Have you ever had one of those projects? The kind you thought was going to be an absolute breeze? That you left till the last minute because you thought it’d take a day at most to piece? The one you never realised you could be so wrong about? That you ended up cursing out and wanting to rip apart with your bare hands in frustration? The project that, once finished, you took such deep satisfaction at managing to overcome all the issues that the Quilt Gods threw at you, that it actually seemed worth all the Very Bad Words that were uttered during its construction?
I have. And it will forever be known as The Quilt from Hell…
It all started out innocently enough, with some Very Good News. My lovely schoolfriend, Ms S, and her husband, Mr M, announced last year that they were expecting a baby boy. I was so happy for them, as I knew how much they’d been looking forward to becoming parents, and I immediately decided that the new arrival would need a quilt.
Now Ms S is an exceedingly talented lady. Not only is she pretty and kind and a complete brain-box, she is also extremely crafty. She creates, sews, crochets, bakes a mean chocolate muffin, and even has her own Etsy shop. I am in total awe of her! So the quilt needed to be super special. And when we were in the US back around Thanksgiving, I found just the thing, handily bundled together as a super-cute kit. The fabric range was Boy Crazy from Riley Blake Designs, and included cars and robots and space rockets, and lots of other things that little boys like to play with.
The pattern seemed deceptively easy. It consisted of 12 scrappy 16-patch blocks, set on point, alternated with plain white squares, and a couple of directional borders.
I know, sounds like a walk in the park, doesn’t it??! But one word in the last paragraph would come back to haunt me. And that word is ‘directional’… Given some of my previous experiences with directional fabric, you might think that warning bells would sound at this point, but no. All I thought was – oh how pretty, the little cars are all driving in the same direction!
I won’t be making that mistake again…
The first issue I encountered had nothing at all to do with directional fabric, though. It was an error in the pattern itself, which called for the white fabric to be cut into 8″ squares.
While I was cutting them, I remember thinking “Gosh, 8″ is a funny size for setting squares – wouldn’t it usually be either 7 1/2″ or 8 1/2″‘?” but I foolishly ignored the Inner Voice of Reason and continued cutting happily away.
It was only once I’d made the 16 patch blocks that I realised that – yes – the finished block size was indeed 8 1/2″ square. So my setting squares were too small. So I had to recut them. And I didn’t have quite enough fabric. A small annoyance, easily rectified with a visit to my stash to retrieve some Kona white.
So, then, so far so good. The main part of the top was duly pieced with the right sized setting blocks, and I even decided to jazz it up a bit by appliquéing Daniel’s name into the setting squares. This was all RR’s idea, and a jolly good one, too, I have to say 🙂
Then the directionality of fabric came into play.
Border 1 – little cars, all driving from the left of the quilt towards the right. The fabric supplied in the kit was cut both crosswise and lengthwise to make this possible. The only problem was that there wasn’t enough of it. There was just about sufficient to do the top and bottom border, but not enough for the sides. Lateral thinking was called for, and so one of the discarded 8″ setting squares was cut into 4 cornerstones. And it was still 1″ too short on each side…
After some Very Creative Pressing, Plenty of Pinning to ease the fabric of the quilt top, and Lots of Words Beginning with ‘F’, I managed to get the first border to just about fit.
It almost looks like it was planned that way, doesn’t it? If you can ignore the fabric puckering and rippling round the corners, that is…
Next up – border 2. And the same problem reared its ugly head. The border was once again directional, and once again there wasn’t enough fabric. Well, this time there was more than enough for the top and bottom borders but, unfortunately, not quite enough for the sides. So, to make it fit, I had to piece it, by cutting into the surplus from the top and bottom. Fortunately, there was just enough left over.
And yes, it really was only 2″ or so short, which made it all the more annoying…
Ok then, quilt top pieced, issues overcome. Now for the backing. A beautiful piece of large scale directional fabric.
Uh-oh! Did she just say directional? Sadly, yes… And therein lay the next issue. The print was oriented lengthwise across the fabric rather than crosswise. And there wasn’t enough fabric to piece it so that it ran in the right direction. Grrrrrr……
So out came the rotary cutter and I chopped up my 3 yards of fabric into smaller pieces, which I then proceeded to sew back together, to make a hodgepodge of a backing that just managed to fit.
Perhaps hodgepodge is a little harsh. Let’s call it improvisational, shall we???
After all that, the actual quilting was a piece of cake. I used white thread to echo quilt the appliquéd letters and the edge of the setting blocks. Then I quilted concentric squares in the 16 patch blocks, using a vivid orange colour to co-ordinate with all the bright colours in the prints.
Finally, I quilted parallel straight lines around both borders, again in orange.
To finish the quilt, I decided to use a bias binding, to make my stripes appear diagonal. I’d never done it before, but my friend Ms E has used it on her quilts and talked me through how to do it at the last Patchwork in the Peaks quilt retreat. I thought it looked beautiful and had been wanting to give it a try for ages. And anyway, I figured, what else could possibly go wrong???
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!
This is what could go wrong. I miscalculated and cut the square to create the bias strips too small. So there wasn’t enough binding, and I had to cut another square. And when I cut the strips from this one, I cut them the wrong way…
Some more creative cutting and piecing just about salvaged the situation (along with a stiff gin and tonic…). And the quilt was finally finished. Ta da!!!
It was delivered to the adorable little man himself last week, when I was back in the UK. Ms S and Mr M loved it, and Baby Daniel showed his appreciation by throwing up his milk on my jeans, then all over his Daddy’s jumper 🙂
Looking back, though, I have to say I’m rather proud of myself. Normally when things go wrong I would simply go and get some more fabric to put them right. But I’m on my 6 month Fabric Fast, so that wasn’t an option. I was forced to think creatively about how to get round the issues. And no, the quilt isn’t 100% perfect, there are seams where I’d prefer there to be no seams, and a slight puckering in the corners, amongst other things, but you know what? It was a labour of love, and I think that makes it more personal.
After all, there can’t be many babies out there who have the honour of owning The Quilt from Hell!
And by the way, people, apologies for the rotten quality of the photos – they were taken in our hotel room the morning I delivered the quilt, when I suddenly realised that I hadn’t quite got round to photographing it yet…
Well, my plan for tackling my mountain of projects is coming along nicely. Stage 1 is well underway – I’ve been sorting out my sewing room over the past week, and will finish up just as soon as RR builds the Ikea bookshelves we bought to house my overflow projects, which are currently sitting in piles all over the place. Then I’ll be able to see everything at a glance, and stop having to hide stuff away in drawers and cupboards. Result!
Phase II was to create a list of all my projects, and decide what to work on first. Well, that’s actually done. And it’s makes for scary reading.
…Takes deep, steadying breath…
As of yesterday, the situation was as follows:
- Current projects in progress – 22
- Projects all ready to go, but sadly not yet started – 46
- Quilt tops waiting to be quilted -10
Oh my!!!! I never realised it was that bad. And that’s only quilting-related projects, not dressmaking ones, or bags, or knitting. I haven’t dared to add those in…
It’s all a bit daunting, really. I’d better started, then, hadn’t I?!
And so, without further ado, here are the projects I plan to be working on during my 6 month Fabric Fast, and also (because I can always roll them forward to future quarters) my goals for the Q1 2014 Finish-Along, hosted by the lovely Katy at The Littlest Thistle.
Projects I Started Ages Ago And Never Quite Got Round To Finishing
Red, Black and White Friendship Quilt
When we left the US in 2010, a load of quilting friends made 12 1/2″ blocks for me in a red, black and white colour way. I finally got round to getting border and backing fabric, and I’d love to get this put together and quilted.
Stitcher’s Garden Quilt
Started in 2009, it’s an appliqué quilt of different flowers, I’m so nearly there but then we moved to Switzerland, I put it in a box and promptly forgot about it…
Bunny Hill Stripes Quilt
In baby pink and soft grey. So beautiful. Such an easy pattern. Don’t know why I’ve not finished it yet!
Double Hourglass Quilt II
At the second Patchwork in the Peaks Quilt Retreat, we made double hourglass quilts using jelly rolls. This is my second version. It was going to be a birthday present, but I can’t remember who for. All the blocks are sewn, it just needs putting together and finishing up
Projects that are ready to go
Quilt for Baby Daniel
I bought the kit in the US in December, and just need to get cracking on making the quilt itself. I’m back in the UK in February, and would like to deliver or post it then, so I’d better get cracking 🙂
Kitty Camouflage Leftovers Quilt
After making the Kitty Camouflage Quilt, I was left with a load of 9″ HSTs, plus 2 1/2″ strips of various lengths and some yardage. I want to make something useful with it – probably lap-sized, probably for Mum.
Sundress for our holiday
We’re off on a Caribbean cruise in March, and I want to make another sundress to take along, like the one I made last summer.
Outfit for Ms S and Mr E’s wedding in May
I bought some glorious fabric in New York back in December, and have a great looking pattern, I just need to lose those extra few pounds and get cracking!
Love the look of this bag pattern, and doing it as a sew along will motivate me to get it all finished rather than putting it down when I get to the difficult bits and forget about it…
Quilts tops to quilt
I made the top at a class I took with Marti Michell back in September, and have started quilting it, I just ran out of inspiration and motivation a few months ago.
I finished the top last year, can’t decide how to quilt it, need to drag it out of the cupboard and take another look.
Amy Butler Jacob’s Ladder Quilt
Made using Soul Blossoms charm squares and 2 1/2″ strips, with a bright orange background, I finished it a year or so ago. I love this quilt, it’s so bright and cheerful that I really want to get it all done and put to good use!
And, because I’m an ADD quilter, I need to have some projects I can pick at when I need something different – I doubt any of these will get finished this year, but, hey, you never know!
Grandmother’s Flower Garden Hexies
I’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling this year and this is my ultimate take-along project. This one’s been going on for about 3 1/2 years now…
Blue Squares quilt
I started this back in October, at a class given by my friend Judy, and I like to pick it up every few weeks and make another block or two. It’s going to be one of those long-term kind of projects. I’m hoping it will make a lap-sized quilt.
Scrappy Strips Blocks
I don’t even remember how I got started on this one, it’s been around for 4 years or so and I’m still working on it on and off. It’s basically made up of 6 1/2 ” squares formed of scrap strips of varying width. I know it will be beautiful, and full of so many memories, and I’m on no hurry to finish it. It’ll eventually be king sized, to put on our bed.
Oh, and I’m also planning on getting and then staying up-to-date with my Blocks of the Month – from the Fat Quarter Shop and the Sugar Block Club over at Stitchery Dickory Dock.
So there you have it. Seems quite optimistic, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.
I’ll be keeping you all up to date with my progress, so come back again soon and see how I’m getting on 🙂
Well, once again it seems like an absolute eternity since I found the time to it down and blog, but now I’m back from New York, Christmas is over, and my time is once again my own (at least for a week or two, anyway!) And what a lot has been going on this past month! Where do I start??? Well, here are the highlights:
– Had a reasonably quilty birthday – charm pack central! (Fortunately, RR is brilliant at choosing fabric!)
– Celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving with our lovely, lovely friends (and the Thanksgiving Squirrel Placemats went down a storm!)
– Bought a mountain of dress fabric in New York’s garment district, enough to keep me busy sewing clothes for at least a year!
– Visited my favourite quilt store on Long Island, where I caught up with the lovely Sara and bought a cute kit to make a quilt for my friends Ms S and Mr M’s new baby, Daniel
– Saw lots of our friends in NY – sadly, there’s never enough time to see them all, but made a brand new friend in the gorgeous, chubby, smily Baby Chase
– Picked up all the fabric I’d ordered online, including some to make Christmas presents for RR with
– Made gifts with aforementioned fabric…
– Made a giant, bed-sized Christmassy quilt (despite the well-founded scepticism of several friends at the Patchwork du Léman quilt club, who were convinced I wouldn’t have time to finish it before the big day!)
– Had a reasonably quilty Christmas too! And got a new camera for taking photos for my blog, which I’ve been learning how to use.
– Ate, drank and was generally merry!
Phew!!! I’ll be writing a bit more about some of these over the coming weeks, but it’s now Boxing Day, the lovely Ms JJ is coming over later for a cup of tea and mince pies, and I’m back in my sewing room contemplating my next project – finishing off this red, black and white beauty…
So, until we meet again, dear blog-readers and fellow-quilters, I wish you all a belated merry Quilt-mas! Hope you had a good one 🙂
Wow, my first blog post in 3 weeks! I have been a busy bunny recently! So, what’s been happening here to keep me from my laptop???
Well, we took a trip back to the UK to watch our team, Bath Rugby, beat local rivals Gloucester. It’s the one match we try and go back for every year, and as usual it didn’t disappoint! We had a great time, it was lovely to catch up with our rugby buddies, and we managed to fit in a good amount of shopping too. What’s not to like?!
We also had some friends come and visit us here in Lausanne for the UK half term break. Since we left the UK 5 1/2 years ago, we’ve only managed to see them sporadically when we’ve been back visiting family, so it was wonderful to spend some proper time with them, and get to know young Master I, their lovely little boy, who is nearly 5. Master I was the recipient of the first quilt I ever made – in fact, his impending arrival was the reason I decided to learn to quilt in the first place, so I guess he has a lot to answer for! He’s a total sweetheart, who likes making dens out of quilts and cushions (no problem with that chez nous!), playing with Lego (cue one very happy RR!) and making up wonderfully imaginative stories to entertain us all. He also thought that Mr. Boy and Mimi Bubba were wonderful – though I have to admit the feeling wasn’t entirely mutual…
Oh, and there was also the small matter of the long-awaited quilt show – but more of that in a future blog post…
In between all this frantic activity, however, I did somehow manage to fit in some sewing time.
I finished quilting and binding the tumbler quilt for baby Jacob – I used a wool batting for the first time, on the recommendation of Miss JJ, and I have to agree with her that it’s a dream to quilt! I love the puffy loft it gives, it’s all snuggly and just perfect for a baby. This was also the first time ever I didn’t bind straight edges on a quilt – I kept the sloping sides of the tumbler blocks on the outside edges and although I found it rather fiddly, I really like the way it turned out.
I’ve also been working on Mum’s Christmas present – a cute Aeroplane bag. I made my first one of these at the quilt retreat back in October, and loved the pattern so much that I made another, although I quilted the main body of this one to give the bag more rigidity. Mum’s bag is dog-themed because she is the proud owner of two Guide Dog brood bitches, Barley and Anna, around whom her entire world revolves. Fondly referred to by my sister and myself as The Evils, these dogs keep her happy and active, up to her knees in puppies, and (in the main) out of mischief. So when I saw this fabric, it just cried out to be made into something for Mum! The bag’s almost finished, but I’ve screwed up the zip somehow, so I’m going to have to do some unpicking to try and put it right. Ho hum.
The Kitty Camouflage quilt is also coming along well. The fabrics aren’t my usual style or colours, but I really liked them, and I thought they’d be perfect to make a bed-sized quilt which could disguise the copious quantities of cat fur that always seems to accumulate everywhere (hide the cat fur? who am I kidding???) I love the pattern (the Chain Saw quilt from Kimberly Einmo’s Jelly Roll Quilts and More book), but of course I had to make a few modifications to it, adding a couple of additional borders so it will fit our bed and to balance out the colours. I’ve now sewn, pressed and trimmed 140 half square triangles ready to make a pretty sawtooth middle border; they’re currently sitting in a little Ziploc bag, waiting for me to sew them together. Hopefully I’ll get round to this tomorrow, then I can add the final border and the top will be finished! After which I can start thinking about quilting it, and decide what to do with all the leftover fabric, of which there is plenty…
Finally, I’ve been working on my summer polka-dot blouse. I started it back in August, but progress has been slow, really slow! I’ve now successfully added the sleeves, but I need to adjust the position of the button loops because one of them shifted as I was sewing it together so they aren’t evenly spaced. And then I need to take it in some because I’ve lost weight and it’s now too big. Given the current cold, wet weather in Switzerland, though, I doubt I’ll be wearing it for several months yet, and as my weight is bound to fluctuate between now and next summer, this project may well be put on hold for a while 🙂
So now that life has finally quietened down a bit round here, I’m looking forward to getting back to my machine and sewing up a storm. Next project – some special placemats to take to our friends at Thanksgiving, and another baby quilt for another new arival. Looks like I’m going to be kept busy over the next few weeks, so watch this space!