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.
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.
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.
Then I decided to try something monochromatic.
Then I went with something more high contrast and modern.
Finally, I realized that since I am thinking of this quilt as a celebration of Solstice, maybe I should embrace 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then I considered echoing the shapes of the trees.
Then I started thinking about doing some free motion 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!
Title: Solstice Trees
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!