Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The New Project

In my last post I mentioned I had a new project in the works. This is the story of how it came about and what has come from it. Read on if you dare!

DD has been using plastic laminated placemats on her daughter's Elmo table to protect the surface during meals, etc. Last week or so she asked if I would be willing to make some "wild and funky" placemats to replace them as they were beginning to show signs of wearing out.

They could be a Christmas gift she said.

I said, "of course!"

Saturday (I think) DD informed me that the plastic mats had come apart already and she'd had to throw them out. Could I make a couple of new mats ASAP? And could at least one of them feature the primary colors so she could help DGD learn her colors?

Hmmm... You know, I don't think there's anything I love more than a design challenge! (That's design, not engineering or construction!)

Because DGD and I are such fans of Elmo (see Monday's Meme) the first thing I did was to go through my fabric stash to see whether I had something that might have The Little Red One's image on it. Nope, no luck. But I had some scraps from curtains someone had made that had pictures of Big Bird and Bert and Ernie and Cookie Monster on it. Big Bird was too big for a placemat, I only really had pieces of Ernie, and, to be honest, Bert was a little scary. Cookie Monster was as good a place to start as any! I went through my pile of food fabrics (novelty prints with images of food on them) and discovered I had fruits, vegetables, ice cream - in two different prints! - Hershey's candies, and one rectangular scrap of a guy making pizza. I could either be the BAD Grandma and surround Cookie Monster with ice cream and candy or I could be a GOOD Grandma and give him nothing but fruit and vegetables to eat. I chose to let Cookie have his pizza, an assortment of fruit, and a few vegetables. I put the ice cream on the back of the placemat for dessert. :- )

Next I wanted to attack the problem of a placemat featuring the primary colors of the color wheel. This was harder than I expected. I kept trying to make it more complex than it needed to be, both in the number of colors and the construction. It's only a placemat for crying out loud! DD specifically suggested solid colors, maybe set with black. I'm sorry, but, "yuck!" I don't DO solid colors! I've made my share of Amish style blocks and quilts in the past, and yes, black does set colors off beautifully, but I have to do something to make this project fun for me to do! Or at least interesting.

I did my best to pick out fabrics/prints that read as a solid color. I was determined to include the neutrals as well: black, white, and one shade of brown. I envisioned a rainbow effect. Maybe I could pull that off in a Log Cabin block? This is what I came up with:

It's okay. I couldn't find anything I liked for a binding so in my haste to just get it done I resorted to black (technically it's a black Moda marble). I also quilted as I constructed the block. Which means I was sewing the strips on and sewing through the batting and the backing all at the same time. Somehow one green/purple seam got skewed. I blame the polyester batting I was using. Or the cheap green fabric. Whatever; DGD won't care!

Not being entirely happy with that attempt at the color wheel I gave it another go. This time I used simple squares of each color (which DD herself had suggested - ahem) and I didn't work so hard to try to find prints that represented the pure hue. Personally I like this set of colors better than the ones in the first effort. I even found a way to incorporate white and black and brown. The border fabric is perfect; it has all the colors I've used in the body of the mat (with the exception of black and brown). Choosing a binding took some time but I'm much happier with this second try. (Does it count as a series if you're just making placemats?)

The last mat I'm going to show you is actually the third one I made. It started with what was probably one of the oldest of my orphan blocks. As I've been going through them lately to make the Orphan Train quilt and the baby quilt I have tossed out a few from the early years that were made with the worst of fabrics. This block was a survivor. I've always thought it was cute, even if it was a little wonky, and considered making it into a doll quilt or something but, obviously, had never done that. Apparently I was saving it for this placemat because this went together more easily and happily than any of the others with the possible exception of Cookie Monster's. All I did was add a strip of the same print that I'd used in the center square to either side of the block and then fill out the corners with a vintage print I didn't even know I had in my stash. Bordered it with the blue plaid to make it bigger, found a perfect companion print to back it, and had enough of a red calico very much like what I'd used in the block to bind it. Voila! The whole thing reminds me of a picnic (even though the bears are doing chores like marketing and baking and mopping the floor!).

These first four placemats ought to be enough to hold her for a while. I have ideas swirling about for others now... holiday themes, crazy patch, maybe more orphan blocks... Fun, fun, fun!


  1. Love those placemats! Your DGD will love them. And why not count it as a series? Nothing says that art can't have a practical function as well as being pretty!

  2. Awesome!!

    L&H Carol

  3. Found my way to your blog and I am just loving your creative process! I'd say this is a 'Placemat Series' for sure...it's been a wonderful progressive journey through both project and scraps! I love seeing how your mind works and how your heart and hands get on board and follow through...and then, sometimes it's the other way around...Love it!

  4. I accepted your TAGGING and have now passed it on! I think this is a great series. To me a series is exploring different things in one medium or using many mediums to explore on thing. You ended up with a good variety any child would love but it's even more special coming from a Grandma!

  5. Oh c'mon. Grandmas are BAAAD. Cookie Monster wants candy and ice cream and COOKIEs. Vegetables - bah!

    Turned out cute though.


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