Maybe more IS more

Some years ago, Paula Nadelstern was a guest speaker at our guild, and in speaking of fabric, she insisted emphatically that “More is more.” I wish I could hear that talk again, because at the time I thought she was only talking about quantity of fabric in one’s stash. Maybe she was. But maybe she was suggesting something else.

Recently, I’ve been reading the Ringle & Kerr book, Quilts Made Modern. In speaking of fabric selection, they write,

“…[a] quilter may have a bold print that she loves and will shy away from adding more bold prints because she worries that the quilt will be too busy or that the other prints will diminish the initial print. Many quilters tend to build their palettes around a feature print, a theme print, or a fashion fabric and then choose some more subdued fabrics, sometimes called companion prints, in the same hue to go with it.

“We often compare developing a palette to planning a guest list for a party. If you have one loud guest with a number of more reserved guests, that loud guest will dominate the party. In contrast, if you have a room full of quiet guests or a room full of loud guests, no one person will dominate the others. Therefore, as contrary to logic as it may seem, sometimes adding a  loud print to another loud print will make both prints seem less overbearing.”

Loud + loud. More is more. These thoughts must have been swirling in my brain while I was working on my “Spools” UFO yesterday. The spools blocks — hand-appliqued thread spools — actually came from a Mystery Row of the Month quilt I signed up for many years ago at guild. It was the first month’s row (and the first thing I ever appliqued). As it turned out, I didn’t much care for the rest of the rows, and so never made the whole quilt. What to do with my one strip?

My friend Megan suggested sewing the spool blocks together to make a wall-hanging. I did piece the 12 blocks together… but never went any further. The spools went from being one of my first projects, to being one of my first UFOs. But now I’m on a “Finish it!” kick, and yesterday I hauled out my poor spools from their years of confinement.

spools with brown borderMy initial thought was to add a simple brown border to finish off the spools. Here was the brown fabric I was auditioning. Since my spools were of various colours, I thought a plain border would “unite” them. However, when I put the brown fabric beside the spools, they looked… boring. There was no excitement. No oomph.

spools with scrappy borderI cast about in my stash for something else — something that would add more interest. I don’t know what put me on to the idea of trying my 2″ squares, but as soon as I started laying out different coloured squares around the quilt, I really liked the result.

I had thought the variation in the spools themselves was enough colour, and that I needed to go neutral. But as Paula Nadelstern said, More is more. By making a scrappy border that picked up the colours from the blocks, the colours seemed to bounce around the piece, and in my opinion actually made the spools themselves look brighter. Clearly, I needed more colour in the party guest list for this UFO. I’m excited about quilting it up, and hanging it in my sewing room!





2 thoughts on “Maybe more IS more

  1. Great job and great philosophy! Yes, your beautiful colorful squares set off the spools so well. It’s a good lesson to learn. One of my favorite quilts is ALL big prints! Okay, really, there are a couple of smaller ones, too. But BIG prints dominate and balance the whole. Think Kaffe Fassett quilts, with lots of print and texture and movement. Usually the pattern (block style and layout) is really simple, but they fascinate with more and more. Thanks for sharing.


    • I have always admired other people who use colours and prints with reckless abandon (like Kaffe), but for some reason have always veered toward the conservative in my own quilts. Time to be more adventurous, I guess! Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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