I didn't exactly hit the ground running when I turned the calendar page to 2013 ~ the best laid plans and all that ~ but over the last few days things seem to be falling into place and I've finished the center block for my basket quilt, finally. I'm very happy with it and think it's going to work as I had envisioned.
When I decided several weeks ago that I might like to break up the field of small basket blocks with an appliqué block, I went to my stack of pages of favorite antique quilts from my old Quilt Engagement Calendars. This was the sheet I paused at...that bird block jumped right out at me. I mentioned previously that quite coincidentally, I had tracing of the blocks from this quilt, a generous gift from two friends, tucked away on a bookshelf in my sewing room.
When I unfolded this block's tissue tracing, I measured it to find the blocks were originally 18" square. Since my basket blocks are 4" finished, I wanted a 16" block so I scanned each quarter of the design, reduced them and printed them out on computer paper. Before printing, I also flipped the orientation of the design so that visually it 'leaned' in the same direction as I planned to set my basket blocks. Then I taped the 4 sections together.
Because I use a light box to trace my design onto my background fabric, I wanted a more transparent pattern to I traced the 4-section pattern onto a piece of tissue paper, which I then used as my reference pattern, marking circles sizes on the berries and numbering leaves and blossoms for reference as I made individual pattern pieces.
The appliqué went pretty quickly. How one approaches sewing little circles is often a topic of inquiry among quilters. Although I've prepped them over little templates on some past projects, I've decided that especially on these designs that draw from antique quilts designs, I prefer to stitch my little berries freehand, needle-turned, using a very scant seam allowance to turn under. I think it looks a bit more organic. I didn't want to use any black fabric in the berries, but it looked too washed out without them so I replaced several green ones with black.
Last was the floss choice. I love the look of #8 perle cotton, but was able to find a more compatible green in DMC embroidery floss so went with that. Using three strands and a #7 Bohin embroidery needle, I used a traditional stem stitch, which worked out beautifully. (Probably why it's called stem stitch. Heh.)
I think I'll assemble this center section, baskets and bird block, before I decide on the border design. I have two distinct and different ideas to play with, but I'm determined not to let this project get derailed while I decide. That's my mantra for the new year ~ power through, finish it up and on to the next one!
We'll see how that works out.