Sunday, 16 March 2014

Radiant Explosion: The Process

This is for those of you interested in how my Radiant Explosion quilt went from an idea to a finished quilt. My inspiration for the quilt came from Quilting Modern - I read the following phrase regarding their Supernova quilt and an idea popped into my head:  "Supernova dazzles with its explosive design and vibrant color palette.  Random fragments spin off ..." (p105, Quilting Modern: Techniques and Projects for Improvisational Quilts).

The original idea

After deciding what size I wanted the quilt to be (50" x 60"), I worked out the location of the epicentre.  I then marked out the quilt and epicentre on my design wall. I pulled the fabrics I wanted to use and then then crazy pieced panels.

Crazy pieced panels

I started cutting up the panels and sticking them on my design wall.  At some point between sewing the crazy panels together and then cutting them back up again, I realised that the pieces needed to be kind of wedge shaped, whereby the end closest to the epicentre should be narrower than the other end of the wedge.  I played around with it focussing on how it looked, with absolutely no consideration for how I was going to join it all together.  In the following pictures, all the coloured pieces are pinned to the design wall [aka cot flannel sheet hung from wall with coat hangers], I haven't started sewing them together yet.

So then I sat in front of it for quite a while thinking, hmmm, now what do I do?  I sewed them together in sections, by first adding white scraps to the top and bottom of each shard/wedge, and/or the sides of the wedge.  I would then trim to straighten the edges for sewing together.  When I removed a piece from the wall I put pins in my design wall/sheet so I could return them to the right place. I went through a cycle of  joining sections then pinning them back up on the wall, and moving onto another section, until I had large chunks pieced that could be joined together into a large circle.  Here is an example of a section sewn together.

Some sections pieced together

At some point I realised that joining all of these in the centre needed to be thought through.  I tried to do an improv curve when I'd joined part of the explosion together.  I knew I was on the right track but it didn't really cut the mustard.  I made sure I had lots of seam allowance in the centre, which looked like a big fat mess for a while.

I googled "circle shape in quilt" and ended up at Craftsy watching Sarah Fielke show me how to create perfect applique circles with ease.   So I appliqued a circle on my epicentre.  I machine stitched around the edge of the circle (as opposed to needle-turn applique - is that what it's called?), mama doesn't hand-sew. The centre of the explosion is where my inexperience let me down, and is definitely the one area that I would do differently if I did something similar again. 

Before applique

After - much better but an area to work on in the future

The negative space isn't all white with the odd shard of colour - that would have been much easier but for some reason mama decided to include some rays of Moda Bella Ivory.  My thinking was that it was a subtle way to extend the explosion, which I think it does (you'll just have to believe me, because you can't really tell from the photos).  In the photo below you can see the spacing of the rays.  I used the stitch and flip technique to turn the long rectangles into long triangles.

From here it was a matter of trying to square up the explosion and then piece the background into panels which could then be sewn together.  That one sentence sounds easy but in reality it took me longer than I thought it would, mostly because of the rays set on an angle.

I originally quilted it with a variegated thread, the thread was perfect from a palette perspective (orange, pink, purple) but it was far from perfect from a quilting perspective - the coloured thread highlighted the wonky/crazy shaped pieces but in a bad way, it didn't enhance the piecing - it contradicted it and made the crazy piecing seem all wrong.  So I unpicked it, it took quite a few hours to unpick then re-quilt (basically at the end of the day on Sunday, I was at the same point I was at the start of the day but quilted with a different coloured thread).  It was definitely worth it.

When I quilted it again, I started at the edge of the applique circle, with off-white thread (Wonderfil Konfetti 50wt - colour KT101).

Here is what I learnt:
- I want to do a dresden plate, or similar design with wedges joined in a central circle, so that I know the "proper" way to do it!
- I need more practice with Y seams (seeing as this is the first time I've ever done one)
- I need to remember to square up, it happens as part of the process when you make a quilt with rows of equal length, but is easily omitted when making a quilt like this.
- Sometimes its better if you don't know how much you don't know, otherwise you might not try things.
- I don't like the look of coloured thread quilted on white/light background.
- I really need to get my camera serviced because that black spot on all my photos is driving me crazy.
- Did you just go back and check each photo for the black spot?  I crop it out sometimes.

Thanks for reading!

Linking up to:
Anything Goes Monday at Stitch by Stitch
Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts 
Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story


  1. I just love this quilt! I would love to be more confident with improv quilting... Thankyou so much for sharing the process!

  2. This is a great quilt. Thank you for sharing this process is nice to realize that great work comes from trying things and I am inspired to get more creative and try new things after reading this. Thank you.

  3. So interestering to read how this wonderful quilt was created. It really is a great improv piece. And yes I did go back and check for the black spot - only because I hadn't noticed it at all till you pointed it out!

  4. Lol. Yes, I did go to check for black spots!
    This quilt looks like it was a bit if a ... Well, I don't want to say nightmare, but challenging project. Good on you for sticking with it and testing your skills. It looks amazing :-)
    E xx

  5. Love this process post ... This is my favourite of your lessons learnt "Sometimes its better if you don't know how much you don't know, otherwise you might not try things"

  6. I always appreciate hearing about process--both design and construction. I especially like how the rays/shards are varied and how different they are from the sketch.

    Like you, I have found that improv is very time consuming and harder than it looks and sounds. But I've also read that we should design without thinking about how we will construct something, then once it is designed think about how to do it.

  7. Wow! Awesome to see how you figured all of this out! I love how it came out and I admire how you stuck with it. That you hung all of it up before figuring out how to sew it is brilliant, in my opinion. What a great way to just make sure you got going!
    I did notice your black spot-- I have a paler one in my camera too-- something got inside the lens, past the mirror. I haven't taken my camera in yet either, but it is sure annoying to try to photo shop or crop so many pics.
    Thanks for sharing the link to Sarah Fielke's video too!

  8. Thank you for sharing the process. I'm plucking up courage to try improvising on patchwork on a larger scale (so far I just improvised some small wonky log cabins to widen a place mat), and this is encouraging. Thanks.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing the process!! Your quilt turned out fantabulous :)

  10. This is a very dramatic piece - a lovely strong design

  11. I love this! And thank you for sharing the process! It is just beautiful!

  12. You don't need to search for the "right" way ~ you've already found it! Stunning!

  13. This has turned out to be a stunning quilt and I really enjoyed reading about your progress - especially phrases like 'with absolutely no consideration for how I was going to join it all together' - I think that's definitely the way to end up with something original and inspiring. I want to make one now :)

  14. Impressive. I like how you had to stare at it for a bit..thanks for sharing your process

  15. Thanks for sharing your process and lessons learned. Designing can be messy and frustrating at times, but you came through with flying colours! (ha, ha! Pun not intended!) Well done. :)

  16. Haha, I did go back and check:) We learn a lot just trying things, right! I think it looks fabulous!!! you will find a dresden much easier. Such a creative quilt and I like the lighter thread too.

  17. This quilt is amazing. Thank you for sharing how you got the idea and the process of creating the top. I have learned a lot and you are inspiring me to move beyond my comfort zone.

  18. Thanks for sharing. I like to see how others come up with things :)


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