Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Signature Block Conundrum

A pretty face will always grow old. A nice body will always change with age. However, a good woman will always be a good woman. –Unknown

The other week, I had the day off of work. It was a Friday and I was happy to start the weekend early. My plan was to meet up with my mom in the big city and enjoy some quality time together while the Not-So-Little Bugs were in school. Unfortunately, LadyBug was sick. So, instead I stayed home with her. I decided that while I had some "extra" time on my hands, I'd do a little on-line shopping for fabric for a semi-special project.

The story goes like this: there is this cutest little old lady in my ward {congregation} who is 99½ years old and still sharp as a tack. Although she can no longer see well enough to drive and she's getting a little frail, she still lives alone in her own home, takes care of herself and spreads happiness wherever she goes. As a matter of fact, last fall she asked if Grasshopper would come over and rake up her leaves. By the time we got to her house the next afternoon, she's already gotten the leaf blower out and blown them into a gigantic pile in the back yard. All we had to do was bag them for her.

I have really enjoyed getting to know her over the last nine or ten years. She is truly an amazing woman. Ever since she turned 99, last September, I've been thinking about making her a signature quilt with, wait for it . . . 100 signature blocks. I'm sure that the people she knows and has influenced could fill about 10 hundred-block quilts, so I'm thinking that all the members of a single family could have one block to sign, and we could keep it to a single quilt at a manageable size.

I've always wanted to do something with 1930's reproduction fabrics, and this seemed like the perfect project. This sweet lady would have been 16 in 1930. I want to do something really scrappy. Keepsake Quilting sells 10" pre-cuts in a variety pack of 1930's prints. Several months ago, thinking of this project, I searched the interwebs for signature block quilts and one particular layout that creates a lattice stuck in my brain, but I wanted to have a plan before I ordered fabric so that I could make sure that I liked the layout and that I ordered enough fabric. I started doodling around with the old {Microsoft} Paint box. {This took me forever. Perhaps EQ should be on my Christmas wish list.}

Lattice Layout

I like the looks of this layout. It is made with the simple block below, which I found on-line. When I went back to my original pencil-and-paper doodle on graph paper from several months ago, which was based on allowing for pre-washing of the pre-cuts and then using the maximum amount of fabric with the least amount of waste to get the biggest block possible, I discovered that the white signature area of the block I drew up was bigger than the one below by about ⅞", which would make the white lattice bigger and the scrappy 1930's reproduction fabrics smaller than in the layout above. I'm not sure if that would be too much white lattice and not enough 1930's reproduction fabrics.

While I was doodling, I decided to try out another layout I'd seen in my previous search. I don't like it as much as the first layout, but maybe with larger white signature areas, I'd like it better.

Diamond Layout

While I was thinking and doodling and searching the interwebs for a refresher on the two layouts above, I found this block.

If the block is turned the right way, it makes pretty flowers. I really like the way this looks, but it leaves the least amount of room for a signature. And a pre-washed {a.k.a. pre-shrunk} 10" square could not comfortably make four 5" blocks. I don't think a 10" block that hasn't been pre-washed could do it. I'd need to take a different approach to getting a variety of fabrics with enough of each fabric to make all four blocks for each flower. On the plus side, the signature area is completely finished and there won't be a problem with people signing into the seam allowances.

Flower Layout

My original plan was to do 5" blocks. That makes a 50" square quilt with either the lattice or the diamond layouts, before borders. The flower quilt has 2" sashings, which makes it 62" square before borders. If I bump it to 6" blocks, that pretty much takes using 10" pre-cuts off the table for all of the layouts. The top two layouts would be 60" before borders and the flower layout would be 75" square {I think I'd increase the sashings to 2½" to maintain the same ratio} before borders, which is pretty huge for a lap quilt. If I was going to go big, then I'd do 7" blocks, and with 2¾" sashings, it would be 86½". Slap on some borders and you've got yourself a queen-size quilt. Which really wasn't my plan.

If I'm going to do this, I'd better get a move on. I've only got six months. In the weeks since I doodled these out, I'd almost decided to go with the flower layout. Looking at them again now, I'm kind of back to liking the lattice layout. I've always like the diamond layout least of all, so at least there's one thing I can rule out.

There are pros and cons to every layout and every block size. Ruling things out further, I think that I will stick with 5" blocks to keep the quilt size in check. I'll probably have to find a nice magnifying glass to give with the quilt so this little old lady, whose eyesight is very poor, can read her own signature quilt. In the cons column for the lattice layout, as previously mentioned, the strip of white fabric will be bigger than pictured so I'm worried that will overpower the quilt. Not previously mentioned, I'm also worried about people signing into the seam allowances, even if I provide clear instructions. I've considered using a Frixion pen to mark the boundaries, but you never know. In the cons column for the flower layout, the signature area is tiny in a 5" block. And it will have to be paper pieced in order to come out right at 5".

If you've got an opinion, please share! It always helps me to decide what I want when I hear from other people. Right now, I'm on the fence between the lattice layout and the flower layout. Vote for your favorite in the comments.


Paulette said...

I love the flower layout. However, since that may mean the signature space is pretty small (not to mention having to paper piece it), I would say the lattice would be very nice.

You did these in Paint? Amazing!

Julie said...

What if you had them sign after it is finished so they don't have to worry about the seam allowance? Again, think easiest strategy as far as pattern goes too. I like lattice the best.

Christine M said...

What a lovely idea Elizabeth. I like the lattice layout best. Perhaps it would be a good idea to mark the seam allowances with a frixion pen. You could stress in the instructions the importance of writing between the marked lines.

Shay said...

Flower layout all the way for me...just get people to sign small!

You are a veritable angel to do something so lovely for your friend. She is going to be absolutely thrilled!

mom said...

I like the flower layout but try not to make things too hard. It will be wonderful no matter what.

hafza said...

I love the flower layout...thanks for sharing.I would love to try this out using flowery fabric.

Anonymous said...

The lattice looks to be the best fit for the 1930's look you're going for.

Don't over think it, it only delays the finished product.
And at 99.5 years old, there is not much time left for the nice lady to appreciate an excellent quilt.

Carole @ Fresh off the Frame said...

What if you tape off the seam allowances on the pieces you need signed? 3M makes a quarter-inch masking tape, and if you don't leave it on too long it shouldn't gum things up. Whatever you choose to make, I'm certain the recipient will be honoured.

Jean C. said...

I really like the lattice block, the first one. The second one... is a bit too WOW for your 30's reproductions if you ask me. People are going to do what they are going to do. All you can do is give instructions. The last one I put together the people did pretty good. But a true signature quilt is just the names not a comment. But like you said, you could just mark it before hand so they have lines to stay within. You know, like a credit card that you have to sign. LoL...