I initially wrote this post and started out with a big long story about how this quilt came to be. I know you all really want to see pictures though, so I’m throwing them in first and if you’re interested you can stick around to read about the process. This is my finished KING size quilt top for the Tula Pink Sew Along…
Tula Pink Birds and the Bees Dream Weaver Stats:
Fabric: The Birds and the Bees by Tula Pink
Kona Parchment for the sashing
Finished Size: 104″ x 96″
Top Completed: November 2012
I made a few changes to the pattern, in both size and layout, while maintaining the feel of the original quilt. I also paid attention to a couple of special details. The things I love most about this quilt include the following.
Wider blocks show off the larger prints and the great details Tula Pink included in her prints. The full size squirrels throughout the quilt, make me especially happy.
I made sure all directional prints faced the same direction. I would have probably allowed my directional prints to be random if this was a throw, since it would be viewed from many different directions. But this was intended to be a bed quilt, so I wanted a definite up. Doing so ended up being a little harder than I had initially thought. Since I originally planned to have my quilt be 23 blocks wide, every other block using the same two fabrics would reverse whether the small strip was at the top or bottom. I had to construct each set of blocks two different ways and keep track of where each individual block was in the line-up while string piecing. Later when I had to reduce my quilt to 22 blocks wide, the reversals were unnecessary and I had to adjust my layout to accommodate them. I decided early in the process of making this quilt that my priorities would be how the quilt looked on the bed and consideration of value, over some of the other details in the pattern. I ended up with an unintentional alteration to the pattern due to my desire to keep these prints directional.
Not only did I keep directional prints facing the same, but I also made sure the top and bottom pieces (the ones cut from the same print), lined up with one another. This may seem like a small detail, but if you look closely at the orange and pink striped fabric you’ll see that if you were to take out the ladybug fabric the top and bottom pieces were once a continuous piece. This is especially striking with the swirled bird fabrics.
I maintained the color gradation in both the large pieces and small pieces, while also retaining the contrast of each individual block.
I kept value in mind throughout the construction of this quilt and decided it was more important than some of the other details. This might have been more effective if I hadn’t made any of the mistakes listed below, but I am happy with how value leads the eye across the quilt and makes it more dynamic. As does the Nebraska wind. Despite the best efforts of my trusty assistants, this is the best outside shot we could catch. They sure did have a good time trying and fortunately they held on tight! It does give you a bit of an idea of size.
And now, the story…
Last Spring, when I first became interested in quilting, I went to a local bookstore in search of a book to help me get started. There were many good introductory books, but often the fabrics used in the examples left me cold. I knew I could make them my own with different fabric choices, but I was really looking for something that would inspire me. Then I picked up The House of Tula Pink and my search was over. Not only were the sample quilts made with the most amazing fabrics (at the time I didn’t realize she had designed them too!), but the quilt designs had a freshness to them that I was looking for. From the beginning Dream Weaver was my favorite pattern. Not feeling confident enough to tackle one of her designs without doing something simpler first, I turned to the internet and discovered the online modern quilting community. I eagerly read posts about Quilt Market and drooled over all the new fabric lines with the rest of the internet. Not surprisingly The Birds and the Bees were one of my favorites. It was even more amazing when I saw it in person at my local quilt shop and I bought a half yard bundle with plans to make a Dream Weaver quilt.
Like many I was nervous to cut into my favorite prints and this fabric sat in my sewing cabinet for quite a while. Having sewed for such a short time, I didn’t want to mess it up. But when Sara at Sew Sweetness announced her Tula Pink Sew Along, I knew the time had come to get to it. The thing I love most about quilting is the process and all that delicious fabric wasn’t doing me a bit of good sitting on my shelf. By this time I had made five quilt tops, none complex… a twin stack and slash, two patchwork throws, and a wall hanging. Given my lack of quilting experience it would have made sense to follow the pattern in the book exactly. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wanted a king size quilt that utilized all 29 prints and had the colors flowing in a continuous line, rather than alternating directions each row (as shown in the book).
I have to admit I was stumped. Then I saw Sara’s Dream Weaver. She too used all 29 prints and had them flow from row to row in a continuous stream. While she stayed with the 20 block per row pattern, but I upped my to 23 per row (then reduced it to 22), in order to use each individual print as many times as possible. You’ll notice that the order I placed my main pieces in is very similar to hers, but the smaller pieces weaving through them are not. Sara very graciously answered my questions about the design decisions she made. In the pattern, you keep the order of the fabrics the same, but start with the last one when placing the small pieces. In doing so, the last fabric in line becomes the small piece in the first block and the first fabric in line becomes the small piece in the last block. If you lay it out like this with The Birds and the Bees fabrics, the center becomes a wash of green and you lose the great contrast seen in the quilt in the book. To retain some contrast Sara individually matched up the fabrics in each of the 29 repeated blocks, without retaining gradation. I decided to tackle it a bit differently. I wanted to retain the gradation, but instead of reversing their order, I shifted them to the right and placed them in the same order starting approximately 13 blocks down from the beginning of my row. It took a little tweaking to figure out how to place them to maximize contrast, make sure they were matched with a fabric that they looked good with and minimize the number of times the same print (though in a different colorway) landed together. Both the large pieces and the small inset ones cycle through a red, yellow, green, blue color order, they just start in different places, retaining the contrast between the warm and cool prints.
It will come as no surprise that there were problems along the way. I actually completed the quilt twice. Yeah.. Instead of detailing all of that here, I’ll share two big things I learned. First, if you’re making a quilt for a particular bed, actually test your measurements on that bed. Ours does not have a box spring which significantly changes the width. of the quilt. Second, when thinking about the layout of blocks, especially when it comes to value, take into consideration how it will be viewed on a daily basis. As I was laying out my quilt I was picturing it as if you would see the entire thing at once. When it is placed on the bed, the edges become much less important and how your eye moves through the middle section matters more. When I had to take the quilt a part to adjust the size, I also changed where in my gradation I started my quilt to adjust for this change in perspective. It’s still not perfect (I was locked into the order of the fabrics) but it’s much better than it was the first way. Both of these issues were clearly a result of my inexperience and the quilt might have been better if I’d waited to make it once I had been quilting longer. Then again, if I hadn’t made this quilt, I may never have come across an opportunity to learn these things. In the end, I love how it turned out and am quite proud of it. Here’s one more peek in the sunlight.
It will probably take quite a bit longer to get this quilt finished up. Because of it’s size I know I won’t be able to wrangle it through my home machine. I want it to be a light weight spring/summer quilt, so the plan is to save up for long-arm quilting with the goal of using it next year.