The un-cute heart challenge

I like hearts; the shape of hearts. I think they’re, well,…cute. When I designed my EZ Hearts Cut Tool, my goal was to create an easy way to cut a variety of different heart sizes. There is obviously a need in this world for a nifty method to cut fabric (and paper) hearts quickly and easily. To coincide with the launch of the EZ Hearts Cut Tool, I designed a few heart quilts and several small heart projects. They were, well, in a word….cute.

About a decade ago, hearts were big in the quilt world and on the primitive, country-style decorating scene. In many places they are still immensely popular. Hearts are timeless. Don’t get me wrong – I like the country look and appreciate the simplicity of hearts. I could design heart quilts all day long: Irish chain quilts with hearts, album blocks with hearts, log cabin quilts with hearts, and on and on. I like heart quilts. Typically, they are country-cute and very sweet. I just don’t particularly use them for my home décor (with the obvious exception of Valentine’s Day) or wear them appliquéd all over my clothes.

So, while I realized there was a need for this tool, the idea kept rolling around in my mind there had to be a way to design a heart quilt without being cute or country-looking. This idea slowly began to build and soon became my own personal challenge: to design a quilt with hearts that wasn’t cute. I called it my personal “Un-Cute Heart Challenge Quilt.”

Selecting the rights fabrics was crucial. However, have you ever thought about what would make hearts look daring, avant guard, sophisticated, elegant….anything but cute? I tried using true “ugly” fabrics. But after several attempts at using screen printed fabrics with outrageous or gangly motifs, or fabrics with the most hideous colors you can imagine, the effect was like a double negative. The uglies and hearts cancelled each other out and the designs still ended up looking cute. (No, really!)

I looked to new, bold, modern fabrics and batiks. By choosing a few splashy, in-your-face colors and a rather abstract layout (nothing too symmetrical, yet still easy to construct) I was well on my way to a contemporary, un-cute heart quilt. And the secret formula for making the new and improved, un-cute heart design come alive with the WOW factor? Embellishments.

At first, I added just a bit of trim around one heart. It was a great way to finish the raw edges of the fusible appliqué. I liked the effect so much that I chose some rickrack and added it to another heart. A daring move I must say, because rickrack can be – in and of itself – very cute. However, the results were dynamic! I was inspired. I was on my way to tackling my challenge.

A trip to the local discount fabric store sent me into a frenzy as I poured through all the laces, ribbons and trims. I went really crazy and bought furry stuff with pompoms and holographic thread! I dashed home with my bag full of embellishment delights and got to work on my un-cute quilt. I pulled out all my sewing machine accessory feet which have been gathering dust for many months due to lack of use. After all, it isn’t often you get to use a fringe foot, a pearl foot, or a foot with a groove on the under side big enough for a straw to pass through for everyday piecing and quilting! I had a blast becoming familiar with not only all these really cool machine presser feet and attachments, but with my sewing machine’s decorative stitches as well! 

In the end, I believe my hearts quilt is modern, a little bit edgy, and bold. I played with fabrics I might not ordinarily put together, learned how to use snazzy new threads and trims, and I experienced more of my machine’s accessories and decorative stitching capabilities. But most importantly, I had fun. And isn’t that what quilting should always be about? I hope you’ll have fun making your own version of the Mod Hearts quilt, as featured in the newest issue of McCall’s Quilting Magazine. Why not send me a digital photo or two? Even if you decide to make your version cute – I’d love to see it! 



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