Jean & Valori's Grace Adventure


I want to share Valori and my adventures in quilt design using Valori’s upcoming line of fabric “Grace” from Free Spirit. Valori told me that to her grace means... "the space to give self-love and self-care as I navigate life.” From her self-discovery experience with #thehundreddayproject in 2022 the Grace line of fabric emerged. She carved designs from her sketchbook and began printing and layering the designs in a variety of colors. This collection of designs in rich, luscious combinations of colors and layers of meaning gave her a new sense of self-worth and confidence; it continued to fuel her intentions.
Valori asked me to be one of her quilt design contributors for Grace and create projects for this line of fabric. I received ½ yd of each of the prints to begin my journey of discovery.
When I opened this lovely box of fabric I was truly thrilled. The colors were clear and the prints were interesting and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. Valori asked me if I would create a collaborative quilt with her. I have done round robin style collaborations in the past and really enjoyed the process. We both love the Daylesford log cabin quilt in the round in Jen Kingwell’s Quilt Recipes book, so that launched the idea for our process. As you can see there is good variety of pattern as well as value and intensity in the colors of the Grace line of fabric. Now to play time!
Val created the center of the quilt with a 12” square of the theme fabric and added the light and medium gray borders with magenta inserts. This set the tone for the quilt.
I added the aqua strips with small bits of color on two sides of the center and the white on the other sides. I like areas in a quilt with smaller pieces clustered together. It is kind of my signature design element in my work. I find by changing up the scale of the pieces it creates interest. What I love in the beginning of the design process is this discovery of how different color and print patterns are going to work together. Which one will emerge as the leader, the support staff, and the maverick.
On the next row Val choose to make the improv triangles that I love. You can make them any width at the base and height. She introduced several new fabrics in her round that we had not used yet. With the orange flower shape in the center block, repeating the orange print really is nice at the bottom as well as the purple print which reads dark.
When she handed the quilt off to me I put it up on the design wall and studied her color placement. I also noticed that she had not used the green yet. I felt like I needed a place with smaller piecing where I could put a variety of colored prints and the green fit right in with the others. In my work I love to make strata where you change up the width of the strips you sew together. That is what I did with the top row. I made the purple narrower as it was so strong on the previous row.
 I took a risk adding the rectangular yellow and orange print strip on the right side. I felt like it would balance the way Val had already used orange. I was not sure what Val would think of it. On the bottom strip I used an inch wide strip of purple and then the warm beige. It just felt like I needed a little weight there. Then I repeated a few more strata strips in the beige strip.
I was nervous about giving it to Val. I was not sure if she would like it. When I gave it to her she was thrilled!! I was so relieved. Designing from the center out I realized I was not just thinking about color and shapes but also the width of the strips. You will see in the next row that Val mimicked me by adding more long strips of prints and made them a little wider. The repetition of the theme print on the left was brilliant. The theme for the piece was now set and that print has a bit of all the colors in it, so it carries all the others along. I also like the use of two different prints on the bottom row. That magenta and orange print is my very favorite print in the collection. It has so much depth to it. Val then added the print fabric rows with insets.
It was once again my turn. At this point in the design process the quilt starts telling you what it needs. It really is not a time to introduce more imagery but rather to repeat it in other ways, and that is what we did. It felt so good as a designer to just please the quilt. My last two rounds were the larger triangles and the one inch wide bands using all of the prints in different proportions.  I also wanted to use the subtle neutral print as a background behind some of the triangles. Then the fun began for me as I love to create little detail piecing and you can see it in the one inch wide strip. The colors that became more dominant were used in the longer strips where the less used colors became important accents. As I looked through my scrap pile there was a small strip of the white. There was enough of it for me to cut five squares and I strategically placed them around the quilt. They are like a beacon of light in the design.
Val barely had enough fabric left of the theme print to frame the design but it is like the icing on the cake. The activity in the larger scale print lends itself to a multitude of story telling as the different colors and patterns converse with each other next to them. When you think about it there are a multitude of individual color palettes visible as you eye moves around the quilt.
Now to the quilting. Val is an amazing long arm quilter. It is like the sketches in her journals come alive with the stitches on the cloth.
We had the best time designing and working together on this project. Valori did an outstanding job quilting an overall meandering design on the quilt. If you look really close once in a while you see the word “Grace".
For the binding I cut one and a half inch strips and followed the same idea as I had in the previous one inch strip with all the little piecing. It feels like it leads the eye around the quilt once again.
Maybe you and a friend might try a project like this. It pushes you as a designer to come up with something new in the beginning and then as elements are repeated, the quilt starts to design itself!
-Jean Wells