August 7, 2017

Using prints that are white with one other color

For a couple of years now, I've been buying fabric that is white with just one other color, in a range of "other colors"; the bin above shows much of it. I started out thinking that I would make simple nine-patch blocks with the fabrics alternating with white, and made up some sample blocks, but wasn't thrilled. I kept my eye open for other possibilities, and finally landed on this quilt by Kate Conklin that uses a variable-sized rectangles spaced with white.  I made up a sample with my fabrics, adding an occasional solid color to replace a white spacer.

Then, before I got going on this, I was looking for something to make into an applique project that I could easily carry around when travelling. Since most of the fabrics have dominant white background, I could precut a simple shape, baste it to a square, and only have to bring white thread with me, rather than trying to match all the colors.  I started with variations on a square shape, but didn't like any of these:

I switched to circles.  I cut up several dozen and brought them on a couple of trips.  I enjoyed the sewing, and I liked each circle individually, but when I put them all up on the design wall, I didn't like the overall look.

Here's a quilt of appliqued circles that I made about 12 years ago.  This one works because there's more unity across the circles.  

I could have tried limiting the fabrics (one with just black and white would be quite nice), but I wanted to find a way to use the range of colors.  I decided to cut the circles up into quarters, and mix things up so that different colors were in closer proximity to each other.  My first arrangement was to put four different fabrics into a new circle.  (A kind of pointy circle, because of the seam allowance taken up in the piecing.)

I liked this, but wanted to do something else to get movement across the design, rather than isolated circles.  Here's the next thing I tried:

I showed this to Mary Beth, and she suggested another variation that makes a more continuous chain, and that was the winning design!  I like the resulting quilt very much.  This is a baby quilt, 42" square.  

I sometimes used a solid color for the background, and sometimes I used the print as the background and white or a solid color as the arc.  The faint numbers you can see below are the chalk markings I made to insure that the order of blocks on my design wall didn't get lost as I sewed.  This is the only way I can trust that things won't go awry.

I used a gray striped fabric for the binding, influenced by Rita Hodge, who frequently uses a striped binding on scrappy quilts.  And for the back, I used a piece of yardage I've been saving.  I rarely buy more than a half-yard for fabric if I don't have a specific use in mind, but I so loved this gray fabric with little squares that I bought three yards of it some years ago.  Time to use it!

And now that this quilt is done, I've started arranging rectangles on the wall for a second quilt. A good friend's son is expecting twins in a month or so, and these quilts are being made for them.  I like the idea of using the same fabrics for the two quilts, but doing a different design for each.


  1. I absolutely love your idea of using the same fabrics for the twins' quilts, but doing a different design for each. I'm looking forward to seeing a picture of them together! And I love the striped binding: it gathers up all the activity in the quilt.

  2. Holy Cow!! Have you ever been busy. I liked most of your ideas but the point is for YOU to like your ideas. I love the quilt you made. I do a lot of circles using the "Drunkard's Path" pattern. They do come in small sizes. Being a "circle girl" I do love your finished quilt and the idea of using the same fabrics in a different pattern is so "twins" - the same but different.