Notquilt Design: Flamingos and Eyeballs



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 Balloon Notquilt project.

We’re nearing the homestretch. As I’m filling in the NotQuilt design, a problem came up regarding fabric orientation that needed solving.

notquilt design eyeballs

This will be explained below. I promise.

By this time, I have finished sewing all around the edges, both the inner and the outer border. The pictures show the slow progression of filling in the sides. The corners are where it gets interesting.

notquilt design corners

The challenge: Fill in the four corners.

I started filling in each corner with the dark blue umbrella fabric, sewing in a vertical strip alongside the blue-sky balloons. Then on the next pinning pass, I added the rainbows on blue, taking care to keep them horizontal. Some of the blue rainbow strips had to be pieced, as of course I did not have enough fabric to sew down a continuous strip.

As always, I keep all of my fabric oriented up and down. It really bothers me to see a motif that is upside down, so I take care to not sew any patches that way. It looks neater that way, more planned and less chaotic.

This method does come with two drawbacks. The first, more obvious one is that I waste more fabric. If I have a long skinny strip that has a clearly defined right to left design, I cannot use this strip vertically; not without cutting it up into small squares and sewing the squares into a horizontal strip. This procedure uses up a lot of time as well as fabric wasted in all of those seams.

The other drawback is more subtle. My NotQuilts all have a clear orientation. If the NotQuilt has a shaped bottom edge, like the balloon NotQuilt, its curved edge should be hanging off the end of the bed. It won’t ever be put onto the bed with the curved edge at the head of the bed.

But if my NotQuilt is a rectangle or a square, with no defined bottom, then the NotQuilt could go onto a bed in either direction; that is, the top could be laid up at the head of the bed or at the foot of the bed. Alternatively, if the NotQuilt is a square, any one of the four sides could be used at the head of the bed.

Why should that matter? Because doing this equalizes wear and fading. If a NotQuilt is always put onto the bed the same way, then the wear and tear of everyday life will show in certain, routine places. At the top, where you put your hands. At the bottom edge, where the NotQuilt is close enough to the floor so the dog sleeps on it. Where the NotQuilt rubs up against a piece of furniture or the wall.

When the NotQuilt is on the bed and the sun always comes in at the same angle, that side will fade and the other side, in shadow, will not.

A square or rectangular NotQuilt can be rotated, equalizing wear and fading if the fabric motifs are cut and sewed on at random. If all the patches are sewn so they all go the same way, then it looks wrong when the NotQuilt is on the bed in the other orientation. It looks upside down.

This may not matter to you. It does to me. I live with the fact that my NotQuilts may not wear evenly because I choose to arrange my fabric patches so they all go right side up.

If the NotQuilt has a shaped edge, then it will always go on the bed the same way. The shape demands it. In that case, you may as well arrange your fabric patches right-side up, as the NotQuilt will never be used any other way.

As I said, insisting on a certain orientation uses up more fabric, sometimes quite a bit more. I have fabric to spare, but you may not, so you may choose to cut out your fabric patches as economically as possible. These are made as utility bedding after all.

Flamingos Followed by Eyeballs

Back to the border. After I sewed down the rainbows, the next pass included the flamingos. The last pass was the eyeballs. That left me with a space at each corner, much larger at the top than at the bottom, which were affected by the shaped edge.

What to do, what to do. I did not want to continue basket weaving the strips, first a vertical and then a horizontal patch. The top two corners would not coordinate well with the bottom two corners if I went much further.

I laid the NotQuilt on the floor and stared at it until the answer appeared. I am using balloons against the blue sky as the two dividing frames. I am using flying things as a theme throughout. Why don’t I just use more blue balloons against the sky? That is what I did. I cut out squares of the remaining blue-sky fabric, taking care to center a balloon in each patch. I even went so far as to make each patch contain a different balloon. I was not crazy enough to arrange the balloons like the original fabric orientation. I just picked the four biggest balloons and went from there.

balloon notquilt design

One of the finished corners.

Doing this filled in all four corners very nicely, and they tie into the overall theme of things that fly in the sky. The patches also blend in nicely with the two frames.

I also filled in the gaps in the inner border where my rectangles didn’t span the space between the inner and outer borders. There were only two, and I chose the eyeball fabric to fill them. At a distance, this fabric blends in pretty well. The background is blue and the motif reads as circles (or balloons) from a distance. If you look closer, you might think insects, which do fly. You have to get pretty close to realize it is a pattern of all kinds of comic strip eyeballs.

Younger Son chose this fabric for summer pajamas, and I had never found a use for the leftover scraps. It works pretty well here.

I have added a little more to the center medallion. I am starting to frame the random bits I had sewn down earlier with the blue butterfly mosaic and more of the eyeballs.

I have not decided yet if I will use any of the navy blue marble percale or if I will use any solid blue. I just don’t know. What I do not want to do is sew something down that I dislike as then I would have to rip it out.

On the other hand, this is a utility quilt. Maybe I am over-thinking this.