17 Dec 2016
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 end of the NotQuilt sewing process. I have been busily sewing down the center medallion. When I started this NotQuilt, I had a few very oddly shaped scraps of paisley and the two butterfly-themed fabrics, also oddly shaped. I sewed them down, scattering them across the space, along with the “teddy bears wearing bumblebee suits” patch. I did not plan the layout of these patches, nor did I think about how hard it would be to fill in around them. I might as well have thrown them down into the center medallion at random.
It wasn’t quite random as I did try to space them out so that any two pieces did not end up side by side.
This caused problems once I got serious about the medallion. It had been waiting so patiently, an empty field of white, and I just could not think of what else to do. All of those white spaces were so awkwardly shaped, with no clean, straight sides. Sewing down those scraps made the final fill-in harder than it should have been.
I dug around in the scrap fabric to see what I had left. I did not want to introduce any new fabrics. This NotQuilt is busy enough as it is.
I started with a large piece of the pink flamingo fabric and pinned a large patch down as close to the center as I could get. This fabric looks better if it is cut large enough to see the design and it is very pink. For the same reason, I sewed down a large patch of the floral fairies off to the side.
Then I had a break-through. I had been idly digging around the chosen scrap pile, looking at the various bits that were left. Didn’t like the gray with flags, and I had plenty of it, too. I did not want to use the large motif fabric, the flamingos and the flower fairies. They were too bright and didn’t seem to play well with the other scraps. Besides, the paisley I had already used was plenty bright enough.
What I did have left, and plenty of it, was the blue mosaic of flowers and butterflies, the eyeballs, and the blue-green feathers. I started filling in around the edges of the medallion with the blue mosaic and the eyeballs. Then I added the blue-green feathers to fill in the gaps.
I would pin a few, oddly shaped patches down, study it, and if it seemed to work, I sewed them down. As I added the other fabrics — the gray flags, the palest blue butterfly wings and others — I filled in the odd-shaped gaps with my three chosen fabrics.
This is similar to what I did with the Cat NotQuilt. I had all that cat-themed fabric, separated by green kittens, darker green catheads, and plenty of solid greens in different shades to keep them all apart. Like that, I did not let my eyeball, mosaic, or feather fabric touch. I used them as spacers.
You will notice that the patches are much smaller than what I had been sewing down previously. This means sewing little bits of fabric gets harder and harder. This is especially true in the center medallion, as I have to move all that heavy weight around every time I turn a corner on a patch.Wrestling the NotQuilt around in the sewing machine is the hardest part, physically, of sewing the thing together. The closer to the center you are working, the more thick layers have to be shoved through the small space between the sewing machine needle and the inner side of the machine.
As you work, you have to keep readjusting the NotQuilt so it lays flat. This makes it easier to wrench it around and makes it less likely that you stab yourself with pins. The little devils lay in wait, ready to ambush your hands.
For both of these reasons, as the NotQuilt center fills up, I pin many fewer patches at a time. When I sewed down the inner and outer border rectangles, I might have as many as 20 patches pinned and waiting. In the center, I try not to pin and sew more than four or five.It becomes tedious, moving from the ironing board, where I pin, and back to the sewing machine to sew down a few patches, but I can’t do it any other way. The patches are so much smaller and so much closer together that it becomes dangerous for my hands. Fortunately, I did not get any blood on the NotQuilt from all the pinpricks.
As the patches get smaller and closer together, the pins in one patch begin to interfere with the sewing of a patch near it. The walking foot is much larger than a standard presser foot, so I can’t pin two patches too close together. I learned I need at least an inch of space around a patch to make the sewing machine happy. More is better.Nevertheless, the center medallion is filled. It has a very crazy look to it, a jumble of shapes in every shade of blue, enlivened with plenty of not-blue. My dear husband thought it looked hypnotic. I can live with that. It is certainly better than “boy does that look random.”
The next step will be the binding. I have given a lot of thought to how I am going to handle the curved lower edges and I think I have the solution. We will find out, as the proof will be in the sewing.