Solstice Mini Quilt

I always get excited for Winter Solstice.  The last few weeks have been particularly dreary, and that coupled with the short amount of daylight everyday has made it feel like it is perpetually either dusk or night.  But solstice means we have made it to the shortest day of the year, and for the next six months we will have more daylight every day.  I felt like doing a little something to celebrate, so I designed this mini quilt.

Winter Solstice Quilt

Winter Solstice Quilt

I decided to feature evergreens since they are about the only sign of plant life this time of year in the midwestern US.  I also wanted to embrace modern shapes, and lately I have been thinking of doing something with a “Flying Geese” motif.  After some very rough sketches, I sat down to draft and eventually landed on this design.  The flying geese are paper pieced in wedges, with each triangle growing smaller as it reaches the top of the tree.  The Wedges are then joined with the background pieces to construct the overall pattern for the design.

Solstice Trees Line Drawing

Solstice Trees Line Drawing

Once the line drawing was done, I moved to color options.  I started with a standard landscape color scheme with green trees and blue sky, but quickly abandoned it.

Solstice Mini Quilt with "Standard" Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt with “Standard” Color Scheme

Then I decided to try something monochromatic.

Solstice Mini Quilt in a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt in a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Then I went with something more high contrast and modern.

Solstice Mini Quilt in High contrast Modern Color Scheme

Solstice Mini Quilt in High contrast Modern Color Scheme

Finally, I realized that since I am thinking of this quilt as a celebration of Solstice, maybe I should embrace a dark background.

Solstice Mini Quilt with a Dark Background

Solstice Mini Quilt with a Dark Background

This is where I was wanting to go with project.  With a general color scheme decided, I went to raid the stash.  I had quite a few low volume prints and batiks in pale greys and blues, but the darker fabric proved more challenging.  In an effort to decrease her stash, my mom had given me pretty much free reign in her collection.  That is where I came across this fabulous piece of Hoffman woodblock print.  The photographs just don’t do this fabric justice- the color variation is delightfully subtle with a wide range of hues that played nicely with the low volume fabrics for the trees.

Solstice Quilt Fabric Selection

Solstice Quilt Fabric Selection

The block design for this quilt is about 18″ so I printed it out over several sheets of paper, taped them together, and cut out the pattern pieces.

Solstice Mini Quilt Paper Pattern Pieces

Solstice Mini Quilt Paper Pattern Pieces

I paper pieced the tree wedges and laid them out with the background pieces so I could keep all of the pieces in their appropriate orientations.

Solstice Mini Quilt with "Tree" wedges assembled

Solstice Mini Quilt with “Tree” wedges assembled

I assemble the quilt top by first joining each tree to the background piece to its right, and then sewing all of those pieces together.

Solstice Mini Quilt Top

Solstice Mini Quilt Top

I almost went with a single piece of fabric for the back of the quilt, but decided at the last minute to mix it up just a little bit.  I decided to echo the idea of the evergreen tree on the back of the quilt as well.  I cut unequally sized triangles from some of the low volume fabrics used on the front, and stitched them together to form a larger triangle.  Once this was inserted into the quilt back, it creates another version of an abstract evergreen tree.

Solstice Quilt Back View

Solstice Quilt Back View

The quilting design proved to be more of a challenge.  Since I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, I printed off a few copies of my line drawings and started sketching some of my ideas.  At first I thought about doing straight horizontal lines.

Horizontal Quilting Design

Horizontal Quilting Design

Then I considered echoing the shapes of the trees.

Echo Quilting Design

Echo Quilting Design

Then I started thinking about doing some free motion designs.

Freemotion Quilting Designs

Free-motion Quilting Designs

Free-motion quilting is one of my great weaknesses, so I was a little hesitant.  I have only ever experimented using scraps of fabric and batting, so this was the first time for doing any of this type of work on something “real.”  Of all my possible quilting designs, I liked the swoops in the trees and the circles on lines in the background the best.  I took a chance on free-motion, and I think the swoops in the triangle of the trees and the wavy lines in the snow are coming close to being ok.  However, I wish I had practiced a lot more on quilting circles before attempting the background design.  I almost ripped it out to try again, but I decided to leave it.  I think I’ll keep this quilt as-is to serve as a “base line” piece.  In the coming year, one of my major goals is to improve my free-motion quilting, so hopefully I can come back to this quilt in a year and marvel at my improvement.  We all have to start somewhere!

Winter Solstice Quilt

Winter Solstice Quilt

Quilt Stats

Title:  Solstice Trees

Size:  17.5″x17.5″

Techniques:  Paper Piecing, Standard Piecing

Quilting:  Machine Free-Motion Quilting on a Bernina 1008

Fabrics:  Background-Hoffman woodblock print,  Trees and Ground- low volume prints and batiks

Batting: Warm and White cotton batting

Thread:  Pieced with Gutermann Mara 100 in grey, Quilted with cotton machine quilting thread in white and navy

Binding: Bias made from the background fabric- cut at 2″, machine stitched to the front, hand stitched on the back

What would I do differently?  Oh my goodness do I ever need to work on free-motion quilting!  Otherwise, I think this quilt would look great with the background also quilted in white, just like the trees.  I think it would look like snow falling amongst the trees.  I also may have left the background a single fabric- I wasn’t happy with the dark thread on the white tree shape.  However, I really liked how the white quilting showed on the back of the quilt.

Have a happy Solstice!


I am linking this post to Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Show off Saturday at Sew Can She, and A Very Merry Happy Holiday Linky Party at Quiltville’s Quips & Snips.  Please stop by to see all of the beautiful work everyone is producing!

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23 thoughts on “Solstice Mini Quilt

  1. Claire says:

    Having just come from a Solstice Chorus Concert, plus the actual day, I’m in the mood to see a Solstice quilt. 🙂 I think keeping a baseline piece is a good idea. It’s a hard leap from practice to real FMQ! I’m at that transition myself.

  2. I really enjoyed seeing your processes, Cassandra. And I think your mini quilt turned out spectacular! What program do you use to make your drawings for the paper piecing designs? I am not a paper piecer, but I do admire the work of others. And I love your triangle tree design! So proud of you for just jumping in and doing the fmq. I think it turned out lovely. You are so right to think of it as a learning experience and envision how you will improve. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas! And looking forward to getting to know you in the coming New Year. 2015 is going to be awesome!!!

  3. Joy says:

    I’ve come over from Sew Fresh Quilts.
    I like the format of your blog. Not many others use this format of explaining how you got to your end result. It’s really helpful to see the process others use to develop their creations. I hope you continue in this fashion. I’m signing up to follow you. Love your quilts!

  4. Laney says:

    Love this little quilt! I have been thinking of making a table runner in blue and white for winter so I enjoyed seeing your color scheme. That background fabric is PERFECT! I really enjoyed seeing your process, too, so thanks for sharing all of that. I’m with you on the FMQ – need to practice.
    Happy Holidays to you!

  5. JanineMarie says:

    This quilt is such a bright spot in such a dark month. (I live in the midwest, too, and it’s has been sooo dark. In fact, today it is raining.) I love both the front and back of your quilt, and I think your FMQ is just fine. Thanks for sharing how you decided each step. It’s wonderful that there are so many options when designing a quilt, but challenging for an indecisive person like myself. Maybe that’s why some quilters do a series of quilts. Anyway, it’s always inspirational to see pictures of the process.

  6. tonia conner says:

    I love everything about the finished quilt. I really like the FMQ design. I haven’t had the courage to try yet. I too like the way you laid out your process for this mini quilt. I’m also now following you. Thank for sharing.

  7. LynneP says:

    What a WONDERFUl little quilt! I think your fabric choices were spot on as were your quilting designs. Thanks for the tutorial.

  8. Rosemary says:

    That is absolutely gorgeous! I love reading how you put your design together. A few years ago, I took a picture of a row of different, lopsided mailboxes along a country road that I loved. The plan was to make a quilt design using that picture as a base. Stymied by it but your process would work … if I can do it (not sure if I could but …). Congratulations on a lovely, calming quilt.

  9. I love your mini quilt, it is so beautiful and creative. Thanks for sharing the pattern. I firt thought the back was a variation. It is as beautiful too!!! Compliments and a very Happy New Year.

  10. Jeanne Jones says:

    Our wedding anniversary is Decenber 21st. I would love to make your lovely wall hanging. Will you be selling your pattern?

    By the way, we celebrated 51 years.

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