Designing the NotQuilt Dragon Princess

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This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

We start with our blue blanket. The measurements I listed previously were 100 by 110 inches square, a sizable blanket. Then I laid it out on the floor and measured much more carefully.

It turns out that the blue blanket does not have straight sides. The edges are wavy and stretched out. If I measure at the center of each side to the opposite side, very carefully, I get a much smaller blanket: 94 inches by 98 inches, a difference of almost a foot. The wavy, rippled edges deceived me. This is probably a factor of the age of the blanket and how it was made. Or maybe the edges stretched over several washings.

I will have to deal with those rippled edges, but not yet. The first step was to rip off the cheap acetate binding that enclosed one side. There is no reason to keep this kind of binding in place. It adds bulk and can be hard to sew through, so off it goes.

The second step was to decide what to do with the fashion face. I wanted to use Dragon Princess on the front and the back. I bought it years ago, a bright medium pink material with gold embossed dragons and blonde anime maidens scattered across it. It has a very large repeat, it has a definite up and down orientation, and it will look weird cut up into little bits.

I want to use up as much of this fabric as I can, as part of my long-range plan to empty the stash. I cannot buy more fabric until my entire stash fits into the closet.

designing the notquilt sewing

This doesn’t include the six fabric chests in the closet.

Like a lot of sewers, I used to buy beautiful cloth on spec, knowing I would use it up someday. I also tended to buy extra to compensate for shrinkage and mistakes.

I always say yes to cloth, especially if it is free. Much of my stash showed up that way. Back in South Carolina, the lady across the street was a professional seamstress. One day, she cleaned house and threw away a pile of cloth the size of a washing machine. I took it all home.

Years later, I added to it trash bags full of quilting fabric by my sister-in-law’s mother when she divested. Then there was the pickup truck-load — you read that right — when my best friend’s mother passed. Florence never threw anything out, and she had inherited her sister and her own mother’s stashes.

On top of that, another pile from my best friend’s mother-in-law when she passed. Then there were the pieces I picked up from trash heaps when I walked my dog.

It adds up over time.

It also left me with loads of cloth, I would have never paid actual money for.

Back to the Design

Dragon Princess’s motif will drive the plan for the fashion face so I have to think carefully about how I want the finished product to look. I can’t just cut up the cloth as it will look weird, off-puttingly weird in some places, when you see a bit of a Dragon Princess’s bare feet.

I wanted to keep the motif relatively intact. What is the point of having a huge repeat if you cut it up? I hit on the idea of an overall pattern of criss-crossing bars, both horizontal and vertical. The bars will form a grid and each square of the grid will be filled with my signature irregular rectangles of coordinating scrap.

So I drew some pictures in the notebook. If Dragon Princess was torn into six long strips, each 7 inches wide, I could make a set of vertical framing bars on the fashion face. These bars could be subdivided into squares by tearing more of the fabric into 7-inch wide horizontal strips.

If I separate the strips by 9 inches, I will get a set of boxes across the fashion face. For the sake of symmetry, I need to have an odd number of boxes both horizontal and vertical. This will leave a very narrow area for the border.

Would it work? I couldn’t come up with a testing solution that didn’t involve hours of work and practice quilts. I am not making a muslin for a utility quilt.

Ironing and Cutting

I ironed the nine yards of Dragon Princess while I thought this over. Always iron your fabric before you start as once it is sewn down, those wrinkles will be there forever. This is especially true of large swaths of fabric covering the back of the NotQuilt.

After I recovered from all that ironing, I measured out the approximate length of fabric I needed (I hope I measured correctly but we will see) and tore it apart into vertical strips. Then I tore the horizontal strips. I had to tear two extra horizontal strips as I know already, if my calculations are correct, the width of the Dragon Princess fabric will not be wide enough to extend all the way across.

For a long, long time, fabric companies made their fabric in 45-inch widths. Over the last few years, yardage has gotten narrower. There would be some shrinkage when you washed the yardage, but usually not much. That seems to be changing too and not for the better. Dragon Princess started out at 44 inches and it shrank down to 42 inches in width. I have no idea how much length I lost.

This is why I always buy extra fabric over and above what the pattern says. It is much easier to buy an extra half-yard of cloth rather than run short, go back to buy more and discover that somebody else bought the rest of the bolt.

While rooting around in the stash, I also found some darker pink with butterflies for the binding. It will coordinate nicely, and I have enough of it to go all the way around.

I tore the butterfly fabric into binding strips 7 inches wide. The remainder will appear in each of the boxes in the grid.

The regular boxes, framed by strips of Dragon Princess both horizontal and vertical, should make this NotQuilt look traditional; other than my outrageous color choices, that is. Almost like Roman stripes, you might say.

The next step is to sew on the backing with what remains of Dragon Princess. Of course, there is not enough fabric left to cover the entire blue blanket so we will have to piece out the bare spots. We’ll talk about that next week.