I had a productive weekend and the improv quilt top is done! It took quite a lot of experimentation to find the layout I liked best but it was an enjoyable process. Once I had my blocks on the design wall I was able to move them around, stand back, take photos (tons of photos!), and consider my options. I ended up using painter's tape to outline a rough perimeter to represent the approximate size of quilt I was aiming for (60"x72") and I just rearranged the blocks until it was pleasing to me. I even did a little paper mock-up of the blocks so I could see how they might look without moving what I'd done (an idea stolen from my quilt designer friend Maureen).
Once I settled on my design I 'simply' constructed panels of background fabric and inserted my wonky log cabin blocks between them. It is like a big puzzle and for the most part, I didn't measure anything precisely or do any math. Keeping with my improvisational method I crudely cut the dark denim cotton to fill in the gaps but I did try to maintain the weird angles of my piecing while keeping the outer edges straight. It worked well and I was amazed that it actually came together in a form I was shooting for - wonky on the inside and even on the outside (kind of like myself!). You can click on any photo to see it larger.
This whole project was started to allow me to stitch on my vintage machines without worrying about a bang-on 1/4" seam allowance, to use up scraps and not have to buy anything new, and to venture out of my creative comfort zone and try something new in serendipitous quilt design. I achieved all 3 goals so I found this very satisfying and I'm quite proud. I used 3 different old Singer machines and it was an excellent opportunity to clean, oil, and run each of them. I don't like having them sit idle and unused for too long and I think a good sewing session is just what they needed. I had to familiarize myself again with their quirks and preferences but it didn't take me long to get back in the groove - and rediscover my love for these excellent examples of mid-century machinery. I encountered several issues but was able to solve the problems and make them stitch even more beautifully than before. My machines were curated over a rather short amount of time in a flurry of passion for collecting and restoring so in some cases this was the first proper sewing they had done (at least with me, of course). It was great to get to know them better and have something to show at the end of it.
I sewed some long seams putting the quilt top together and my little Featherweight handled the task extremely well. I also put together a pieced backing since I didn't have enough fabric in the stash for a one-fabric back. As it is, I don't even have enough denim blue for binding and that particular fabric is no longer available so I haven't decided how to approach it yet. I plan on quilting this with bright lime green thread which I think will look fantastic against that dark blue. A modern, wavy, gentle curves design is what I'm considering since it will be in keeping with my improv idea. I'm so excited to get to that part of the process!
Oh, one last thing. The reason I call it Down the Fox Hole is that it seemed to me like the little fox snuggled down in the left-hand side block (the only block of bright colours) had travelled through a meander of forest and sky, earth and water, night and day to get to his den. Represented by the shades of fabric and the woodland animals scattered throughout, the idea of an unsuccessful fox hunt came to mind...where the fox was safe and sound and hidden. :)