This is the 12th in our series of staff project posts created for the Spoonflower Staff Quilt Challenge. 


Danielle, Kim and I (Kate) weren’t really sure where to start with this year’s staff challenge.  A quilt?  Made with Spoonflower fabric?  What limitless possibilities!  All avid crafters, it was a little difficult to begin to narrow down the focus, so we ruminated on our ideas for a few days before our first meeting.

Several years ago, I’d got my hands on a lovely book, The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff.  I had since hoped to have the time and focus to sit down and try out some of the phenomenal grids and patterns she suggests for pleating, tucking, smocking and more.  This quilt project seemed to be the perfect time to try it out and when I suggested this idea, Danielle and Kim were both enthusiastic.  As a matter of fact, Kim had a copy of the same book on her bookshelf!


Danielle and I each took a gander at reproducing some of the patterns that served as guides for assorted types of fabric manipulation in the book.  Printing those patterns onto Spoonflower fabric enabled us to bypass the usual time-consuming task of manually measuring and marking grids, which allowed us a lot more time for sewing exploration.  Danielle started with designing simple grids of dots, each spaced in different increments, using different colors, and printed onto different fabrics so that we could explore several different methods of manipulating fabric to create textures.


One of Danielle’s grids of dots

We all took some of these gridded fabrics home to play around with and see how they worked out.  Kim achieved lovely results with the honeycomb direct smocking method on Kona cotton.


Sewing instructions and Kim’s square


Close up of honeycomb stitching results

I really liked the Lattice and Lozenge patterns which use the same grid so I decided to include the tuck lines in two new fabric patterns.  I designed them so that they are very faint, but you can still distinguish a different color for each row.


These patterns create beautiful results but are very labor intensive!

These grid-based designs were beautiful, but each took WAY too much time to work up into the 10 X 10-inch squares we’d planned for our quilt.  One of the grid-based designs that took a bit less time than the others was the tuck tie variation laid out in a larger grid.


Grid pattern with a tuck tie variation

Danielle and I spent one Saturday afternoon in The Spoonflower Greenhouse playing around with some different methods.


Danielle and Kate’s afternoon in the Greenhouse

We decided to turn our focus at this point to the tucking-based patterns, hoping that we could begin to actually start amassing enough squares for our quilt (which seemed to be going slowly).  Danielle came up with a ton of different stripe patterns that we could tuck and printed them all out.  We ironed and stitched these stripe patterns in a few different ways.


A few of the striped patterns Danielle designed for tucking


Following the printed color stripes, we pressed the tucks and stitched and ended up with beautifully pleated fabric.

Some of these pieces we then sewed in alternating directions to create an undulating pattern.


Image from The Art of Fabric Manipulation; Kate sewing undulations. 


Pink and white undulating tucks

Danielle decided to explore some of the more sculptural fabric manipulations.  She worked up a lovely hexagon pleating pattern which looked great all on its own, without any sort of manipulation.  Danielle used scissors to cut all of the white space out of the design and pleated each small area.


Danielle’s process of making the Hexagon Dart Manipulations

Unfortunately, this Hexagonal Dart piece ended up being a little too poofy to incorporate into the quilt but the results really were gorgeous.

At this point we handed all of our squares over to Kim.

Kim:  Our original plan had been to create 10-inch square blocks that we could join in rows and turn into a small lap quilt but in practice, some of the blocks had so much dimensionality that they couldn’t be squared up well without adding strips of plain fabric to stabilize them.  This meant that we ended up with some bigger blocks, but we also had some smaller pieces that Kate and Danielle “framed” with larger strips of some of the grid, stripe, and hexagon patterns.  I’m ok with winging it when it comes to quilting, though, so I wasn’t worried.  It was all of a lighter palette than I usually like to work with in my quilts, but these textured blocks were so intriguing to handle and try to turn into a cohesive quilt!

Here you can get a sense of the difference in block sizes–and how some of them don’t exactly lie flat!


Possible quilt layout being considered

A couple of the blocks I just couldn’t figure out how to square up to include in the quilt, like Danielle’s awesome but wonky hexagonal dart piece below.


Impossible to square up!

I eventually settled on a layout that involved adding on to some of the smaller blocks with un-manipulated scraps of stripes, dots, and hexagons to join to the larger blocks to create neat rows.  Once the quilt top was done, I pin-basted the quilt top, batting, and backing (made from unused grid fabric).


Pin-basting detail

I fitted my sewing machine with a walking foot and machine-quilted the un-textured portions of the quilt.  This was quite challenging even with the walking foot since there was quite a bit of wonk and instability in the blocks to deal with. After quilting, I added a striped binding that Danielle made up.  All done!

Kate: While I think all of us really appreciated the results of the more labor intensive patterns, the tucks seemed to be the most approachable (and quickest!) textural option in the book.  I think we each hope to have more time to delve into some of the more delicate and time consuming fabric manipulations in the future.  But this was a really great process, a really great team, and a fun new use for Spoonflower printing!