Design Deconstruction – Kimonos Ablaze

I feel like we all just had a Truth Tea party! The comments, feedback, criticism, and praise you left on the Kimonos Ablaze post was simply outstanding! There have been over seventy comments, and as much as I want to reach out to all of you individually, I decided to do a post addressing your feedback. I’m calling this a Design Deconstruction, which I hope will give you some insight into what my design process was like, and the goals I hoped to achieve.
The most resounding commentary I received was that there should have been a few blue and white, or orange triangles scattered into the navy negative space to create a better transition. Looking at the quilt, I can understand why some of you think that, but my intention was never to create an ombre effect. I wanted a strong, definitive line, with the navy serving as a breaking background. The orange triangles serve to imply flames licking at an oversized kimono that is only partially in the frame. This was picked up by commenter, Salamanda. Werk!
As some suggested, I do agree that a few orange triangles further into the navy could be like embers flying in the sky. Purely for the sake of simplicity (and time), I decided not to pursue that, and the additional piecing it would have required. However, it’s a great idea! Also, I originally thought the triangles would cascade in a curved slope–you can see that in my sketch–but eventually thought the jagged points on the edge would prevent that. I don’t want to start a “modern” quilts discussion, but I did have the Modern Quilt Guilds ideology about large uses of negative space on the brain as well.
I do agree with Sarah from mila+cuatro that the negative space got a little bit larger than I originally intended. It would have been more successful “if the bottom of the navy negative space started about a third of the way from the bottom corner of the quilt.” You’ll see in my sketch that’s sort of what I was going for. Then I realised I didn’t have enough kimono fabric to make that happen, while maintaining the size of quilt I needed. (The recipient is 6’6″ tall, so that was also a consideration).
So with my fabric limitations in mind, I had to resize and adjust on the fly. My design process is rarely set in stone from the beginning, and I just go for it, making changes here and there all the way until the end. You’ll notice in my sketches that the orange and red triangles aren’t the same on paper, they existed only in my head. I should also note that the navy negative space was originally slated to be a light grey (think Kona Ash), but I, A. didn’t have enough fabric, and B. didn’t think it offered the same sort of drama and masculinity.
Speaking of not enough fabric, that sort of happened on the back as well. I would normally position any stripe off-centre (rule of thirds), but I had barely enough yardage of that DS Quilt fabric to implement the design as is. I had originally intended not to include that triangle stripe on the back at all! Glad I did though, because so many of you enjoyed that element and said it spiced up the back.
I also want to address the timing and quick production of this quilt. I usually quilt on a production schedule, and have a rough map of when quilts will be finished. (e.g. I know I have three quilts in production with a self-imposed deadline of September). This quilt hit me out of the blue with that enchanting call of, “Make me now!” I knew if I started it, and then waited around for additional fabric, or pondered design decisions for too long, it would become relegated to the WIP pile, and it wouldn’t be finished until the end of the year. So I employed my motto, “Do what you can, with what you have, when you have it.” 
That ideology manifested itself in the quilting process as well. I see most triangle quilts quilted along each and every seem line. I thought about that, and then said, “Nah!” I do like that look, but thought it would feel a bit static for this design. Straight-line, diagonal quilting provides more movement across that negative space. Could it look even more amazing with some dramatic FMQ? Most likely. I’m not there yet, and not quite sure I even want to venture there, but that’s a conversation for another day!
Finally, as for the binding, Scrapatches logically suggested a multi-coloured binding. That was one thing I addressed with Mr. Sparkles, and he thought the navy binding offered a much-needed, solid frame around the quilt. I was sort of ambivalent (having also barely overcoming the decision not to do a scalloped binding), so just went with it! My compromise to the idea of carrying some orange triangles into the navy negative space was by placing my glitter-flecked binding in that area. It’s a slight, fiery nod to that design rationale. 
So there you have it, a whole lot of it actually! If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading (even skimming!) through my design deconstruction. If this is interesting or helpful for anyone, I’m happy to do it for other future quilts as well.

19 Responses

  1. Design deconstruction … I'd like to see more blog posts like this 🙂

  2. Blue Moth says:

    Great post. A creative person takes so many big and small decisions along the way. The ideas could all be good. But one has to actually take the decision and move on. You can always go back to abandoned ideas later on.

  3. Paula says:

    A very interesting read, and I when I look back at your quilt now I feel can see even more in it and understand it even more than that I did when I saw the original post.
    Over the past few months I have slowly discovered that I am more a fan of designing my own projects, often off the cuff / on the fly, and it is intriguing to read how your design evolved as you created and ran into the stumbling block of fabric shortages. I really enjoy, and find I learn from, this sort of insightful post and would definitely love to see more of them in the future.

  4. Laurelle says:

    I can completely relate to your deconstruction! I often just want to go with what I have on hand and adapt the design as I go. I am impatient and just go for it. That is the awesomeness of quilting! Making it work. When I run out of fabric finding something else that will work often makes it fun and sometimes the piece turns out even better and more interesting. I think everyone really liked your quilt including me but as you had asked for truth tea that's what you got, just little nit picks really. Love the post as now we know how all the choices came about. 🙂

  5. Auntie Pami says:

    I hope you save all of your designs and notes for future reference.

  6. charlotte says:

    Great post. I am also a quilter who lets the quilt tell me what it wants as it develops. I think that is part of the whole creative process. I seldom have a quilt turn out exactly as I planned it before I started. I loved your reasoning for the blue space, and really, as long as we are happy with our quilts, does it matter that they may not be everyone's cup of tea? I did get the flames reference also on your lovely quilt. I loved those colorful pieces.

  7. The O's says:

    I'm so coming to your talk when you are at PoP…! When is that again? x

  8. memmens says:

    I'm in awe of the fact that you have time and energy to think all that stuff, let alone then read a stack of comments and write a coherent response! Maybe I'm just shallow!

  9. Katy Cameron says:

    I never even think to make a sketch, never mind deconstruct the design at the end – that may be why there's a 1/2 finished quilt top taunting me from my design wall mind you!

  10. Ali w says:

    Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed getting insight into the design and thought process and to see how and why things evolved. I would love to read similar posts in the future. By the way, I noticed you hadn't crossed out "Pay credit card" which made me giggle as that is the kind of note I write on my quilt notes too! Just make sure you don't forget it!! LOL

  11. Leanne says:

    It's interesting to hear about your plans and how they turned out and why. I almost never make a sketch and i do the math on little bits of paper that I lose, I should get a notebook, maybe you should too, but mostly I design in my head and with my heart, and it seems that you might do that some too.

  12. Suz J says:

    Now this is what I call a quilt post – no asking for acceptance or love, just how it started, where it went to, and some of the bits in between. I haven't read all the comments from the last post, but my two cents worth would be that while I really *love* the effect of the diagonal quilting, if you are in doubt about the integrity of any of your fabrics… especially with the whole bias thang going on… perhaps more quilting rather than less would help ensure that there are no disasters further along the track. I have used Spotlight homespun as the background for quite a few projects now (hello – $5 on special), but I'm not sure how well it will wear compared to Moda Bella or other recognised solids brands.

  13. Thanks for the deconstruction. I love the curved slope idea, it really looks like the arm of a kimono.

  14. littlemissd says:

    I too would love to see more design deconstructions on blog posts. I often find the design intent, the compromises made and why really interesting. Some times more interesting than the quilts! Louise xx

  15. Jan Barnett says:

    Excellent post with lots of info…

  16. I like seeing the "behind the scenes" approach. And hearing about the little design decisions along the way, and how sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. Thank you!!!

  17. Jess says:

    I love when I get to see the method and thought process behind a quilt. We all make so many design decisions when creating and it's nice to see how someone else thinks up their designs. I should start to blog more about the why as well. Makes for a much more interesting read than just "look at this pretty i made." (Although I like pretty as well)

  18. lindaroo says:

    I really appreciate all the info, and the insight into making decisions along the way. This quilt is a fantastic "do it now!" product. I think this kind of construction is the most fun. And good on you, demonstrating how to ask for and receive and respond to opinions and ideas. More, more!

  19. thriftyfinn says:

    I was wondering in which post I should leave comment on and I guess this is as good as any. I posted it also on Christa Quilts, because I want to have feedback on two professionals 😀

    I have a question for you. I've had my first quilt in progress for ages. Meaning I only have some of the pieces cut. I decided to do a plain quilt. Just basic squares in shades of yellow with some pinks, purples and greys thrown in. Originally I was going to make it to fit my 120cm/47inches wide bed to work as bedspread, with about a 30cm/foot hanging down on the sides. Well, then I moved and my old bed didn't fit through the stairs so I bought two mattresses to make 160cm/63inch bed. I calculated that I would now need to make the quilt 220*260cm/86.6*102.4 inches and my question is that IF I choose to go with a quilt pattern, how do I adjust the size? I fell in love with the Cartwheel-quilt but the biggest size is 74"*90". Or should I just stick with my original plan of basic squares? I know, I know I'm ambitious and there will be many tears shed but I'm one of those people who best learn to swim by jumping head first in the water.


    P.S. I also thought….Since I won't be able to machine quilt it in full size, should I try the quilt as you go method? Or just stick with handstitching with pearle cotton? AAAAND. Since I'm asking all these questions, what do you think about batting? My local fabric store only has horrible synthetic one meant for winter jackets. Since it's my first quilt I don't want to spend too much money, just a reasonable amount. I'm basically looking for something that is decent quality but won't be that expensive that if I ruin the quilt, I won't be crying over the cost of the batting.

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