Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WIP: What's wrong with this quilt top?

My mom finished her Japanese Tree quilt (she had an earlier deadline than I did), and it's just gorgeous.  Someday maybe a guest post on that one.  I'm still working on mine though and having some difficulties.  My goal for January for A Lovely Year of Finishes over at Fiber of All Sorts was to finish this quilt top.  Most of my quilting time this month has gone towards working on a different quilt about which I haven't been blogging, so I thought just finishing the tree quilt top would be good enough for the month.

Two Fridays ago I linked up my progress with this picture over at Nina Marie's art quilt linky and asked for ideas for how to make it look less flat.  I got many helpful suggestions, including the idea to have some of the leaves and flowers be three dimensional (i.e. only tacked down in the center).

So I sewed down and bobbin quilted down a bunch more leaves and flowers using the green and pink organza (that had been part of my original plan) and then put on a bunch of three dimensional organza leaves and flowers (luckily just with pins).  All the leaves and flowers have edges that are sealed with the soldering iron and it totally helped with the flatness, but the whole thing was just wrong wrong wrong, composition and design wise.  

To help figure out what was wrong and see what there really was to work with underneath, my mom suggested temporarily taking down all the flowers and leaves that were just pinned up, which gave this.

A bit easier to look at, but now all flat looking (because I took down all the 3d ones).  After much discussion, we came up with the following list of things contributing to how wrong this feels to me:

1. All the leaves and flower clumps are the same size (bad!). The leaves are the same size out at the end of the branches as in the middle.
2. There are way too many green leaves for a spring tree, which should be mostly blossoms.
3.  In the one with the 3D flowers all the branches were covered up, and there was just too much on it in general.  I like seeing the branches.
3.  The pink organza flowers are just not giving the flowery look I wanted- the brown fabric shows through too much. 
4. One color of pink isn't really enough anyway.  Based on the picture in the center, there just be more variety of pink and white, and probably opaquer pink and white. I think with the brown background chiffon only isn't going to cut it.
5.  Too much brown at the top.

Unfortunately, there's only so much ripping out I could (or wanted) to do from the picture above.  Each leaf/flower is sewn down twice and then the edges of the chiffon were cut with the soldering iron which means they're kind of stuck down to the brown fabric.  Basically, removing too many of the leaves was not an option.  I did remove four of them that were really bugging me, big green blobby ones covering up branch ends over on the right side.  They left some organza-y residue stuck to the brown fabric.  I'm still not sure how I'm going to get rid of that, but we'll see.

Then I started adding back in 3D flowers, but instead of using organza I used other (opaque) silky fabrics I had around, in different shades of white/cream/pink.  I also tried to make them more varied in size and mostly much smaller.  I sewed them onto the quilt with little tacking stitches in the middle so they're sort of 3D.  When I cropped it down digitally to remove some of the excess brown, I was left with this.

Still not completely happy with it, but better I think.  I'm going to add some more of the white and pink flowers and maybe a couple more branches.  I'm also going to add a few blossoms to the blue center square so that it feels more integrated.

This quilt has not been one of my great successes and I'm definitely looking for suggestions if anyone has anymore design/composition ideas!

It's not finished, but it's finished-ish, and if I hadn't signed up with it for A Lovely Year of Finishes I probably wouldn't have forced myself to keep working on it and it would still be languishing in picture 2 state just taking up space on my design wall.  I'm also linking up with the always fabulous Lee over at Freshly Pieced, and the super creative Art Quilt Linky over at Nina-Marie's.


  1. Wow. This quilt really is a piece of art. The tree and flowers pop and I love the composition. Sorry I have not helpful advice. I think it is wonderful.

  2. Thanks for sharing your process on this one. It's always great to see how people go about fixing what they're not happy with or isn't working for them… Quite a transformation! I'm not sure I have anything to add to improve upon what you've got but it's lovely… Is the highlight on the trunk a result of lighting or something you've done to it? The photos that have more highlighting on the trunk (I think it's the way the light is hitting the fabric) look more 3D, so maybe that's something to play with.

  3. Wow, Shannon! You've put so much heart, analysis, and work into this, and it's really come a long way. I love how it's looking now - I think it *is* a success, and I'm betting it's one of those cases where it'll be so much better-looking to you when you come back to it after a break. I've found that most of my projects I've been frustrated with because of difficulty executing what's in my mind's eye - things I've gotten disgusted with and thought were ugly and so thrown in a box and stuck under a bed - when I come back after time, I'm able to see their charm which was hidden before because I could only see the difference from my initial mental image. This is pretty. Don't feel badly about it!!

  4. wow! I know you think you have issues, but I think it looks great! I love the dimensionality (not a word) the flowers bring.

  5. Your problems all center around design. You need to take away half of the things you have on this piece. You have too many flowers and have overdone on the squares. This is a typical problem for quiters. Put your branch up on a design wall that is way far away from you. Then add things one at a time and walk away after each addition. You will see your problems immediately.

  6. First, I think you've come a long way and it's looking much better. When you look at your now cropped piece, there are a couple thoughts I have that might help. First, the light blue areas really pop out at you and become the focal point. This makes the piece feel a bit unbalanced. Also, with the cropping, the top of the blue area is right about at the midline vertically. It would be best to have the area at a 1/3 or 2/3 mark. Finally, the major branches in the brown background go through and join the blue, but then there are some in the blue which don't match up to anything in the brown. I think it would be more unified if all the branches flowed through both colors. That all said, I think you can still consider this a success. You might be able to switch a little of these items either with adding some paint or through freemotion quilting. Thanks for sharing your process.

  7. First of all - let me say thank you for showing your process - trials and all. So many times people think that art just happens! If you're still asking for suggestions - I agree with Judy - also - I'm thinking that a dark/dark fabric would be very helpful. I mean if you look at the values you do have a light light as an accent - but no super dark. One thing I've learned is that each project always has the things that work - and some things that could have been improved on. This whole idea of an inset square is super interesting and I think you should explore it further. (see another reason to work in series - LOL)

  8. I was going to suggest putting dimension into the blue sections. And then I came to the part where you listed it as something to do. I think it would really help. the brown section has more dimension, but the blue seems very flat.
    I also think once you have quilted texture into the brown section, it will help a great deal, too. Because it is a fabric with no variation in colour, it already reads flat. When it has the quilted texture, it will give light and shade which will help to support the branch visually.

    but like someone said, it may just be that you need to put it away for a while and when you revisit it, you can see where to go with it.
    Sandy in the UK

  9. Thanks to everybody who took the time to make such thoughtful comments! I really appreciate all the suggestions. I tried to respond to everyone- several people were no-reply bloggers though, so I thought I'd check in here to say your thoughts are very helpful to me!

    More progress on this to come later this week!

  10. I think if you did some hand stitching in those flowers and bulked up your branch with some quilting, it would really make your piece come alive!

    You can never just stop. :)