values quilts

Neutral Values Quilt Top

Values Quilt Cheryl Arkison

Woah! Major back pain/sciatic flare up here. I spent last weekend either laying on the floor or rocking on my feet - in between ballet recitals and year end parties. I needed a creative boost. And, frankly, something to do that was distracting. Since I needed to stand a lot I spent some time on the design wall.

You see, this is the nice thing about so many quilts under construction. I needed a set of blocks for some design wall play and was able to pick from a few stacks. I chose a bunch of half square triangles. They started life as sample blocks in my Values class. Always make samples that coordinate and eventually you have enough for a quilt!

neutral values 2.jpg

It was just a stack of random blocks. I asked my sick, bored kid to count the blocks, then I played around with an idea until I could make it work with the blocks I had. In my time on the floor I lay below the design wall to contemplate options. While standing I could move things around and eventually sew here and there. I’m really happy with the way it worked out. It isn’t that big - only 55” square - but for now I’m adding it to the list of quilt tops. But if I teach that class again this coming year I might have more blocks to add to it!

Not Even All the Scraps

Scrap Quilts Cheryl Arkison

The weekend I finished this quilt the weather turned and a proper winter settled in. That particular weekend I did not leave my house, preferring to stay in and sew. Hence the finished quilt. It hasn’t really warmed up much since then, so no photos. But today it is a balmy -17C so I made my kids help me take a few pictures.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, this ended up being a queen size quilt so even my freakishly tall 12 year old had a hard time keeping it out of the snow!

Cheryl Arkison Scrap Quilts

Every single fabric in here is a scrap. In November of last year I decided to listen to my own teaching advice. It really isn’t that big of a deal to sort scraps, once you just decide to do it. All of my strips, and those gathered along the way, had made their way into this big blue IKEA bag. Not the little ones, the big bags. It was just short of overflowing. So I sorted those strips by colour and then by value. Then I sewed.

I did a lot of sewing. Mind you, this is mindless sewing. So perfect for Morning Make and holiday stress and snippets of time to myself. The girls came in and helped periodically, especially once I got a new iron. Then I cut.

I did a lot of cutting. The sewing is sewing long strips together. Well, whatever length they may be. Then I have to cut them and square them up to 3.5’’ square. More sewing after that to make 4 patches of each colour.

The design work, interestingly, I did on the computer. My design wall is not big enough for this many blocks. And to colour on graph paper would be an exercise in patience because of making changes. Each changes means a new drawing. So I went as low tech tech as you can go. I used Excel. Super fancy, right? But it helped me sort out a basic plan, which I then refined on the design wall.

Cheryl Arkison Scrap Quilts

Part of the challenges of turning scraps into blocks into a quilt is that there is one giant limitation - you get what you get. My process is to design as I go. That means I did not plan it out and pre-determine how many blocks of each colour I needed. Rather, I used the scraps and, at some point, figured out how many blocks in total I would need. Then I worked on a layout for what I had. In the end, a few blocks were re-scrapped and I raided the colour sorted scrap bins for a few more pieces to make additional blocks.

This is how it ended up. It is colourful! It is bold! It is fun! It is -17C worthy for sure.

Spiral - Values Quilt with Tag Fabric

Tag Fabric Spiral Quilt Pattern


60'' x 60''

There was a moment while making this quilt, as I put the trimmed blocks on the wall, when I stopped breathing. Not in a bad, call the ambulance way! No, in the held my breath because I was so excited way. That was the moment when it hit me that I was sewing with fabrics I designed. Until that point the fact that I'd designed fabrics for sewing seemed distant, almost ethereal. Not even when I approved final designs, not when I got my strike offs, not even when I was cutting into the fabric for the first time. The moment only came when I'd already cut, sewn, and trimmed over 100 HSTs for this quilt. I put three blocks on the design wall and simply had to stop.

It is a moment I remember clearly. The sewing room door was open and the rest of the family was watching Bear Grylls, the one with Mel B from the Spice Girls. I started in the top left corner of the design wall and three blocks in just stopped. I had to sit down. Then stand. Then sit. Then stand. Then lean. I may have jumped a little, just a little. And I kept talking to myself about how cool it all was, annoying the family. Tough on them - this was my new quilt with my new fabric! All mine! I would say it was surreal, but the truth is that it was profoundly real. That's why I lost my breath.

Thankfully I managed to forge ahead and make this quilt, plus a few others to be shared.

I will fully admit, that it was a bit of a struggle to make quilts and write patterns with ONLY Tag Fabric. If you've been reading here for any amount of time you know that I have a hard time being so exclusive. Even with my own fabric that was really difficult. 

Spiral Values Quilt Tag Fabric

When I designed the fabric it was originally supposed to be full colour. Through the iterative process with Connecting Threads we switched with black, grey, and white. Without too much trouble it became 20 fabrics evenly split along value lines. That meant it was ripe for making a Values Quilt. Because value is relative, it is ridiculously easy to have the fabric line do the work for you. But also an excellent lesson for learning value. Also conveniently, a fat quarter bundle gets you this quilt, with enough blocks left over for another small quilt or pillow.  You get all that in the pattern. Yes, there is a pattern for the quilt.

Patterns and full quilt kits are available from the Connecting Threads site. Or you can buy the PDF pattern directly from my Etsy site.