I’ve been working on cutting new fabrics for the new quilt-top kits, coming soon. The fabrics are still so exquisite. Maybe it’s just me, and I’m in this weird zone about them. It’s hard to account for what appeals to anyone at any particular time. With me, my interests almost feel like obsessions, and they’re sort of weirdly capricious and weirdly timeless at the same time. Like, I love these fabrics, and I’ve always loved these fabrics, but why wasn’t I obsessed with them, say, last year? Or the year before? What accounts for anyone’s interest in any particular thing at any particular time? My interests have always been white-hot. Ever since I was a child, I have gotten deeply into whatever it is I have gotten into. Sometimes the trance lasts years (horses, Arthurian legend, chicken-loaf sandwiches, knitting). Sometimes it lasts only days or weeks (flute playing, Duran Duran, and apparently, weaving). But I feel like they're all a part of me, and that habit of delving deep has gotten me through some tough times. I think Andy shares this trait. Between the two of us, we have Projects. We're watching Amelia discover her own interests — right now she’s teaching herself all of her favorite songs on her toy xylophone — and it is totally fascinating to watch. She talks to herself in sweet little voices, encouraging herself, making jokes to herself, admonishing herself, giggling at herself. Watching her when she’s in flow, whether she’s playing with toys or playing music (these are where it seems to happen for her), is one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever experienced as a parent. I hold my breath the whole time, hoping the moment goes on and on. Don't lose that, baby girl. Get in there.
Currently I'm spending my nighttime free-time wiggling around on Ancestry trying to figure out what my maternal great-grandmother's maiden name was (I think I might have found it) and surfing eBay looking for vintage fabrics for new quilt kits. I think the looking appeal to me on so many different levels. I’m kind of a researcher at heart. I like thrill of the hunt. I like going down rabbit holes and following trails and finding different ways of looking for information. I like history. I like shopping. I like on-line shopping. I like when the fabrics finally arrive at the house and I open all of the packages and refold all of the fabrics, and start designing collections of them in my mind. I even, still, like the cutting, like listening to Pavement radio on Pandora for hours on end, cutting fabric and stacking it neatly and thinking about things.
I had a question from a customer the other day about how to pick out solid colors for the Calicozy quilts. I realized that I didn’t really specify this in the pattern, other than to give you the total number of solid patches you needed for each size quilt, and the total amount of yardage that corresponds. My thinking about that was going in several different directions when I was working on the pattern so I thought maybe I’d talk a little bit about how I put quilts and quilt kits together, and maybe someone will find it vaguely interesting if you’re in the process of doing it (especially if you’re struggling with it). I don't have any formal training in color theory or anything else around this, so this chatter is just about how I do it, not the right way to do it, or any of that. It's just my way, and specifically my way in making these.
So, let me start with prints. In the toddler Calicozy quilt kits, there are fifteen different prints, generally. In the larger sizes, even though there are a lot more patches, there are still about fifteen different prints, just more yardage of each. (The “yardage” comes in 4.25” strips.) When choosing prints, I think about a few things. First, I start with just a few prints of any color that I absolutely love. That usually gives me two or three main colors that begin to tell a story. What character uses this quilt? Where does this quilt belong? What does that room look like? What’s the weather like when this quilt is being used? Is there an open window with rain coming in, or a crackling fire, or a warm night breeze? What’s the feeling of this quilt? What feeling do I want to have when I’m using it? Let yourself think about these things, and then just commit to the scene. Limit yourself to that story. There will be other quilts to make. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s probably because you might need to narrow your focus. Those questions can help.
As you’re picking fabrics and designing toward that story, whatever it is, think about balancing. I think about it like this: First, as I mentioned, I just pick my favorites, no matter what their scale, or color, or whatever. If those are leading you into your story, that’s great. If one feels like it’s just not gonna work this time, don’t toss it, but put it aside. Work with the others. Now start adding. Pick prints that feel coordinated but also unique. Most of the fabrics in these quilts are tiny floral calicos with many colors and lots of detail, and those are the best. But I also do try to include a few fabrics that are larger scale, or monochromatic, or very simple (tiny white hearts on a blue background, for instance), or even striped (I know, life on the edge, people. Stripes!). If many of your prints are very busy, choose a few that have some "white" space (whatever their color). If many of your prints are bright or primary, choose a few that are muted or muddy, or pale. You want some variety here, so that those very favorite prints you love so much stand out in relief against a background that has depth and texture, visually. And, if you’re inclined toward very light, delicate, pretty prints and colors, don’t forget the black. Adding black, or even very dark brown or dark gray or navy or evergreen, even in a toddler quilt, provides a bit of grounding for everything. Remember that these patches will only be 3.75” when finished, and they will be scattered, so they will all look different in practice, too.
In the toddler quilt, the pattern calls for seven strips of solid colors, so about a third of the patches (in all of the quilts, no matter what size) are solid colors. This ratio felt nice to me, as the solid patches, no matter what color they are, help your eye rest as you’re looking at the quilt, and keep it from being overwhelmed by the busyness. I always pick out the solid colors last. Once I’ve picked out the prints, I bring them all with me to the fabric store and then I start holding them up to different solids. For each kit, I choose three different solid colors. If I want the quilt to feel more restful, I keep all three of those shades quite similar. If I want the quilt to have more energy, I go with bolder colors that are quite different from each other. The solid colors can really bring this quilt together. If you feel like your prints have quite a bit of inconsistency color-wise — and this can be a really good thing — the solids you choose can totally bring it all together. I like to choose solids that feel both pretty and a little unexpected. Let yourself choose things that don’t feel like “your” things and see what happens. You might be surprised. Some of the kits that turned out to be my very favorites were so random when they started that I thought there was no way they would come together. But I was pleasantly surprised by the result.
Let yourself go down the rabbit hole. Follow it wherever it goes. Don't get hung up. Enjoy every minute. XO