Vanuatu Turtle Quilt: Design process, warts and all.
In the last few days I have finally had a chance to get back into the sewing room. And I have to admit it was very therapeutic. I have missed sewing. So has our cat. I swear he is addicted as I am!
My goal this week was to design and sew the blocks for my black, white and red Vanuatu Turtle quilt for the Splash of Color Quilt Along. I started with this basic plan…
And these fabrics…..
If you wish, you can read more about the what and why of my original plans, and see my turtle appliqué pieces all cut, waiting for a quilt top.
So, on Thursday, I started on the quilt top. I looked at my plan. I cut six 6½ squares. And I went off script.
That might be a record, even for me!
Changing my mind….
Firstly, I decided that I wanted to add in a very dark, plain fabric behind the bulk of the turtle appliqué. Plainer than any fabric I have brought home from Vanuatu. I did actually look for a mostly black fabric in Vanuatu, but there wasn’t any to be had.
So, I went hunting among my scraps here at home and found an Australian Aboriginal print in black called Sand Dunes. The Sand Dunes scraps are leftover from the backing of a dear friend’s quilt. It is very soft and colourfast – an amazing piece of fabric to work with. So I added it to the mix. I also found some black 2½” pre-cut strips inherited from another friend. Perfect for extra darkness behind the appliqué.
Changing my mind, again…
Although I had a 5×5 grid drawn up for my colour gradient in the quick diagram above, I had actually intended to do an 8×8 grid of 6″ squares. Some fussy cut whole squares and some pieced squares to get a black and white gradient. That is why I started by cutting 6½ squares of each Vanuatu fabric.
However, I quickly realised that 6″ squares of pinwheels and HSTs in these prints is going to result in a very. busy. quilt. Which would be fine, except that this was supposed to be the background for my appliquéd turtle. And it was also going to take waaaay too long to construct.
So, I decided that my mockup was trying to tell me something – that I should have 5×5 8″ finished blocks. I cut some new 8½” squares, and recycled the 6½” squares into 8½ squares by adding 2½” strips on two sides. This had the added bonus of being an easy way to graduate through colour values and tie the blocks together visually.
As I started on the more intricately pieced blocks, I decided that I needed some more solid or solid-like fabrics. Specifically in the grey range. Somewhere for the eyes to rest from the prints. I had already included a blue-grey hand-dye and a white solid in my original fabric choices. Now I added two grey Shadow Play fabrics from my scraps. I only had enough of the dark grey Shadow Play for 4 pieces. But that is half the fun, making do. 🙂
At this point it was time for me to head out to the South Australian Quilters’ Guild evening meeting. I’m glad I got this far before I had to go, because I was beginning to heed the little voice that said I needed to add a nearly white fabric. There were no nearly white fabrics in Vanuatu, just as there were no nearly black ones. I had thought that I might get by with fussy cutting. Or using the reverse side of a fabric. But…
At the Guild meetings there is always a shop stall, and in the end I picked up something to round out my fabric choices. Actually I picked up two somethings. One was a white fabric with a fine black print. It had slightly more black than I wanted, but it was the best pick available. I was happy at least that the swirls on the print are consistent with the patterns already in my quilt. 🙂 The second purchase was a fat quarter of a dark blue-grey Grunge that happens to be the exact same colour as the blue grey on two of the Vanuatu fabrics. Score!
Finishing off the design
A little more playing and switching fabrics around and I settled on this layout (with a few more tweaks as I sewed).
And now I have finished sewing up the 8½” blocks for my Vanuatu Turtle quilt. They are ready to be assembled into a quilt top and have borders attached.
So, how am I feeling? Well, I really love this quilt top so far. I think the design is actually quite effective as it is. A small part of me even thinks that I should claim the grey-blue as my “Splash of Color” and leave it really simple. Because there is a whisper of a question in my head as to whether it will marry well with my appliqué. Despite all the changes I have made, it is still very busy.
But the whole point of this quilt is the turtle appliqué….. And if I stop now this quilt top will be too small to be particularly useful, and my turtle appliqué will be orphaned. So I will push on. If, in the end, it isn’t as fantastic as I envisioned, then I won’t mind it going on the couch, right?! And there is always something to be learned in quilts that don’t quite make it to awesome. Fingers crossed that I am just over analysing things and it will be just fine!
If you are also participating in the Splash of Color Quilt Along I hope that you are pleased with your progress so far. If you like black and white quilts and haven’t been over and checked out the progress of the other projects yet, be sure to do that. Everyone has chosen their own project, so this QAL is very interesting, even as a spectator sport. 🙂
P.S. Colour Inspiration Tuesday resumes here tomorrow! Yay!