Thursday, November 21, 2013

Going around in Circles!

I decided earlier this week that I wanted to really try and use some of my Accuquilt cutter dies to create a modern quilt. I had found some fat quarter bundles on clearance which of course I picked up and was determined to use. I wanted to try something that would not require a bunch of ironing of fusible, because I felt this makes the quilt top too stiff. I needed to organize all my Accuquilt dies anyway and take an inventory of what I had in my collection.

What I found was an amazing array of circles in various sizes in many of the GO! dies. I pulled all of them out along with the corresponding cutting mats I needed to be able to cut. I took them along with the cutter and fabric to the table where I sit and cut out pieces. I confess that I do this in my living room on the coffee table. That way I can watch TV and be a cut up at the same time! I grabbed a big zip loc bag and started out with the dies that only had circles in them. I quickly lost track of how many circles I cut out of the various bright fabrics. Then I used the other hidden circles in those mixed dies that were various sizes from 1/2" in diameter all the way up to 5". I cut everything from the smallest to the largest 8" circles that I could from the clearance fat quarter bundles. I let the fabric tell me which sizes to cut. No specific planning.

I also found in my stash a nice background fabric. Its a neutral beige with an interesting swirl in a brown color printed on it. I thought it would be perfect for the negative spaces in the quilt. I cut this up into strips using my ruler, rotary cutter and mat. I made the strips wide enough to be able to applique the circles upon and leave some margin on the outside.

Then I sorted the various circles into piles where the largest circles were on the bottom and the sizes get smaller with each layer. I pinned these with a big pin to hold them together and then headed to the sewing machine. Before beginning to sew, I pressed the background fabric as well as each circle, folding them wrong sides together to make registration marks that I could use to center each circle on the background and within themselves. By folding them so the wrong sides are together, very little pinning was required to applique them down.

With regular black thread, I used the buttonhole stitch to sew the circles down, one by one, without interfacing or turning the edges. I love my Bernina 380 because it has a button to adjust the speed and this went pretty quickly once I did a few. The smaller circles required me to adjust the buttonhole stitch size and go very slowly, but even with the 1/2 inch wide circles, it worked and I was pleased with the results.

Once I had a number of circle blocks completed, I put them on the design wall to look at them and arrange them. Keep in mind that I had not planned this quilt, I just sewed and let the quilt design itself.

I decided the quilt needed a center circle motif and I needed two more small circle sets to finish it. I finished those pinned them up and then it was improvisational piecing time. I only had started with 2 yards of background fabric and I wanted to use as much of it as I could, leaving negative spaces that are relevant to a modern design. I played around with the circles and decided that the center vertical line was key, so I pieced that together first. I added background fabric to it as much as needed to make it balanced, but not crowded. I then hung that from my magnet strip to keep an eye on the size.

Next I worked on the left and right middle sections of the quilts, staying in the vertical rows and ensure that these sections with the largest circle sections were "right-sized'. It wasn't too hard, and it went together pretty quickly. Finally I had the outermost rows to complete. I originally thought I would put the medium sized circles in the middle and place the tiny circles in each corner, as I had four of them. However, it appeared to not want to go together this way and I ended up with the smallest circle sets above and below the medium circle sets but inside them. This left me with large background sections to piece in and I realized this quilt knew what it was doing all on its own. Being a long-arm quilter, I love the opportunity to have good negative space to fill with fancy stitches.

I trimmed and decided that I had just enough of the background fabric to add a small strip (2" wide) to each outer edge. I didn't want borders, but felt that using the leftover fabric to add more negative space would be best, and then I wouldn't have leftovers to deal with. We will have plenty of leftovers next week after Thanksgiving!

Here is the end result. I really love this totally original design. I can't wait to quilt it.

Comments, questions and feedback welcome.

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