Welcome guest blogger, quilting teacher, and scrap quilter extraordinaire Lynn Roddy Brown! Lynn‘s new full size quilt pattern, Scrap Baskets, is in the January/February 2017 issue of McCall’s Quilting magazine.
I have been making scrap quilts for about twenty-five years. I love them because they let me play with so many fabrics in fun and exciting ways. In many quilts the pattern is created by differences in color. In a scrap quilt using a large variety of fabrics, value becomes more important in defining the pattern.
So what is value? Value is the relative darkness or lightness of a color. Blue can be anywhere from a very light pastel to a dark navy. If very light blue patches are sewn together with very dark blue patches a clear pattern is formed. If the blues are very close in value, the pattern will be less clear, especially from a distance.
Visual texture is created when there are several different values within a patch. Plaids, stripes and polka dots are all examples of visual texture. Fabrics with texture add movement to a quilt. I always use a lot of visual texture in my quilts.
I belong to a group that trades blocks for scrap quilts. I also have leftover blocks from multiple other projects. For this reason my design process often starts by playing with blocks on my design wall. Both the basket and bowl blocks in “Scrap Baskets” came from trades. When I start designing I have no idea what the end result will be.
I began with four basket blocks arranged as shown. I liked the arrangement especially when the differences in background values came together to make an hourglass.
I wanted to use the bowl blocks. I arranged eight of them around the center group of four baskets. The design seemed too cluttered and busy.
The solution I chose was to use a favorite basket block on-point for the center. If I used the bowl blocks as a frame, the center needed to finish 16” square. I chose a medium green for the setting triangles. This provided a strong contrast in value with the light background of the basket. Since the basket pieces are very dark this gave me three distinct values in the quilt center. I cut the setting triangles oversize and trimmed the block to 12 ½” square. I used a beige/tan stripe as a frame. I often use stripes for borders in scrap quilts. The alternating values help draw a clear line. The half-square triangles used in the corners of the frame were an after thought that served two purposes. They solved the problem of what to do if the stripes had met in the corners and they helped create a continuous line with the bowl blocks.
I still wanted to use the groups of four basket blocks (the original center). I added four sets to the corners. This left 8” x 16” gaps in my design. I decided to repeat the diagonal angles created by the on-point basket and bowl blocks. To do this I dug into my floral stash. I chose only those fabrics that had very dark backgrounds and very little white in the flowers. The contrast in value between the very dark florals and the light backgrounds of basket and bowl blocks gave clear definition to the block shapes. I pieced a diagonal line into some of the floral half-square triangle units to help create a clear line. As I rotated the groups of four basket blocks on the design wall I decided I liked the very lightest backgrounds turned toward the center. This seemed to make the center glow.
At this point I tried to put a border on the quilt but I could not make it work. So after sitting in my chair, drinking tea, looking at my design wall and trying many different options I added two more rows of blocks (8” total) all the way around and then finally two more rows of blocks on all four sides. The black corners seemed too empty. I filled them with the gray basket blocks. At this point my design wall was full so I said the quilt was finished. I can imagine the quilt being larger with groups of four gray baskets on the corners but it was time for me to stop.
If you study the following close up photos you will see what I mean when I use the term “visual texture”. There are stripes, plaids, polka dots and vines. Within each area (black, cream, tan and floral) there are slightly different values but they all contrast with the other areas. If fabrics are so close that they appear to be the same from a distance you might as well use one fabric.
The Scrap Baskets quilt pattern is also available separately as an instant digital download.