Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Bulging Checkerboard

This is an older quilt, but I realized recenlty my post about it has been sitting in draft form for over a year. It's been on my mind recently, because I just started a half-size version of it.  So, here is the story behind the original quilt.

I saw this quilt online one day and knew that I needed to add it to my list.  I love optical illusions, and this is a really cool one.  I inspected the construction of the quilt I saw online. It was done with applique, which I knew was not going to be my plan. So I sat down with EQ6 and planned the blocks.  Each block contains 2 "dots" in opposite corners.  I first tried drawing the quilt with these dots set right at the edge of the block. But that completely lost the illusion, and it because an X instead.  So, I realised that some amount of contrast colour was needed around each dot.  I played around in EQ and decided that 1/4" exposure was about right.

6" blocks, with a border, gave me a quilt about 100" square.  About right for my queen size bed (yes, this was going to be MY quilt).  So I worked out the fabric requirements (6 yards of each of 2 colours) and went shopping on "Buy 2, get 1 free" day at the local quilt store.  But what colours to choose? I could go with the traditional - black and white.  Or, mix it up. Blue and white - no, I have too many of those, and don't want another.  Red and white - doesn't seem right for a checkerboard.  Looking around, I also discovered that there were very few bolts with a full 6 yards on them in the shop.  Hence the sale - she was trying to reduce inventory to bring in new fabrics.  So, maybe a mix of different fabrics in each colour would have to suffice.

Then I was pointed towards civil war reproductions in brown.  I was immediately sold, in part because I had just finished a quilt in brown/blue/red for the August colour challenge this year and I loved working with the browns in it.  Then it didn't take too long to decide that 5 fabrics would work (2 yards of one, to do squares and borders, and 1 yard of each of the others).  We found a suitable cream fabric to complement the browns (with enough fabric on the bolt), and I brought my treasure trove home.

 Then the fun started.  Cut and sew.  Cut and sew.  And sew some more.  The quilt requires 225 squares.  88 are plain 6" squares, but all the rest are pieced, with the little 1/4" exposure around each "dot".  As I started to plan my cutting, I contemplated working with that 1/4".   And decided to make my life a little easier by working with 3/8 instead of 1/4.

This all seemed well and good until I put it on the wall and started thinking about it a bit more.  The designer of the quilt I saw online commented that she was not happy with how the illusion came out, and she wished she'd made the spacing smaller.  But the photo looked great - the illusion was perfectly clear.  And my original 1/4" was very close to hers.  What I realised as I put it on the wall was that it is not the percentage of the exposure against the rest of the block that matters.  It is more an absolute number.  It needs to be small enough that from a normal viewing distance it appears to be thin lines, not blocks of colour between the blocks.

So I put together the center of the quilt twice.  First, with my designed spacing (on the left in the photo).  And I knew immediately that this was not right.  In a photo, it's not bad.  But in person, it is just a bunch of square blocks.  No illusion showing up at all.  Then I put together another center (right in the photo).  This time I used 1/2" seams, leaving 1/8" exposure around the dots.  MUCH better.  Now I can see the illusion, even with this small 5x5 section of quilt.

Now to assemble the rest, using 1/2" seams throughout.  Another 8 5x5 blocks is the first step.  Pressing these blocks is challenge however.  After making the center 5x5, I realised my mistake. On the remaining sections, I snipped the seam allowance on each short seam in the rows, so that I could press the seam allowance away from the dot in each case.  I thought I'd do the same on the longer seams, until I realised that the dots meet at the corners.  So that plan went out the window. Careful pressing was required, to ensure I didn't distort the blocks when pressing the very thick seams around the dot.  If I were to do this again, I might press the borders of each dot in towards the center instead.  That would reduce the bulk between blocks, although it would increase the issues within each block.

I finished section #2, and put it up on the wall.  Can you spot the error?  One row is inserted upside down. So I'll be unstitching that one next.

More progress in this picture.  Notice the yellow tag in the upper left corner.  I numbered each section as I assembled it, so that I wouldn't get confused.  I still managed to - I had to stop several times to think.  What does "2-1" mean.  Second row first column, or second column, first row.  In the end, I figured it all out, and got all 9 sections assembled and ready for borders.

The borders went together pretty easily, although they were long, and used a lot more fabric than I had planned on. There is not enough of the border fabric to use for binding, so I'll do a scrappy binding when I'm ready to take that step.  In the picture it is hard to tell, but there is a dark brown border around the outside.

Next step - quilting.  The quilt is 95" square - which is just 2" larger than a queen size batting.  So, I had to buy a King instead.  Fortunately, I caught a sale at the LQS and got my batt for 40% off.  Not  a bad deal.