A Walk On The Wild Side

Wild Flower Show

TAH, DAH! Well, the big day has finally arrived. Whooo, Hoooo! After all the waiting and talking . . . and talking and waiting . . . and talking some more, I’m finally ready to show you what I made with all my scraps. (You know the ones. The ones that so many of you throw away—like TRASH. I’M NOT JUDGING!—I’m just saying . . .

Drum Roll Please . . . You have no idea how hard it has been for me to wait this long to show you my project. I know it has taken a while to get to this point, but I wanted you to understand the steps I took and what my goals were.

Let’s Get On With The Show Because you have all been so patient and enthusiastic about my project—even though you had no idea where it was going—I am making this post pictorial. I think a picture is worth a thousand words, and after pulling all these images together, I’m too tired to write 60- to  70,000 words. (I’ll do that in another post—so consider yourself warned. BWHAA, HA, Ha, ha . . . )

First Block Created For Scrap Fusible Quilt

This 9-in. block is the one that started it all.

The block above is the first one I made for the project. I thought it was kinda cool, so I made more.

Assorted 3x6-in. Scrap Fusible Blocks

A sampling of the 3x6-in. blocks

After the first block, I made a few more—all the same size (9-in. square). I thought the blocks were pretty, but the uniform layout was kinda boring. Since it’s my quilt—and I can do what I want—I decided to make the blocks in a variety of sizes ranging from 3-in. to 12-in. I also decided that I would let the scraps dictate the block size.

Sampling of 6- and 9-in. Scrap Fusible Blocks

A sampling for 6- and 9-in. blocks.

So far, so good.

Purple Background, 12x6-in. Scrap Fusible Block

Sample of a 12x6-in. block.

As I said, the scraps dictated the size of the block.

Blue Background, 9x12-in. Scrap Fusible Block

Example of a 9x12-in. block.

Once I had a few blocks to work with, I started to put them on my design wall.

Random Blocks on Design Wall

Random blocks on the wall. I'll worry about the layout later.

This project has been a lot of fun so far—but I still had more scraps—so I made more blocks.

Purple Background, 12-in. Scrap Fusible Block

12-in. Block

Aren’t the big blocks great? There is so much to see.

Purple Plaid Background, 12-in. Scrap Fusible Block

Another 12-in. block.

No two blocks are like. It was fun using up all those little pieces—Ah, sweet memories.

Close up of blocks on design wall.
Working my way through the design process.

After making even more blocks, I decided that I should start working on the arrangement. This quilt needed to start looking more like a quilt, and less like bunch of blocks.

Purple Background, 9-in. Scrap Fusible Block

A 9-in. block, just because I wanted to show it to you.

I kept arranging blocks, and making blocks.

Blue Background, 12-in. Scrap Fusible Block

And, here's another 12-in. block

I made block after block until I had nothing left to use. There were still a few random scraps left over, but not enough to add to this project.

Full View Of The Quilt Top

All the blocks are fused and ready for the next step.

Taking a Bow All of these blocks were made from the leftovers I showed you. This quilt will measure approximately 48-in. square when it’s finished. The applique was so easy and fun to do, that I was able to create all of this over the course of a weekend. That’s right—let that sink in—one weekend (2 days), and I ate and slept too.

Now, aren’t you sad that you threw all those amazing little bits and pieces away?

I could end the post nowbut wait—there’s more.

Encore I’m sure you’re thinking that the quilt is half-way done and the best part is over. Well, if that’s what you are thinking—then you’re thinking wrong. This is only the first step. Can you believe it?

Remember when I told you this was a year-long project? Well, it still is . . . I’ll be explaining my big plans for this quilt in future posts, so stay tuned . . .

Critical Reviews Oh yeah, please tell me what you think about my little project. I am anxious to hear your thoughts and opinions. Come on . . . share with me. Please, pretty please . . . with scraps on it.


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65 Responses to “A Walk On The Wild Side”

  1. Beth Says:

    I LOVE IT! And yes I know I was shouting! I don’t care! I think it is awwesome! I don’t throw my scraps away! I give them to Jim Gatling Hope he gets some ideas like this! This is awesome!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Beth, I’m glad you like my little project. The shouting is appreciated. It’s confirmation that I havent’ been wasting all my time and effort. Aside from using the scraps yourself, giving them to Jim is the next best thing. He does amazing things with people”s leftovers. The last few quilts he has done are truly wonderful. He’s made 20 quilts this year. Who does that? If I get two made, I’m thrilled.

  2. Nikki Says:

    well, it’s just very beautiful Tom – and once you get finished will all the beading and fibering and embroidering and other embellishments – it will be absolutely stunning – it will be another Tom Russell. But I have to tell ya – there is nothing that will ever fill my heart with the same joy Sing, Sing A Song brings to me.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Nikki, Thanks for dropping by. You’re right, when this one is done it’s gonna be all sparkly. People should be able to look for hours and not find everything I’m planning to put on it. It’ll probably also weight quite a lot more after it’s done. There is not comparison to Just Sing. This one is entirely different. Can’t wait to finish the one on my frame now. I think you might like it too.

  3. deb aka purple princess Says:

    Love, love, LOVE this! I was beginning to think it was gonna end up king-size, too. ;-D All thru the photos I kept thinking, “He’s working dot-to-dot!” ;-D Can’t wait to see what comes next!

    • deb aka purple princess Says:

      PS: Have to totally agree with Nikki – “Sing A Song” makes MY heart sing! ;-D

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey there, Glad you like my busy little quilt. Nope, not king size. I don’t think I have enough stamina to do a king. I’m glad you like, but the next stage is ever better. Stay tuned.

      Just Sing does the same to mine. I haven’t told everyone this, but Just Sing is going to be in a book on Texas quilts by Karey Bresenham.

      • Nikki Says:

        OMG!! Congratulations on the entry in the Texas quilts book – I’m so very happy for you Tom! That little quilt is going to be in the quilt history books for sure – I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted it for permanent display in the new museum – but I know – getting it is a whole nuther thing…………..

      • Tom Russell Says:

        Thanks. I’m very excited about it being in the book. It was wonderful to see you at the meeting yesterday. Too bad the day was over so quickly. I think Kathy and I need to plan a visit to Beaumont. After Saturday’s fun, a playdate is definitely in order.

  4. Virtual Quilter Says:

    In a word …..


    What I love most is that it shows just how easy it is to design applque. No more excuses for anyone to say designing is too hard!

    Judy B

    Yeh, I know, it is rude to shout.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Judy, It’s one of the things about applique that I love. You can make it as easy or as challenging as you would like. This part was easy. The next stages are a little more challenging. I”m looking forward to sharing the next stage with you. The blocks look so much better. Yea!

  5. Jayardi Says:

    • • • Look at them dots.

    Love, love,

    LOVE it!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      You know me. I never met a circle I didn’t like. The only reason I didn’t use more is because I ran out of room. I had to make sure I left room of other embellishments like buttons, beads and sequins.

  6. Analisa Says:

    Tom I really like it! It has that retro/vintage feel. It’s a very fresh concept and the color balance is great. I look forward to seeing it finished. Good luck to you.
    Analisa in Dubai

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Analisa, Yes, it has a little bit of a retro quality to it. Those daisy style flowers do it every time. As I worked on the blocks I wanted them to feel more like sketches. That was part of the reason to work so fast. I didn’t want to agonize over anything. I’m glad you felt that they looked fresh.

      Reacting to the shapes was a great exercise. Learning to deal with badly cut shapes and weird proportions was another challenge. All these things combined to make it a great project.

      I think in the end, that all of these traditional design shortcomings can be overlooked and even appreciated if I handle the rest of the project well, so stay tuned.

  7. Linda Teddlie Minton Says:

    Oh, Wow!

  8. Patricia Eaton Says:

    Tom, All I can say is WOW!!! And, two days, huh? Remarkable. You, my friend, are ‘something else.’ pat

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey there, I did have a lot of fun making it, but I’m really enjoying the next step. Can’t wait for you to see it, but it’s the step after that one that I’m looking most forward to. Oh, I can’t wait to get to the next stage!

  9. Dot Collins Says:

    IT IS ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS!!! I love the quilt and I love your writings and posts!! If you were not such a wonderful quiltmaker, I would be telling you that you missed your calling in life and should have been a writer. I would certainly buy any book you wrote. Anyway, we are lucky that you can do both – produce wonderful quilts and post on your blog! I love the work that you do with all those little pieces – but I only want to worship at your feet – I do not want to start saving more that I already do (you have seen my studio). Thanks for sharing your quilt. Dot

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Oh Dot, you make me want to cry—and give you a BIG ‘OL HUG!!!!

      Coming from you, both of those compliments mean so much. Thank you. I’m glad you are enjoying me blog and I am really glad that you like my quilt. It has been such a walk down memory lane to work on it, and now because I am sharing my progress with everyone, it is going have even more memories attached to it.

      I am blessed to have you as a friend. Your studio is FABULOUS and so are you. You keep doing what your doing. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  10. Kim / SeeingStars Says:

    Only 48 inches! Wow! You’ve filled that area with so much detail and interest. I like that many of the flowers aren’t exact imitations, but more modern artsy suggestions of flowers. The background fabrics are a terrific palette to showcase those WILD SIDE blossoms and swirls and dots. Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait to see what else is going in to this year long project.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      HEY YOU! I can’t believe that you are here. I’m SO happy you dropped by. Yep, only 48 inches. I love a lot of detail, but this is only the beginning. It’s going to get a lot more involved as I progress.

      You are right. The flowers aren’t exact because I made them from leftover scraps. I’ll be showing where some of the shapes came from so you’ll have a better understanding of why they look the way they do.

      I love scrappy backgrounds. You can use as many or as few fabrics as you wish. The only thing you have to keep in mind is common values. Once you understand that, you can use 1000 different pieces and they will all work together.

      I’m so happy you came by and posted. I’ll be sharing more soon.

  11. Lynn Says:

    Just gorgeous!!!~

  12. NONNIE Says:

    I just happened upon your blog while surfing one day but you are now added to my google reader. Love your flowers bright and cheerful really fun my idea of applique… Love the colors. Can not wait to see the finished project.

    What is your stitching style???
    Adding you to my google reader! so I can follow your progress!


    Nonnie’s Quilting Dreams

    Pod cast about quilting, life, rants and raves

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Nonnie, Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad you like my blog enough to follow it.

      Hmmm, what’s my style? Depends on the quilt and what you are referring to.

      For applique, I use both hand and machine applique. I choose the technique based on the way I want the quilt look.

      If you are asking about quilting, I am a machine quilter. I plan to learn how to hand quilt, but haven’t found a project that needs it. On hand quilting technique I have used is Big Stitch quilting. I love it for the texture it creates. I plan to experiment more with it.

      I hope I’ve answered your question correctly. If not, please ask me again. I’m happy to clarify.

  13. Steve Carr Says:

    You had me at the dots on the first one! Funky, fabulous and colorful. It looks amazing when they’re all together. Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Steve, Thanks. I’m glad you like my project. It’s much different than the one you are working on. Your work is wonderful and I can’t wait to see your finished top.

      The next stage is going to take me until June to finish, but I won’t make everyone wait for me. I’ll be posting photos of the next stage soon.

  14. kathydrew Says:

    You are amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. TcMay Says:

    I feel like I discovered a secret garden of joy..I love it…I already snagged one of those beautiful block ideas to use in a mini quilt I was working on that just needed one more OMP!! to make it sing. Mine will never sing with the harmony your’s does. You are so talented and we are so blessed you share with us. May

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi there, You are so sweet. Yes, I guess you are right. It was my little secret garden, but now it’s no longer a secret. I’m happy that you like it, and even more happy that it inspired you. That’s the best compliment I could get.

      I’m sure you are just being hard on yourself. I bet your quilt will sing just as loudly as mine does. If you have a minute and a camera, send me a picture or post it on the message board. I’d love to see it.

      I am the one who is blessed. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. mcpatches Says:

    It is absolutely beautiful! Your creativity and sense of color shine though. I am amazed at what you have created with scraps. The dark background just makes the flowers pop. I cannot wait to see more of it! Keep showing us progress pictures, please.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey! This must be HGTV.com day. I LOVE IT!!! All of these people from the board are stopping by to say hi. I’m thrilled that you like the quilt and am touched that you took the time to write a note. I really appreciate it.

      The dark background is really cool. I love the purple plaid the most. I loved it so much I almost didn’t use it. I thought the quilt wasn’t going to be that good and I’d save the plaid for later. Boy, am I glad I didn’t listen to me. The background really makes the top.

      I’ll be sharing the next step soon. Thanks again for stopping by.

  17. Recovering Perfectionist Says:

    Wowsy wowsy woo woo woo! Those are great — so fun and cheerful and cool! I’m very much looking forward to what you do next!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      You make me laugh. Where were you when I was trying to think up subheads? I’m glad you like my quilt. Fun and cheerful is exactly what I was going for. I’m glad you think I’ve succeeded.

      I’ll be showing some of the next stages soon.

  18. Carol Anderson Says:

    Tom, I remember seeing these little pieces at an Applique Society meeting. I knew it was going to be so very special, but wow! Then again, I should have known that with your creativity it would be spectacular! Silly me.

    Thank you for “walking” us through the creative process. That’s what I enjoy the most.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Well, Carol Anderson, I’m so glad you dropped by. It would have been so much easier to just show you my top and say tah dah!, but I think learning about the thought process is equally as important as the finished piece.

      Jotting things down in my journal is far different than writing them for a blog. I hope you have gotten something out of watching my process. If you have questions, please let me know.

      I’ve got more to share, so come back soon.

  19. Geri Blanton Says:

    Tom, you and your quilts are something else. Bravo. I enjoyed your workshop and was very pleased with my resulting quilt “Tom and Geri”. But you have to refresh my memory with twirling the thread around your thumb when sewing on beads. I agree with Dot; you should have been a writer. Maybe you can work that into your schedule. Your blog is so refreshing. Can’t remember how I first found it, then I lost it and a friend sent it to me. I will definitely follow the journey of Walk On The Wild Side.

  20. Jackie Says:

    Hope this message gets to you on time, I was wondering if you will be at our tomorrow Saturday 4-9-11 WHQG? I and I wanted to let you know I have 3 quilts I really wanted you to see. Sorry to post here, I was looking for your personal email. This is my first quilt show showing, any way hope to see you there.

  21. jessica Says:

    “More Scraps equals More Blocks”! I love it! I can see how this turned into such a fantastic project… I’d want to keep adding blocks too. I’ve returned a couple times just to view the “happiness”. WoW!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      When I started the quilt, I thought with all the scraps I had, I would end up with a queen size quilt. By the time I got to through it was only a wallhanging. I could have made the blocks less elaborate, but where’s the fun in that?

      • jessica Says:

        “less elaborate” is not your style!!! “Whimsy” pours from your talented self!

        The quilt has a “large quilt” look about it! Isn’t that something?! Well, now you can move on to another project…!

        Enjoy your Creativity!

      • Tom Russell Says:

        You know, I think you are right. Less elaborate is not my style, but I may have to give it a try, just to see if I can do it.

        Oh Jessica, this project is far from over. I’ve only shown you phase 1. There is much more to this little project.

  22. Lauren Fatato Says:

    What an awesome project, I’m amazed but not surprised. You’re soooo talented!!

  23. Janis T Says:

    Wow, I can’t stop grinning, I love it! I just found your blog and will add it to my reader, I am looking forward to seeing how your project progresses. Great inspiration!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Janis, I’m glad you found me. It’s always great to hear that someone likes what you are doing and that it makes them smile. I have lots to share, so I’m glad you’ve added me to your reader. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.

  24. JoyceAnn Says:

    Your creativity still amazes me! What fabulous ideas spring from your mind- such beauty and whimsy, just scrumptious. You inspire me to let loose, or at least try! Thanks.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi JoyceAnn, I appreciate your enthusiasm for my work. I am glad that it inspires you to let loose and try new things. Letting loose is very freeing and a little scary at the same time. Once you get past the first experiment, there is no telling where the adventure will end.

      I hope you’ll let loose. When you do, please take pictures and share them with me. I’d love to see what you make.

  25. Lynn Kelly Says:

    I LOVE IT!!! I saved all of the scraps of all my table-mates when taking your class! ha I hate to throw fabric away. I often use them for something kookie in the backing. After seeing you work, there is lots of permission be be ‘off the wall!’ And it’s cheaper than always buying new fabric, isn’t it? Again, LOVE IT!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      HA! That’s how I got some of the scraps for this quilt. As some of the students would leave class, they would give me their leftovers. I hate to see them go to waste, so I make room for them in my scraps.

      Yes, there is a lot of permission given in this project. I had to force myself to leave things as-is, but in the end, I know it will be worth it. All the irregularities in the applique shapes are what makes it interesting.

      Everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful. I think some quilts might be more successful if they were a little more playful in their execution. I think trying a few off-the-wall things does a creative person good. It’s very easy to get in a rut. Projects like this stimulate your creativity and as you said—they are cheap!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  26. Nicki Lee Says:

    Oh Tom… after seeing some of youir quilts up close and personal in Houston a few years ago I can only imagine what you are going to do to enhance the beauty of this one…. have an idea though. I love it! love it…it’s so YOU!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi there, I am looking forward to getting the next step finished (which you haven’t seen). It enhances the work, but not as much as the step after that. As with most of my projects, there are multiple steps to get to the end. As a crazy quilter, I know you understand that.

      I plan to outline the next steps and the overall agenda for this quilt next week. It’s definitely not yet. Much, much more to see.

  27. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl Says:

    Hi Tom — I have this huge bin of scraps that keeps growing. I think they breed in there!!! This type of quilt would make a tiny dent in it, if I can only scrape up the fortitude to attempt it, that is. I love the quilts of yours that I’ve seen on Scraps to Treasures, and I’ll take a look at the others. I do thoroughly enjoy your writing also. Please keep up the inspiration!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey there, As long as we keep creating, there are going to be scraps. I don’t mind having scraps, I mind not using them. This project is just one easy example of how you can use them. You don’t need fortitude. You just need to sit down for a few minutes and try to make something. Don’t be over critical, just start messing around with the scraps until you start to see something that looking interesting and familiar. Shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to make a block—if you have your pieces prepared.

      I plan to do a little step-by-step next week, so you’ll be able to really see how easy this is.

  28. JoAnn Says:

    You have done it again. What WONDEFUL blocks you have created. I should be sending you my scraps. See, I am not a scrap perosn. I could change if you were still in Knoxville. We had a great time in Cincinnati at the Quilt show last weekend. We are going to plan some more bus trips. All went well and I didn’t lose anyone. 🙂 Love reading your blog. Hugs to you

  29. Tom Russell Says:

    Hi there, I’m glad to hear you had a great time in Cincinnati. I’m sure you laughed until you hurt.

    Glad you like the blocks. They were a lot of fun to make and I like them more as I continue working on them. Each layer of detail I add makes this project more interesting. I’m almost finished with the next stage, so I’ll be posting more photos soon.

    It’s great to hear from you!

  30. Kim Says:

    Finally back to the Land of Internet and was so thrilled to see what you did with all the scraps!!! Totally A-MA-ZING! If I wasn’t packing all my fabric (and scraps) to store for the six months we’ll be stateside, I’d be starting a scrap quilt of my own 🙂 Instead I will have to reign in the inspiration until next year. *sigh* Meanwhile I’ll be watching to see WHAT ELSE you’ll be doing with it!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Kim, Glad you are liking the quilt. Ah, six months with no scraps. Maybe you shouldn’t pack them all away. I’d be going through withdrawal if I couldn’t sew. Hope you can find some handwork to do.

      Don’t reign in that inspiration. Get a sketchbook or notebook and write those ideas down. That way they will be ready when you are.

      I’m glad you are sticking with me. I’m almost ready to show the next stage in the project. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  31. lotti Says:

    hello tom
    only just “found” you (received link for your (and Barbra’s) new version of MEMORIES – which i also great fun) . this project IS FABULOUS and your writing style makes it so much fun to read – am placing your blog in my fav’s so i can come back and catch up – have to stop for today (almost midnight and alarm will go off in less than 6 hours…)
    will definitely be back though :o)

    • Tom Says:

      Hi Lotti, I’m glad you found my blog and found it interesting and worth adding it to your “favs.” I am glad you enjoyed Memories. Bab’s and I really enjoyed collaborating on it. She was such a sweetie to take the time out of her very busy day to record the song for my blog. I’ll always remember that day.

      I’m glad you like my project. It’s been a lot of fun so far. Since you are coming back you will get to follow along as I work on it. I’m almost finished with the next stage, so I will be posting new photos very shortly.

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope to hear from you again.

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