Mosaic Effect With Fabric


In the previous post, I shared how the engineering and construction of a large sun for the Hickory Sun Day quilt. In this post, I’ll share my technique and some tools for creating the graduated blue background for the quilt.

The background began with about 12 different blue batik and cotton print fabrics for the quilts background. The range began with a deep navy (almost black) then progressed to blues that were pale in comparison. The idea was to create a varied background that would provide contrast to needed to really highlight the sun.

Laying-out-blue-squaresIt seemed like 2 1/2″ squares would do the trick. Even though I knew it would be a lot of sewing, I felt like 2 1/2″ was just small enough to create the effect without getting pieces so small that I would be sewing into the next millennium.

I began laying out squares on my floor, going from dark to light as the blues approached the sun. Sometimes, it wasn’t just the placement but also the right rotation of the square as it related to its neighbors that created better blending.

The entire field of blues was laid out before doing any sewing. As it turns out, this was a good idea, because even after laying out what I thought was needed, I discovered, the background wasn’t big enough for the outer rays of the sun! So I added I more tiny blue squares after another trip to the fabric store a stash raid for more blues. After days of placing and then moving the squares around, I finally had what looked like the right mix.



But wait: that’s over 1100 small squares I have to sew together! And they need to stay in this order. Ugh! There’s got to be a better way.

So I asked Maureen, the owner of a local quilt shop (The Quiltery), if there was any technique or tool to speed up or simplify the construction of this number of blocks. She showed me 2 1/2″ grid fusible interfacing that could be used for this type of construction.

Water2.5PCQuiltsmart offers pre-printed panels of fusible interfacing that allows you to first iron fabric swatches onto it, then stitch the pieces together in long rows rather than sewing 2 pieces together at a time. I purchased enough panels to handle the amount of fabric pieces I needed for the mosaic background.

Using a palm-sized iron and a pressing board (not an ironing board), I transferred the pieces to the fusible, being careful to keep the same layout and orientation. I laid in one row at a time, and ironed the entire row on carefully before starting the next row. It’s tricky not to iron onto the exposed interfacing!

I completed one panel at a time. Each panel was numbered and marked on the back for orientation and relation to it’s neighbor panel for easy assembly into the whole. When all the panels were completed, I sewed them together for the full blue mosaic background.

Now comes the fun part: combining the sun with the background. Find out how in the next post.

Figure It Out As You Go!

cropped-img_2239.jpgSometimes you just don’t know how to construct a quilt design that is easily drawn. A sketch is simple enough but when it comes to actually putting it together, a little engineering is sometimes required. The Hickory Sun Day quilt I made for Hickory Day School, was a ‘figure it out as you go’ quilt.

IMG_2939The quilt’s design is based on school’s sun logo. I envisioned a cross-fade of small bits of blue fabric for the background, getting lighter the closer it gets to the sun image. Almost like a blue fabric mosaic. For the sun, I imagined that it would also cross-fade from dark gold to pale yellow from the sun’s body to the tips of the sun rays.

I made a quick sketch and began collecting fabrics in wide range of blues and yellows. At first my selections were strictly batiks because of their color intensity,  the range of values, and the variation in a color range within a single fabric. But I found that sticking just to batiks was too limiting; I couldn’t get the colors I wanted,  so printed cottons eventually found their way into the quilt.

But how could I construct this quilt?!

With only 3 finished quilts under my belt, I didn’t have a clue how to put it together. My previous quilts used only squares and rectangles. But this quilt had circles and triangles laid out over a large graduated blue field. How could I get that effect with just squares and rectangles?

That’s when I discovered foundation piecing.

Foundation piecing is a simple way of using paper patterns to help quilters piece designs that are too complex for success with traditional piecing. Fabric strips are sewn to paper in overlapping straight lines and the paper is peeled off when the block or shape is complete. These complex pieced blocks then can be assembled into quilts using traditional piecing.

61I3I0u3GeL._AC_US218_Luckily, I had received a free quilting book with a recent AQS fabric order.  Quilts with Attitude by Deb Karasik contained instructions for foundation piecing, and that seemed like a good solution for the sun rays. Deb’s book explained in detail (with photos) how to foundation piece strips of fabric. It was exactly the solution to create the effected I wanted.

Using butcher block paper craft paper, I made a life-size template of the sun and one of its rays. Using a string with a pencil at one end and an brick at the other, I formed a simple compass. I traced the sun’s arc and then used a yardstick to draw the sun’s rays.

Cutting out the the sun’s body and one sun ray gave me exact size paper templates on which I could create the radiating color effect. I wanted the use a chevron effect within each ray to give it movement and direction. This served as the pattern for how I wanted the finished sun to look, but to achieve it, I needed paper foundations.

Foundation piecing is best achieved by using a thin paper that is easy to tear off the finished block. So I traced the sun ray’s chevron pattern I had designed onto a artist tracing paper (a thin, translucent paper) to created the foundations papers. It worked like a dream!

For the sun’s body, I drew concentric circles on the Kraft paper, then created patterns by tracing the circles once again onto tracing paper, adding 1/4″ to on both sides of each concentric circle for seam allowances. From these pattern templates I was able to cut out and sew together the concentric circles for the sun’s body. The outcome was exactly as I’d hoped for: the sun’s body was luminous and had even had dimension because of the graduated colors I used.

Want to know more? Find out how the background blue mosaic came together in the next post.