Thursday, February 4, 2016

Quilt Dreams

One thing I've learned about myself over the years, is that I have a deep need to create. And while the ways and projects in which that need manifests itself don't always makes the most sense, I at least know I can't ignore it. So it doesn't come as a shock that I've become pretty addicted to quilting. After attempting my first little quilt, getting a bit more ambitious with my second one, going all out with two matching versions for my girls, and whipping up a little one for my little guy, I found myself longing for another project. No, I don't actually have the space, time or energy for it, but have I let that stop me before? Heck no. I'm a maker. Logistics be darned!

Immediately after I finished Miller's quilt, I knew I wanted to do another one. (it's kind of like the minute we had him I knew I wanted another one. But that's another addition topic for another day. A day where Dustin isn't looking at me with a mix of disapproval and panic). Miller's quilt was different than the others I've done because it was made up of lots of small pieces, vs. larger, more geometric designs. It was more work in a way, because there were so many tiny pieces, therefore more seams to sew, but it was also nice to have a really straight forward design based on squares. I didn't agonize over the design and size and shape of the layout, measuring 80 times and flipping my brain inside out trying to remember all my high school geometry formulas. I just cut squares, laid them out, and started stitching. (Ok, that makes it sound a tad easier than it was...but that truly is the gist).  

So for my next quilt, I planned to try something more in that vein. Still modern, but based on more of a standard design. I wanted to minimize the long, drawn out planning process, and just dive into the fun part- the making part, and most of all: the seeing it come to life part. 

The first step though, was determining where this quilt would eventually live. It turns out babies take just a bit longer to make than quilts (I'm a pretty slow sewer though, so it's almost a tie), so I was all caught up on my quilt to people ratio. But a little detail like not technically needing another quilt certainly wasn't going to stop me from making another quilt. Fortunately, our guest room was in need of a little jolt of color (the bright side to that room not quite feeling finished), so I thought a quilt would be the perfect addition to that space. 

I pinned, and surfed and dug through my inspiration files, and I finally landed on this one as my muse: 

Beautiful. But also: simple. 

My original idea was to do squares in a gradient from corner to corner. I liked that I could just use charm packs (bundles of fabric already cut into 5" squares) to make the cutting/measuring part pretty non-existent, and allowing me to focus on the fun of working with color and placement. So I found a line of solids I liked, and ordered a few color collections that worked with the color scheme of the guest room (mostly creams, browns, yellows and purples). 

But when I laid them all out...I wasn't in love. 

I can't quite put my finger on why it wasn't working for me. Part of it is that I'm just not usually a warm color person (blue/white stripes: all day every day). So even though my fabric matched my guest room (a room I really do like, even if it doesn't yet feel quite complete) it still just feels like a stretch to my personal aesthetic. I figured I could whip up the gradating squares pattern without too much trouble...but that's not exactly the point. I'm in this for the love of the game (so to speak) so there's no need to rush the process to get to the end result. I want to adore what I'm making...So it was back to the drawing board. 

I sifted through my inspiration again, looking for ways I could tweak my plan that might make me fall in love all over again. And I finally stumbled on an old pin of mine

This isn't actually a quilt- it's a photograph (by artist Jessica Eaton). But I fell instantly in love, and became obsessed with figuring out how I could reinterpret this piece of art into a new piece of art in a different medium.

But here's where it gets crazy. I'm not so sure I can actually make this happen. (Coincidentally, this is how pretty much all of my quilts start...) It's not actually that difficult of a concept, it's still just sewing squares together. But I'm concerned about the time and precision it'll take to work with so many tiny squares, get the layout just right, and make sure everything lines up perfectly. 

So now I'm at the stage where I sit in a pile of fabric, mulling things over, trying to figure out how I'm going to make this vision a reality. (This is why quilts tend to take me a while. Big dreams. Limited talent). I'm still in over my head as to exactly how I'm going to pull this off, but I've pretty much committed myself to making it happen one way or another.

My idea is to cut each of my charm squares into four smaller squares (2.5" each), so I have a bunch (like...a bazillion) tiny squares, to mimic the pixelated look of the original. Then I'll try to do each row in some sort of gradient, then put multiple rows together to form the striped/wave pattern the photo has. As for alignment- I'm still debating that. I'm not sure if I will truly be able to do it perfectly, so that has me a little worried. I'm considering making all my horizontal rows consistently, but then intentionally staggering them so that it doesn’t form a perfect grid. This could compensate for any of my (inevitable) mistakes, and make the whole project more forgiving, but still look cool. (RIGHT?) I'd still have to maintain straight and even seaming so it doesn't get all wonky. but I'm hoping that starting with charm squares (which are perfectly square) will give me a head start towards success. (RIGHT?)

In the meantime, I've ordered some more colors to help round out my design (I got some greens, and blues). I don't want it to get too rainbow-y, but I'm hopeful that if I include a ton of neutrals and am thoughtful about how I group things it will turn out how I'm picturing it. (RIGHT?)

While I wait for those to arrive, I've been pinning techniques that might help me dream this impossible dream. Unfortunately, most of the quilts that use tiny squares go with more of a random order, or a checkerboard design, which allow for some shortcuts that don't seem like they'll work for mine. I found a pretty intriguing tutorial that suggests using fusible interfacing as a backer, so that's a possibility. I know, I know, we're getting in pretty deep on the details here...But bottom line, I'm basically IN LOVE with that picture, and about 25% of the way towards having a plan to make it happen. Luckily, I'm just the right combination of bold + ignorant to think 25% is more than enough, and I should just press on. (Please refrain from reminding me of this moment/mistake 8 weeks from now when I'm buried in postage stamp sized scraps, crying over yet another "eyes bigger than my stomach" crafting situation. I fear no matter the messes I get myself into, I'll still never change. It's best to accept that, and move on. Boldly and ignorantly blissful).

So there you have it. I'll keep you posted. Meaning- expect to see some progress in the next decade or so. 

Oh- and if you're a quilter, PLEASE chime in with advice on how I could possibly streamline this process...or at least somehow limp towards my goal. Or if I'm truly, truly crazy, please make an impassioned plea for me to abandon this nonsense before I even start. I promise to (probably) listen. 

And if you're not a quilter- 1: thanks for reading this far. Consider the baby pic in at the end your reward for slogging through design details. and 2: feel free to encourage me in my quest anyway. Or share some crazy feat (cooking something special? running a something-K? trying to go to bed before midnight?) you're attempting these days so I can encourage YOU!

(P.s. for an interesting take on the intersection of quilting/career/motherhood...check out this feature on one of my favorite quilting inspirations...)

Psssst....Want to get all the Bowdenisms news delivered right to your inbox? 
YES PLEASE! Subscribe via email and never miss an -ism.  xox.


  1. I love it! I am not a quilter, but I am a maker and definitely relate to that need to create. Making a quilt is on my bucket list, and our local library is opening up a room with sewing machines, quilting machines, and other crafting machines to use for free, so that might actually make it possible for me! I love both inspiration pictures. Good luck! Could you do the pixelated one but use bigger squares?

    1. oooh that sounds awesome! I think there are more public resources like that than I think...I should look!

  2. I love the photo too and have a possible solution that may help?! I have stumbled across a fabric line recently that just came out. It's ombre solid colors! I think this might be the ticket, you could cut it in 2 1/2 in jelly roll type strip to get the varigated transitioning colors like the photo. Maybe even mixing in some of the solids you have too. Eh? I cannot remember where I saw this fabric but if it pops into my head I will let you know. I think it's a fun project and can't wait to see it!

    1. that sounds really cool! I already have the fabric for this project, but I'll look into that for something in the future. Sounds cool!

  3. Okay. So I think I've got something for you. There is an online pattern generator that takes a picture, and turns it into a quilt pattern. Wicked awesome, yes? I used it here ( to make a quilt of Bono's face. You can change how many colors you want to use, how many squares, etc., and it will make a more or less detailed pattern. You would then decide how big each square would be, and work up to see how much fabric/how big the finished quilt would be (you could work backwards, too). I emailed you the pattern that I made via all of this, but it should give you the link to do it too. Oh, and the ombre fabric is likely V & Co. ( which is basically my favorite fabric ever.

    Best of luck! I can't wait, and I also love that quilt up top, too!

  4. Oh, the picture to pattern site is:

    Bless those English people.

  5. Hi Courtney,
    My daughter sent me your blog as I am a quilter and she thought I might have some advice. I do. The friend who mentioned the fusible interfacing is on the right track - it's cheap and easy. You'll cut out your squares, lay them on the grid that's printed on the fusible interfacing, iron to activate the glue, and then fold and sew long seams in one direction and then the other - perfect corners are the result and you'll have plenty of time to "play" with your design before you iron. Some local fabric stores carry the gridded fusible or you order it online from QuiltSmart (I'm not affiliated with them)- they have the grids available for $4.25 a yard in a variety of sizes (even some on point). Here's a link to the 2" size that might work well for your charm squares: Good luck to you! Keep Quilting!

    1. YES! I think I'm going to try that! Thanks for the info!