The Scrap Squad is a select group of eight QM readers. They take one pattern from each regular issue and make scrappy versions to inspire others.
The featured Scrap Squad quilt in Quiltmaker’s May/June issue is Mandarin Express, below.
It was designed by Robin Waggoner from Spokane Valley, Washington. Robin and Sandy Odeen pieced it, and Robin quilted it. The batiks are from Hoffman California Fabrics.
Today’s featured quilt is by Gina Elias from Spring Valley, Illinois. You’ll hear from Gina in her own words below.
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For my version of Mandarin Express, I wanted to make a playful child’s quilt so I decided to use the primary colors. After opening my color bins containing blue, yellow and red fabrics, I found that I didn’t have many yellow varieties. I decided to experiment.
What if I made everything including the background scrappy, but used a solid yellow for a single design element? I’ve done many quilts where the background was a consistent color with everything else scrappy but never this combination. Why not try it? Here are the fabrics I started with.
I used photo editing software on my iPad to transpose the picture to black and white. The black and white picture helps ensure that I’ve included dark, medium, and light fabrics in my selection.
The yellow reads as a medium value, but I’ve learned in the past that yellow – especially when used in abundance – can take over a quilt and can come to the foreground like dark fabrics usually do. Knowing this, I used the white with black as my background fabric, the light blue as my medium and the royal blue, red and yellow as my dark fabrics. Now where to place these fabrics in the quilt design? I liked the color placement in both of these designs equally.
I thought, “Man, that’s busy! Do I like it?” Hmm… Not sure. So I enlisted the help of the other Scrap Squad members. I said, “Be brutally honest. Stop because this isn’t working or keep going?” They said to keep going. I reluctantly agreed and continued to piece more blocks. But the whole time I was thinking, “I’m not sure about this.”
After a while, I took the project off my design wall and let it marinate in a storage box for a couple of weeks while I worked on some other projects. The whole time I was working on the other projects, I was pondering – Keep on going? – Make up a new color scheme?
Spring break came at the beginning of March and I set aside the whole week to work on this quilt. Decision time! I put it back on my wall and guess what? The more blocks I added to the wall, the more I liked the quilt top.
Bonnie Hunter’s words (paraphrased here) kept ringing true in my mind. “If you use enough different fabrics, cut them small enough, and make the quilt big enough – it will look fine!”
Now what? Play time! How about adding some sashing?
The yellow became the background once sashing was added. I didn’t like that look but it’s interesting how sashing changed the appearance of the quilt entirely. What about the border? I’m big on letting the design complete itself into the border so I started experimenting on that.
I liked that look. I put the center together then came up with the border measurements. This border is created by using blocks that finish at 4 ½” wide by 9″ long. I could have pieced it by making three skinny 1 ½” borders (finished) and adding them to the top consecutively, but it just seemed easier to make half-blocks that could be pieced and lined up with the center blocks when adding to the top.
The EQ diagram below shows each side has a pieced section and a solid section. The four corners are also pieced.
For each pieced section of the border, you’ll need to cut:
- (6) 2″ red squares
- (2) 2″ yellow squares
- (3) 2″ x 3 ½” yellow rectangles
- (1) 2″ x 6 ½” yellow rectangle
For each non-pieced section of the border, you’ll need to cut a single rectangle of yellow 5″ x 9 ½”. For each corner, you’ll need to cut:
- (3) 2″ red squares
- (2) 2″ yellow squares
- (2) 2″ x 3 ½” yellow rectangles
As a final note, since I didn’t design the border until after the center was pieced, I can now see that it would flow even better if I would have made the outer small elongated triangles that surround the star yellow instead of using the background fabric (on the outside stars only). They are outlined in black below.
If you are going to piece a border like mine, I’d recommend that you do that.
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Please join me in congratulating Gina on a stunning piece of work! You just can’t go wrong with the primary colors. The yellow does a great job of tying everything together.
And she is absolutely right about one thing: when you first start making scrappy blocks, things can look a little hopeless, but you just have to keep going. More blocks, more fabrics, more interest—it starts getting better, and eventually it looks wonderful! Read another post for more on this idea: Running Smack Dab Into Ugly!