02 June 2016

Blue Floral Nostalgia

Back in about 1996, I began trying to use up my blue floral scraps in a quilt. The collection had become vast because I make most of my own clothing, and at the time, I wore a dress to work almost every day. I had many blue floral dresses.

At the time, I was raising two adopted special needs kids by myself, so sewing time wasn't as plentiful as my blue floral scraps. Also, I didn't own a cutting mat, a rotary cutter and rulers/templates for another full decade. Back then, I drafted my blocks using a wooden 12-inch ruler and white typing paper from the recycling bin at work. Only a couple of quilt blocks got done back then, but the leftovers were nicely organized and ready if I ever had the time.

the first block

After both kids took permanent unauthorized field trips (they ran away), EVERYTHING I owned got boxed as I downsized and moved.

In 2004, I unknowingly injured my back and was forced to go through emergency surgery that wiped out any sewing machine time for more than two years because sitting was just too painful.

As I gradually recovered, gained strength and began organizing all my assorted WIPs (Works In Progress), including knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting and even writing, those blue scraps made it onto my quarterly Ravelry WIP challenge list, even though I wasn't sure I ever wanted to finish this project, code named "Blue Floral" for the past two years.

the second block

By the time I got serious about and pulled out the blue floral scraps again, many of the dresses I'd made 20 or more years ago had joined the scrap pile! Some of the blue floral scraps date back to my first sewing class back in high school. The fabric in two of the dresses was too thin in several places due to at least two decades of washing. I couldn't even save all the fabric.

Sorting through all those luscious blue florals reminded me how much I loved wearing them. The quilt blocks got put aside again, and I cut as much of the leftovers as I could into 2-, 2.5- and 3-inch strips, which I then crafted into a leftovers dress... still in my closet to this day, and still seeing regular wear! I was able to scrounge some of the thin fabric from one of my most favorite dresses (the black with blue, pink and purple flowers) for the bodice lining, and the pockets of another long-since scrapped dress were fondly recovered and installed in this new piece of art.

I LOVE the dress, but until the last couple of weeks, I still didn't know if I ever wanted to finish that really old quilt because the blocks were not the same size, and my quilting taste has changed quite a bit since 1996. At one point, I thought perhaps I could adopt out the orphan blocks and use up the blue floral scraps in a different project.

Then I read the Mighty Lucky Quilting Club challenge for May, "Building Blocks of Effective Contrast" by Amy Gibson, and, tremendously inspired, I immediately thought I could polish off this age-old WIP by incorporating a good contrast. I pulled out the project and discovered a third and a fourth block I'd cut pieces for somewhere along the way but never constructed. I whipped up the third block, Children of Israel, quickly because the pattern was pinned to the pieces.

The fourth block presented a bit of a challenge because I couldn't remember what the final block was supposed to look like, one piece was missing, and there was no pattern. I got to play a fabric version of the classic game "Puzzle" until the pieces fit together properly. Thankfully, I still had some scraps to cut a new triangle to replace the missing one.

Now I had four complete blocks, but they were all different sizes, from 11.5 to 13 inches across. I couldn't trim them down to match without losing elements of some blocks. Then an idea hit me. Why not use some of the leftover strips from the dress to bring the blocks all to the same size. They were varying widths, so this might work!

I decided perhaps I could retain the original scrappy intent of this quilt by NOT filling in big sampler holes with a bunch of solid contrast blocks if I made two more blocks, drafted the same way I'd done it 20 years ago, without using modern tools. I drafted two more blocks the old-fashioned way and felt very close to my grandmother, whom we lost in 1979, because this was the way she made quilts. Suddenly, I was falling in love with my blue floral quilt all over again, and it felt fantastic!

Next I decided to do a pieced border to make the quilt a little more appropriate for a lap, and I began cutting the rest of the blue floral leftovers into 5.5- and six-inch blocks. I cut the six-inch blocks into half-square triangles and began piecing a simple border.

Something was missing.

Time to consider that "effective contrast" again. I spent one morning before work auditioning some of my Stonehenge stash for a narrow border between the blocks and the pieced border. A color called Mediterranean won, and half an hour later, the pieced border was beginning to look a heck of a lot better!

I could hardly wait to get home from work that night to finish up the quilt top. The narrow contrast border meant I had to be a little creative in fitting the pieced border, which had been cut to fit the top without the border, and I'm not so sure I like what I did to solve the problem on the top and bottom borders, but this top is done, and I've burned through a LOT of my blue floral scraps.

Mission accomplished!

Perhaps I can even use up the rest of the scraps for a pieced quilt back...


  1. Wow, Deb, it's really vibrant! Which isn't always the case when working with blues - but you totally nailed the effective contrast thing. The quilt sparkles.

    I recognise several of those blue fabrics (6th, 7th, and 8th from the left; 2nd from the right) - had them in my stash too, from 20-25 years ago. Some of them are still there. :)

    1. Thanks, Sue! I'm continually amazed by the vast number of fabrics we both fell for in young adulthood, halfway across the country from each other! We truly must be soul sisters!!!

  2. Sure found a way and got there indeed. I imagine a lot of change in taste came due over 20 years too, but learn more too and can make new things come due.

    1. Boy, you got that right, Pat! My quilt taste has changed dramatically from even five years ago!

  3. Good job of getting a UFO done!!!!
    Since my mother died and I broke my hip, my UFO's were gathering dust. Now that I'm retired, I'm going through the UFO's and getting them made!!! Finally! There's more to do, but it's great to see the quilts being given away!

    1. That is awesome, Mary! Congrats on recovery and retirement, and donating quilts is a great way to help others, make the world a better place and keep the WIP production line going!

  4. Congratulations on finishing -- and falling in love again -- with your blue floral quilt! I also really love your scrap dress. Funny how so many memories, emotions and associations can get tangled up and embedded in the threads of even the smallest scrap of fabric.

    1. Thank you, Rebecca! I agree; every quilt tells a story, and I'm very happy to preserve the story behind this one!


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