Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stairway to Cat Heaven

I've been inspired to start this blog to keep a documentation of all of my projects and how my quilting style evolves and improves over time.  I hope you enjoy! (Note: my photos are not currently as professional-quality as most other impressive quilting blogs, but don't worry, I'll get there!)

Right now I am working on the free McCall's pattern "Stairway to Cat Heaven."  The link I found it on no longer works, but you can purchase a physical version of the pattern here.  Color to me is the most essential part of a quilt, so I put a lot of thought into color schemes before I went fabric shopping.  I sketched up a very low-tech mock-up of the quilt and changed the colors around until I came up with something I liked.

I wanted to remain true to the original pattern, which portrayed cats at night.  This pretty much limited me to a monochromatic design.  In order to add flare to the design I decided to implement a color gradient of sorts.  I also wanted to throw in some purples and indigos to make it more dynamic.

Once at the quilt shop I first looked for the perfect background fabric.  Since the night sky is just about half of the quilt, it was essential to choose one.  Luckily I found the perfect fabric, a lovely pale batik.  I chose all of the other fabrics based on looking for a gradient of blue/purple shades.  You can see my fabric selection below.  The brown in the corner was the initial fabric for the cats, I knew it wasn't right but the fabric was so pretty that I couldn't resist.

Not all of these fabrics made it to the final design, specifically the peach-flavored fabric near the left that just stands right out as being the wrong shade.  I was looking for a super pale purple, but nothing quite fit.  By the way, all of these fabrics with the exception of one are batiks.  I love batiks because many of them provide fabric that is almost solid but just has some very slight and subtle variations to it-for example the dark blue second to the right.  Many batiks also have some gorgeous patterns...such as the starry sky background!

Anyways, then I numbered all of the fabrics and plotted which color combinations would work together in a nine-patch block.  I made three blocks of each color combination, just arbitrarily chosen based upon how many I could make with a WOF strip.  Then came layout time!  Below are all the blocks in order but not yet sewn together.

Looking at this there are a few blocks that stand out to me as being in the wrong spot, but it turns out that it's hard to make sure nobody is touching any other piece of the same fabric when each block is adjacent to four others.  Then it was time to decide on the cat fabric.  It came down to two fabrics and I just ended up buying both because I couldn't decide which to choose.  It worked out for the best, because as you'll see the reject fabric became the border!

Here is the finished central quilt top.  The winning fabric was a slate blue/gray that had a slight color gradient to can see it most on the kitties' tales, which are paler than their bodies.  I think the gradient adds a more three-dimensional and interesting aspect to the silhouettes. 

Because I never trust fusible web to hold, I used my fancy new machine to blanket stitch around all of the appliqué pieces.  In previous quilts I have satin stitched around fusible webbed pieces, but the blanket stitch is especially appealing since it could conceivably be mistaken for a very impressive job of hand appliqué.

Now I am working on the border.  The pattern calls for a border of little squares made up of the nine-patch colors, but I felt that emphasized the traditional 'patchworky' feel of the quilt, while I really wanted to emphasize the more modern, interesting twist of the appliqued scene.  I also really love frame borders (I think that's the technical term?), so I sketched up the following border idea:

This is currently the section I am working on.  I have sewed the border on and now I just need to decide on the colors for the stars and applique them on.  I have no idea when I will get around to it, but hopefully finished quilt top photos will be posted within the next month.