Monday, May 7, 2012

Botanic Roses Quilt

As I mentioned yesterday, a new English Paper Pieced project is in the works.  It has been growing in my mind for several years now!  The idea started with this old UFO of mine:

This is a design that was on the cover of Australian Patchwork and Quilting several years ago.  The blocks are made up of what I now know are called "kite" shapes.  Each block is 18" across and has 72 pieces.  It was made by tracing the template for each piece, carefully cutting with a 1/4" seam allowance added, and then hand piecing in the usual way with a running stitch.  It was very slow and painstaking work!  I really hate piecing from templates, by machine or by hand - never again!  The project ground to a halt four or five years ago mainly because the white on white background fabric is printed with a gummy paint that is very difficult to hand sew.  I had wanted to hand quilt it too, and I realized that it would be impossible with that background fabric.

Just over a year ago I learned about English Paper Piecing and that it is possible to buy pre-cut paper pieces.  It was quite a revelation!  No more templates, no more worrying about seam allowances, what a relief!  I almost restarted the project right then, with plain white fabric for the background.

But, somehow I didn't want to do exactly the same thing that I had already been doing.  I felt that I hadn't been disciplined enough in my fabric choices and strayed from my original plan.  I wanted to narrow down the colour scheme.  In my mind, these blocks had always reminded me of roses.  One day I was looking at my favourite dishes, and I had an idea!

Botanic Roses by Portmeirion

I decided to reproduce the colours of the roses in the blocks.  And, I thought, why not add the leafy border from the plates around the whole quilt?  I wanted to keep it to a lap quilt though, so I also decided to shrink down the blocks to 12", which would require 2" kites, which were readily available. It seemed like a good plan.  But still not perfect!

I had a close look at the plates and thought about how to convey the impression of roses with the fabrics.  I noticed that the roses on the plates have a lot of detail in the middle, while the original quilt pattern is kind of blocky in the middle.  I realized that the English Paper Piecing technique would allow for smaller pieces and more detail, so I decided to subdivide the centre hexagon into smaller pieces like this:

The very centre will be a solid 1/2" hexagon, surrounded by 1/2" half hexagons, surrounded by modified kite pieces.  I can buy the first two, and the modified pieces will be easy to make by trimming the regular kite pieces.

The final piece of the puzzle was fabric choice.  I did not have enough of the right colours in my stash.  About a month ago I realized that it would be beautiful to do all the roses in batiks.  Another revelation!  I spent a considerable amount of time playing with various fabrics on the eQuilter design board.  They are great, you know, I find the colours are generally very accurate.  My one worry was that my fabric choices would result in a very low contrast colour scheme, and all the detailed piecing would be lost in the final quilt.

So, I took the lowest contrast set of fabrics from my cart (for the pale pink rose), printed them, cut them, and made a paper mock up of the final block to see how it would look:

It IS pretty low contrast, but you can still see the piecing.  And it will be fun to play around with different arrangements of the same fabrics, because each rose will be done two or three times.

Sold!  Now I am back to my usual routine of waiting for packages to arrive.  I have no pressure on myself to finish this project quickly.  I have found that English Paper Piecing is a great thing to do when I am unwinding in front of the tv, so I will save it for my quiet times.  Although, I do have the feeling that I am going to be extremely keen when the fabric arrives!


  1. Oh, I do love equilter also. I know people who won't order online because they are afraid of selecting colors that way. I have never been disappointed with equilter and their customer service is second to none!

  2. I agree, Mary Ellen, their customer service is excellent too. Even though they must be a large company by now, on more than one occasion Paul Rubin has responded to my queries himself. I think I have been shopping there for at least 10 years now!

  3. Hi Monica. I just found your post on the "Botanic Roses Quilt". I love it. Your interpretation of the china is "right on". What a huge amount of work you put into this piece! (Never having done English paper piecing, this makes it very tempting.) Have you made much progress on this quilt? Are there othjer posts? Would love to hear more about it.

    1. Thank you, but no, this one has gone back to the drawing board. But you may see a variation of it sooner than you may think!


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