Filling in the Gaps



This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here. The link below takes you to the Cat Notquilt project.

I have sewn on a lot of the interstitial pieces. Adding plenty of solid green filler should allow me to eke out the green kittens and the dark cat heads to the edges. I won’t have very much of either fabric left when this project is finished.

Quilt Cat 003

It is amazing how much waste you end up with by rough-cutting patches and adding their seam allowances. If you did a straight one-for-one comparison of open territory to fashion fabric, there would have been enough square yardage of green kittens and dark green cat heads to cover the original fabric, although maybe not to the edges.

But things rarely match up in the real world. It’s like making cookies: No matter what you do, you never bake the same number of cookies that the recipe promises. It is always less.

The same thing is true of recipes that say you “should” be able to produce that food (along with the rest of the meal) in a set amount of time. It always takes longer. But I digress.

What happened in the last few weeks is that I didn’t have enough of any one type of green scrap in the stash. I have three shades of a very similar green fabric. Fortunately, I like the effect.

I discovered while sewing that I don’t have enough of those three greens to do ALL the interstitials between the green kittens and the cat head fabric.

cat notquilt

Hunting for Green

So back to the stash. There was a very nice similar light toned yellow green, but it proved to be too sheer. Also, it looked terrible when placed over the dull-rose background.

There was a nice weight of green fabric that was too olive and brown. I had actually cut, ironed, and pinned a piece of this in place. Every time I looked at the cat NotQuilt (while I continued adding more pinned green rectangles) this one lone piece kept catching my eye. It bothered me so much that I unpinned it and sent it back to the stash.

I settled on a grass-green fabric. It is a little darker than I would like, but I have a lot of it. Also, it will tie in the dark green percale that will be used for the binding.

I can see that the outermost edges of this NotQuilt will be filled in with solid-green rectangles connecting the solid binding to the busy patching. I won’t have enough green kittens or cat heads to sew much of them in this area.

It may look okay when the project is finished. The solid rectangles going around the edges will act as a narrow border, ranging in width from an inch to 6 inches or more.

I still have seven or eight spots that HAVE to be filled in next as they are where two of my three fabrics touch. That means that the joining piece must be a third fabric, whichever one it may be.

A Rant About Design

As I wrote earlier, this kind of designing is an organic process. I lay out the NotQuilt on the floor and stare at it, and the NotQuilt tells me what to do next. It sounds like a risky way to create. What if it goes wrong? What if I hate it?

But turn that fear on its head and ask: So what? What’s the worse thing that will happen? Answer: You finish it and never show it to anyone; doctors bury their mistakes, cooks eat theirs, sewers stash theirs. Or you disassemble it and try a new approach.

But the rewards can be substantial. Taking risks in design allow for new ideas to arise spontaneously. It opens new avenues of creative thought. It can create beauty out of uncertainty. Isn’t that worth the gamble?

Filling in the Patches

When these patches are cut, pinned, and sewn, they will determine the next batch of patches as I can’t have two identical pieces of cloth touching. This will let me progress across the top of the NotQuilt, one section at a time until all the filled parts touch. When I’m finished, there won’t be any more dull rose showing.

As I slowly fill in the background, I am also alternating my four greens: the three similar (but not identical) yellowy greens and the grass green. I don’t want any one of them to bunch up together and make a heavy-looking spot on the quilt. I have to be especially careful with the grass green; it is several tones darker than the other three greens.

You will notice several very long strips of solid green, extending from the outermost edge towards the middle. The layout of the existing pieces seemed to demand this connection between the binding and the center. A few more of these long strips will be covering up the remaining long corridors of dull rose.

But not before I made a discovery: they stretch. A lot.

Stretching and Cursing

Despite a million pins and the walking foot, these long strips of cloth did not behave. The reason is that they were cut on the bias, probably for bias tape. They would have been even more resistant to being sewn down if I didn’t have the walking foot to force them into submission.

Sewn into submission

Sewn into submission

The stretching was only one problem; they also rebelled having their edges turned under and ironed down, something that the strips cut on the grain did not do. Fortunately, being sewn down forced the bias strips into submission. I hope that the long bias strips will tolerate being washed regularly.

I never used such long bias edges in NotQuilts, and I will try to avoid them in the future.

This is where we stand; slowly sewing down a mix of kitten heads, cat heads and four shades of solid green. The final look of this NotQuilt is starting to take shape.