, measurements, and to support a darn fine independent community designer.

full_8214_81681_ModernCharm_1

My first big change was extending the size of the quilt. I wanted a full size bed quilt rather than the throw size. On paper, I added a seventh row and borders to extend the finished size to 72” x 90”.

<Here’s the part where I wanted to post a picture of my doodle with a bazillion cross outs, start overs, and some crazy math. I can’t find that piece of paper! I’m leaving this note here to myself. Should I come across it, the image will go right here.>

I tinkered around with Lorna’s cover image in photoshop to get a feel of what it would look like if I left the black connecting lines out completely.

ModernCharmNoLines

I felt like the quilt was really missing something and lost some of its interest without those leading horizontal lines, so I put them back, but only one or two per row.

ModernCharmSomeLines

Woot! Now I had- a plan, some fabric, and time. Remember recently when I told you that a design wall is a must have? Here’s one of those times that it really saved me. I started by putting 7 rows of 7 squares on the wall. Then I just swapped them around in a real visceral “Price is Right” type of way. Move a bunch, step back, take a picture, squint at them and move them again. I left them on the wall for a day or two and moved them when something a bit wonky caught my attention – sometimes from two rooms away! Eventually I had a distribution I was happy with and felt like was well balanced and gave each fabric a chance to really shine.

WindowsToOrient

Because I’m indecisive until I’m not, I took another few days looking at them in their “groups” by putting the black sashing between the ones that would touch each other then moved them some more!

WindowsToOrient (2)

I can’t wait to show you where this quilt is going. You’re not going to believe this, but I decided this was a good time to learn mitered corners. Every single corner, all 168 of them, is mitered and I’m officially pretty good at it! I’ve seen lots of tutorials, crazy math, and different ways of handling miters. As usual, I went for a simpler “just do it” approach. It isn’t one size fits all, but I bet some of you will like it. Look forward to the tutorial next week.

So tell me, how long do you spend on these distribution type problems? Are you a grab bagger or do you fret over it like me?

Big Thank yous to Lorna for her permission to use images of her quilt pattern. Be sure to stop by her blog and see the actual quilt, I love the spiral quilting.

25 Comments

  1. What a great quilt in work. I love the colors and how you are making it your own. I look forward to seeing the finished quilt.

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    • Thanks muches Jamie! This one is all finished up and I’ll be showing the final pictures next week! I’ve really enjoyed the quilt, even used it a few times. :)

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  2. Hi Susan! I have a hard time doing “truly scrappy” in my quilts. When I started my Spdierweb quilt, the idea was to grab a string from the bag and use it, no matter what. I eventually came up with a “truly scrappy” method that didn’t cause an anxiety attack. I call it “controlled scrappy.” When reaching for the strings, I would pull out several strings at once. I would then choose from those scraps which one I wanted to use. I love the developments on your quilt!

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    • Hey there Terri! I like controlled scrappy too. I’ve certainly done something similar before and changed my mind half way through. I’ve even changed my mind after sewing on a piece! Good thing I always reserve the right to switch gears. :)

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  3. This is looking great. It’s a fab pattern for those oriental charms. I take forever arranging and rearranging. I’d love to pull random fabrics from a bag but I just can’t do it!

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    • I keep trying, but it never quite works out like I want it to! Mostly because of my need to control every detail. :)

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  4. What a great pattern for your charm squares. It’s interesting to see how the black lines between the squares make a difference. I’m impressed your going for the mitered corner option.

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    • Funny how small changes can make such a big deal right? It was fun to make, even with all the crazy mitered corners! :)

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  5. Nice work, Susan!! Love the look so far. 168 mitered corners?!! Yup, that will definitely make you an expert!! My design wall is my floor! So once I have the basic colour and print distribution figured out, I start sewing :)

    -Soma

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    • heh, yeah, way too many corners! I just made a quilt top that way this weekend, there’s something liberating about not stressing about every single position of every single block too. I needed that. :)

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  6. Here’s to free shipping! It’s looking great so far. I don’t have a design wall (yet) so I usually lay things out on the floor. That limits how long I can leave them out while I consider things, though, so I usually have to make those decisions pretty quickly. Which sometimes mean I find things I’m not so happy with after the quilt is sewn together, but usually it’s not enough to bother me.

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    • I bet sometimes you end up with great decisions too! The wall is great, I feel really fortunate to have it. Before I had it, I would put stuff on the floor and climb the stairs to look at it. Worked pretty well to be honest. :)

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  7. I love what is going on so far! This is going to be beautiful! I think you are crazy for doing that many mitered corners (crazy in a good way of course) but the end result will be spectacular and well worth your time and energy I am sure! Can’t wait to see more.

    As for layout, I am a fretter myself. I tend to use the floor, the design wall, a notebook, and occasionally the computer when it comes to layout lol.

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    • Yeah, it was silly. I’m glad I did it because I think it is an important detail for the quilt but really – doesn’t add THAT much!! hahaha!

      I’m working on a quilt this weekend that I’m deciding to absolutely NOT fret over. Just letting happen. It’s really a lot fun and somewhat of a relief. I wont be able to do it that way for too many, but it is a good break.

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  8. This is going to look so cool! And I think you are officially crazy for doing mitered corners on all of them. But that’s why I enjoy your work. Always the unexpected with you. :)

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    • I am officially crazy, I do not doubt that one bit. Only I could take such a nice, simple, fun pattern and make it hard and time consuming. That’s what I do, yo! hahahaha!

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  9. Oh I’m a fretter for sure and I hate it! :)

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    • lol, it can be frustrating right?? lol

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  10. I’m a fretter. Like you I couldn’t do without a layout space -my design wall is a flannel sheet at the moment clamped to a mirror and a bookcase but I have high hopes! I also bought this range to pad out a crafsty purchase but i cot the FQB in blue and am still pondering what to do with it!

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    • heh, Craftsy wins! They got us both! It’s a great line, I’ve really enjoyed working with it. I was surprised how much I liked the florals too.

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  11. Those charm packs were the perfect choice for this type of layout. Thanks for giving us some background on how you went about making this pattern work for you and turn it into what you were looking for. I agree…. A design wall is a must. Thank you for sharing!

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    • Thanks for the pattern and so much support! Means a lot. :)

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  12. What a great victory to get some fabric for free (okay, 90% off is close enough!)! I totally hear you on the distribution issue. I’ve said this many times, “A lot of thought went into the appearance of that random layout!” I really can’t bring myself to just piece randomly, but it’s one of my goals to do it at least once. I long to taste that freedom :)

    So, I sort by color and/or tone–typically light, medium and dark. Then I consider the block layout and how many pieces I have to mathematically figure out a scheme. For example, I recently made a small doll quilt of 30 squares (5×6 layout) with five fabrics. So, each row had one square of each fabric. I tried to ‘wing’ the arrangement, but it was not as pleasing as a simple permutation in such a small quilt. In a quilt with many more blocks than categories, I do exactly as you did–start with a primary distribution (made a bit easier by my sorted piles) then step back and make changes until I’m happy. Then I take a picture to use as a guide when piecing.

    Your quilt looks great!

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  13. You are so your mama’s child….8-) 8-) This quilt is going to be beautiful.

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What say you?