Sunday, April 26, 2015

DIY Mystery Quilt

The alternate title for this post is "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," lol. But, I'm trying to stay positive!

It's been a month since I posted the first block of my "cherry tree of life" quilt, Hanami:

I mentioned then that I wanted to add an element of mystery to the quilt, but still keep some control over the design.  Once I figured out the layout of the entire quilt, I calculated how many HSTs I would need. I made them one dozen at a time using my homemade HST papers:

40 dozen in all! My hope with this project was that by doing all the boring work first, and saving the fun part until the end, it would have a better chance of a timely finish. The jury is still out on that!

The great thing about these papers is that they add to the randomness, because with a larger print, you cannot exactly anticipate how the fabric will be cut. Some triangles were quite light, some were dark, some were mostly pink, some were mostly green.

Once all the HSTs were made, the plan was to put them in a big bowl, and have a random draw for each tree. But, while I was making them, I started to think that if the draw is completely random, then all the trees will end up looking the same. If I wanted each tree to have it's own personality, then I would have to add some granularity to the mix. It's like the difference between baking sponge cake or muffins. Sponge cake batter is perfectly smooth, and muffin batter should be a little lumpy. To my taste, sponge cake is kind of bland.

So, I chose 13 fairly solid pink "feature fabrics" for my 13 blocks. Each block uses 22 pink HSTs in total, and I decided that 9 of them should be from the same feature fabric. "9" was a shot in the dark, really. I hoped it would be enough to make the trees distinct, but still allow for a fair degree of randomness.

I set up 13 plastic snack bags, as you can see in the first photo above, put in the 9 feature fabric HSTs, and then did a random draw for the rest of the pink ones. Then I had smaller pools for the brown trunk HSTs, and the light background squares as well.

Now I get to open one bag at a time and see what's in there! I iron open all the HSTs, and arrange them until they look their best:

I'm finding that it works best if most of the matching HSTs go around the outside of the tree to define it.

You can see that the brown trunk HSTs are divided into medium brown and dark brown. There are only six brown fabrics in total, so most of the tree trunks have some matching browns.

And, instead of a solid square in the middle of the trunk, I made 13 medium/dark HSTs to give the trunks the same level of "pieciness" as the rest of the tree. I didn't use the papers for those, I just made them two at a time with different fabric and a bigger variety of prints.

The assembly is straightforward from there. I join the squares into rows:

And then join the rows into blocks. Two more are done...


...I have realized that they are both distinctly rectangular rather than square. My seam allowance joining the rows is too wide. That is not too hard to fix, but it's still frustrating. And it does have to be fixed, or the final assembly won't work as planned.

So, that's slowed things down quite a bit. That's how UFOs happen, but, I'm going to try to get back on the horse soon...

...only, I did start something else this week...


  1. You are working it through admirably. I get the difficulty and frustration and some things do progress better after beIng set aside. I sense you'd like to keep rolling on this one- but then there's the tantalising 'something else'!

    1. Thanks, Jillian! Today I am thinking that it will be better to move forward with some new blocks, and save the fix on these for later. I think it will be helpful to rack up a few successes first!

  2. Very pretty, the really do look like cherry trees. I know what you mean about making those blocks square. It's especially difficult when you are joining so many little pieces together, each little inaccuracy get multiplied. Good luck with it, it will be beautiful.

  3. I really love these blocks and think that your plan to get the mundane completed early will see it rolling along at a good pace. I can really see the tree with blossoms in the blocks you have done so far and the whole quilt is going to be splendid!

  4. this is certainly a big challenge, the mind boggles at all those half square triangeles you have made, the pink works wonderfully, reminds me of cherry blossom etc

  5. Your Cherry Tree of Life blocks are going to be so pretty put together. Love that it is a scrap quilt but you are adding some control to the HST selection to make the quilt more interesting! I too find that when I run into a problem it is helpful to start yet another project! :-)

  6. How very frustrating, but I think that we all know how it feels. Just when you have the project going well, (and yours certainly is doing just that; it's going to be beautiful), a mistake happens and we lose steam. (Does it sound like it's happened to me???) But, what I have started to do is tell myself that I will just undo the mistake before I put it away. Generally when the errant stitches are removed, enthusiasm for the project returns. Good luck with yours, and with the new project. You have me curious!

    1. Yes, you are right, once the errant (good word) stitches are out, it is easier to get back to it. I just have to get this new project in some semblance of order now. Every spring the new projects seem to sprout out all over!

  7. I admire your plan to control the scrappiness of these lovely blocks, although I doubt I would have put so much thought into the process. Too lazy, I guess. Anyway they are turning out to be quite nice!

  8. Isn't it funny how we start to make something scrappy and then realize if we don't have some 'control' somewhere, everything will look the same! These are going to be fabulous! Good luck with your fix.:)


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