After a week or two of Instagram build up, I am so excited that the #mysmallworldqal is finally officially beginning today.
In case you're a non-instagram user (go on, sign up, you know you want to) or you haven't come across it, what that rather mouthy hashtag is referring to is a quilt along of the My Small World pattern written by the inestimable Jen Kingwell and published in Quiltmania magazine's spring special. The magazine seems to already be more or less like gold dust, but Kerry has some tips on where to pick one up here.
The quilt along is being hosted by Kerry, John, Cindy, Megan, Danielle and Lisa and officially begins today, so you'll find intro posts on all of their blogs and Instagram pages over the course of the day. The QAL is fairly leisurely, with (I believe) a finish date of September.
The pattern itself is perfect for all of those teeny weeny scraps you have kicking around, with squares as small as 1" finished (1.5" cut) and some very small scale appliqué. After seeing how beautifully Jen Kingwell combined Liberty prints with quilting cottons in the original quilt, I also raided my etsy shop for a couple of Liberty scrap bags and random charm packs - the small size pieces of fabric are perfect for this quilt.
Of course, I love love loved the pattern the microsecond I laid eyes on it (as I do with most Jen Kingwell patterns), but just as quickly I realised that I have absolutely no requirement for a mini or baby quilt (the finished quilt measures 33"x52") so I started to toy around with ways to turn it into a quilt we might actually make use of as a family.
I didn't want to scale up the individual components, as I felt it would lose everything that I loved about the quilt, so I (in my extremely high tech, computer savvy way) drew out the pattern with pencil on graph paper and spent a little time duplicating and flipping various elements of it (the pattern is constructed in strips, so it was easier than you'd think to repeat elements). This finished scribble, which I will be sticking to (roughly) is going to measure in at 84"x90", making it a good sized double quilt to take camping with us.
The result is less complicated and different from the original pattern than you might imagine. I had to add a little height to the 'city' (the high volume) portion of the pattern so it wasn't too out of balance with all the acres of low volume, and I'll simply recreate elements from the pattern to create the hot air balloons (in bright prints) the clouds (in white on white prints, I think) and the sun. I may play around with the scales of those extra elements (which will be appliquéd) once I have the main quilt top finished, as every time I look at my scribbled 'pattern' I change my mind about the sizes.
For those who have been asking on Instagram for further details of how I expanded the pattern, here's a quick run down:
- I drew the original pattern, then added on a mirror of section 5 and section 4 on the left hand side (you can see I've written at the top which each section is). I also added on a mirrored version of section 2 on the right hand side, but added a few blocks at random to make it a little higher so the height variation within the 'city' was bigger, to keep it in proportion with the overall size of the quilt.
- I also added 8" of blocks at the base of the quilt, mainly by just adding a row of blocks below the original ones rather than messing around with what was there, but in a couple of sections I've removed blocks from the original pattern and replaced them with ones that fall above and below the original bottom edge rather than butting up to it, so there wasn't such a marked line between original and new pattern.
- The clouds, sun and hot air balloons will all be applique elements, mainly made up using techniques from the pattern, but I may pull in some other ideas as I feel like it.
If you have any questions at all about how I'm scaling up my pattern, please don't hesitate to ask!
In terms of timing during the QAL, I'll be broadly following the schedule set by our marvellous hosts, but I'll be racing ahead a little in an effort to leave myself enough time to get my additional elements finished at about the same time as the rest of the QAL team is finishing their quilt tops.
In an effort to get ahead, I've already made a bit of a start, with a good portion of the low volume section (which, as you may have noticed, is huge on my quilt) already cut and partially pieced, and most of section 1 pieced already. If you're just setting out on your #mysmallworldqal adventure, here are some tips I've picked up just as I've been sewing the first part of the pattern:
- I'm not certain that cutting and preparing multiple similar blocks in advance is the best idea for this pattern - as I went along sewing section 1, cutting and sewing one block at a time, I was surprised how often I changed my mind on my fabric choices for the next block in order to keep the quilt looking as bold as the original without being too garish. Of course, sewing 20 pinwheels at a time is always going to be quicker than sewing one, placing it, and choosing fabrics for the next, but I'm sure none of you are starting sewing this quilt because you want a quick and easy finish!
- I used foundation piecing for a few of the blocks where I felt like the fabrics would distort while I was sewing. The blocks are all build on a fairly simple grid system, so it's ridiculously easy to work out the dimensions, and none of them are actually terribly complicated in their own right (most of them are traditional quilt blocks, so if you are struggling at all, just google for 'pinwheel tutorial' or 'needle turn appliqué tutorial to get you started). The blocks that I really went for foundation piecing on were the diamond and triangle shapes, and having pieced one of the arrow blocks the standard way, I'll probably foundation piece that too for subsequent ones.
- Rather than using the triangle templates in the pattern, I've used HSTs for all the pinwheel based blocks so far. Just have a look on pinterest or google for starting square sizes to end up with the appropriate sized HSTs for making up the pinwheels. Just be aware that if you are using directional prints, they won't all end up facing the same way if you use HSTs rather than individual templates.
- Having said I didn't pre-cut acres of identical blocks at a time, I have found it useful to cut out perhaps half a dozen adjacent blocks at a time, laying out the fabric choices next to one another to make sure that the contrast/print scale/colour combinations work well, and then sew those half dozen before moving onto the next lot. This seems to be a good compromise between barrelling through at great speed and actually slowing down enough to ensure that the fabric selection process is working.
- Cut as many low volume squares as you can be bothered to before you start. I cut a few hundred, then cut one from another 2-3 fabrics each time I finished making one batch of half a dozen or so of the city blocks. Also, for every half dozen or so city blocks, I spend a bit of time piecing another few strips of sky for the relevant section (as the quilt is constructed in columns this seemed sensible to carry on for my expanded version, even though I could of course piece the enormous sky in one big mind numbing sewing session). This is less efficient than piecing the sky in one go, but I'm not sure I could cope with that many 1.5" low volume squares in my life in one go.
If I come up with any other tips as the QAL progresses, I'll post them in my progress posts, but for now, happy sewing!