Saturday, September 5, 2015

Another String Improv Quilt: Rail Fence

You probably realized there were {a few} extra string sheets from my previous quilt. Actually, there were enough to make an even larger quilt. Fortunately, that first one sparked several ideas for future quilts. String 1 reminds me of Chinese Coins with long bands of similar colors and all stripes pointing in the same direction. I want the stripes to point in both directions in String 2. What's an easy way to do that? Rail Fence.

Improv String RailFence

Although it's one of the most common string quilt designs, I'm sure recent examples nudged my consciousness. Sujata Shah has a delightful quilt along of her version of this pattern. I made one as a graduation present for my youngest.  Earlier this summer I saw Drew Steinbrecher's Line Study #4. Wow! Gloriously clear colors with stripes pointing in both directions... like a rail fence. Bill Volckening shows a rail fence from 1975 on this post. Plummer Pettway of Gee's Bend created this version she called Crazy Quilt documented by Auburn University. It's frequently listed as Roman Stripe but looks like rail fence to me.

First, I laid out most of the leftovers to get an idea of size. Sherri suggests this in her book, IHMQ, as a great way to determine approximate amounts of fabric. Many of these are already cut into pseudo-squares but some are still long sheets.

Leftovers from Improv String 1
Then I moved some sections. Basically a rail fence at this point. I want to experiment by varying block sizes more.

Beginning String 2
As usual, I started sewing sections together in rows from the top left. Wrong move. The quilt becomes columns. That worked for the previous quilt but not this time. Section lines can be hidden by building up several distinct areas. Sherri (Daintytime) mentions this in the Floating Squares score as does Amanda (Crazy Mom Quilts) in Scrap Vortex. So I went back and put some smaller pieces together, building larger and larger sections. Sometimes two small blocks join to one larger block.

The colors were becoming mushy as the section sizes increased. A lavender-and-white-stripe home decor fabric and three darker blues from the discarded set increased the value range. Some strata are too long; I plan to cut them. Others, I left whole. To mask long fillers, Sherri suggests strips pieced from multiple fabrics (IHMQ, p. 29.) Amanda uses a similar method to equalize larger blocks. Pre-sewing a few pieced, skinny, filler strips might keep me from adding overly long pieces. {Didn't I say that last time?} Where to find some...

Adding lavender and white stripe
The paper pieced remnant below was my first attempt at an inner border on the watermelon string quilt. It didn't work there and it doesn't work any better here. Oddly enough, the only place it has fit is the Round Robin quilt - cut into three parts.

Leftover paper piecing as a possible filler strip
Another dive into the scrap bag brought some string-pieced triangular crumbs. I made them a few months ago, thought they were ugly and tossed them in the bag. Not only do they fit here, they also are those pieced, skinny, filler strips needed to join larger sections.

Reworking the layout; adding pieced triangles
The final scrap of a sawtooth border print only works because of the other triangles and the added blues. It's on the right. Do you see it?

Sewing sections together
I love, love, love different stripes. Especially red. Some of my striped fabrics are printed along the warp, others along the weft. In both cases, I cut across the fabric width (weft-wise as it were.) It might have been better to cut across the stripe whichever way it fell. Something to consider.

Kaja's post this week suggests starting an improv quilt with a single shape. What are your fabrics suggesting to you?

Enjoy the day,

24 comments:

  1. This is a great quilt, Ann. It is interesting to read how you made your choices as you went along and I love how it has turned out. I especially like: the different sized squares, the mix of fabrics, the colours, the addition of little filler bits. I think the whole thing is really successful.

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    1. Thanks, Kaja. These two quilts came together very quickly once the string sheets were made. I wanted different sized squares but wasn't sure how they'd turn out. And it was a real surprise to find the fillers in my scrap bag; they appeared when I dumped the whole bag out.

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  2. Looks so good, thanks for sharing your process thoughts. You have some good contrast going.

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    1. Thanks, Janie. It's so interesting to me to read what people think about when they make a quilt. Perhaps because it helps me recognize decision points in the process.

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    1. Thanks, LeeAnna. It went together so fast... because most of the sections were already sewed. :-)

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  4. Love this!!! A scrappy, strippy delight and so good to read how the quilt evolved.

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    1. Thanks, Maureen. I like to read how other people figured their quilts out, too.

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  5. Your quilt is beautiful! I enjoyed reading the process and those little triangles were great addition to the composition.

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    1. Thanks, Sujata. It's interesting to use the same fabrics as the previous quilt - after all, they are the leftovers. I wasn't sure about the triangles so it's good to know your opinion.

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  6. Ann, I love how this quilt is progressing and love all the colors! The parts I think that give it zip are the areas with unexpected surprises, like your saw tooth border and square in a square strips. And the red, wow do I love the effect the red has! Thank you for explaining more about how you break up the columns. That will be something I struggle with in AHIQ. I'm very regimented in my quilting.

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    1. Thanks, Lara. You always have something thoughtful to say. It's interesting to try these techniques. I love reading Kaja's blog; she has much more experience with improv and had definitely developed her style. Working through this I realize how regimented I've become. Time to learn some new tricks.

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  7. So much fun! The improv half square triangles also add a pop of whimsy and fun. Can't wait to see the finished top!

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    1. Thanks, Mel. It is lots of fun but hard to let go of the planning.

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  8. So interesting to read your process. I agree working in big shapes rather than rows is a good idea. And I really appreciate all the links. I clicked over to all of them! Great stuff Ann.

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    1. Thanks, Teresa. Shapes versus rows was a good realization for me. Funny how "the light bulb" finally turns on. I'm glad you liked the links. There are so many quilts to admire.

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  9. What a dramatic effect. Piecing all those strips seems like such a lot of work but the results are worth it!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. They did seem like a lot of work at first. But it was bunches of fun to play with them.

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  10. Ann I thought I'd left a comment, but see I must have got lost amongst all the wonderful links you gave! This is a wonderful quilt, I love the colours and movement you've got going - and those mini saw-teeth are inspired!

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    1. Hi, Stephie. Thanks for the compliments. I enjoy comparing these two string quilts - mostly the same fabrics but quite different looks. Hmm. It is fun to have a scrap bag to pull little oddities from.

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  11. This string quilt is so much fun! The red and white stripes stand out strongly to me and add quite a lot to the quilt.

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    1. Thanks for writing, Nancy. I must remember to use more stripes; they were fun.

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    1. Thanks, Anita. It was fun to make.

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I enjoy reading your comments and usually reply here where everyone can read and join in. We have some great conversations.