Have you ever played the ‘What if….?’ game with fabric? You may well be asking yourself “What is the ‘What if…?’ game??”. Let me explain. You start by following a pattern, following instructions, and then having got quite familiar with the pattern, you start to wonder. You start to think ‘what if I do this?’, or ‘what if I change that placement?’, ‘What if I include a different colour?’. Once you start having such ideas, it is invaluable to have a notebook in which to write down these ideas, so that you don’t forget them. If you have them scribbled on pieces of paper, it is useful to keep them together in a wallet of some sort, so that you can find them again.

I am a self-confessed fabriholic. I am the curator of an extensive fabric collection, and the owners of my LQS have said that if they ever run out, they know that they can come to me for supplies! I have a penchant for pre-cuts, and have amassed a selection of charm packs, layer cakes and jelly rolls (by whatever name they go by).

A selection of my purchases from the January Sales at my LQS

Some quilt shops also prepare their own charm packs; The Cotton Patch has done this for a number of years (quite possibly before the Moda Charm Packs were so very popular and readily available). I found these a great way to add to my stash, and to give a great selection of colours too. I particularly like their bargain charm pack, as you get so many different fabrics, and also a charm pack they used to do called ‘Conversationals’. The ‘Conversationals’ pack usually consisted of fabrics that would not be out of place in an I Spy quilt.

However, my first foray into playing the ‘What if..?’ game features Moda charm packs, and white on white fabric that I cut myself. I have had other forays into the ‘What if…?’ game using charm packs, but this one co-incides with a previous blog entry – the one about using the internet to help you to design quilts – you can find it here.

I had got a little bit bored with the other patterns I had been doing for quilts, and I had the ‘What if….’ Idea – what if I do a brick design with the charm pack, – and so cut the charm pack in half. I combined the rectangles with white on white rectangles of the same size, and sewed a white to a patterned. After sewing quite a few together, I decided that my strips were long enough, and so I could start joining the strips together. Now, as I sit here writing this blog, I realise that another ‘What if…’ moment is occurring to me; I am thinking that another effect could be produced by joining all the strips in one long strip – like a jelly roll race, and continuing in the form of that race. However, that will have to be one for another time! I joined the strips together in rows, making sure that I staggered them, in order to create a brick wall effect.

Trying for a brick wall effect – it is more like a zipper. This Moda charm pack was one called Tradewinds.. This quilt has been made for Project Linus in North Devon.

There are several reasons why this works well: the first reason is that by using a Moda charm pack, you know that the colours will all go well together. The second reason is that you don’t have any seams to match, and so if your accuracy is not all you want it to be, this is an ideal pattern to try!

Once I’d done the brick wall, I wondered about other designs I could create using the brick wall pattern as a basis, but changing the layout of the colours and fabrics. This is where downloadable geometric papers are really useful, as you can easily plan out your design without having to draw the basic blocks / layout yourself; and let’s be honest about this – drawing it out roughly yourself does not always give you a really good idea of what the design will look like, and drawing it out in good detail yourself takes time away from sewing! By taking a little time to play with a design on printed paper, I created a lamp design, and this could be extended in future to make the lamps larger!

The planning stage -how to make it work without having to engage Jack!
Please excuse the creases – photo taken for illustrative purposes!

This ‘what if…?’ went further still at my local Project Linus day in April this year. I’d only just created the two quilt tops I’ve described above, and our local coordinator had cut 5” squares from the donated fabric for us. She suggested doing either Disappearing Nine Patch, or Oh My Stars, but I had other ideas – which was a random brick wall. It was not as quick as making blocks for Disappearing 9 Patch, but was great to use up lots of different fabrics, and create something very unique and that could be quite colourful.

Again – please excuse the creases and non-finished state. This was created using 5 inch squares cut in half, and I added some plain and tone on tone fabrics from my own stash.

This way of working with fabrics and patterns can be very liberating, but I am also very aware that some people are not happy with working in such a random way, and are much happier to keep things more coordinated and planned. However you like to work, playing the ‘what if….?’ game will keep you on your toes, and give you new avenues to explore!