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, I have been a busy bunny while RR’s been away! And what a lot of sewing I’ve got done 🙂 I’ve done some hand sewing (my hexie project), some dressmaking (a couple of skirts for our upcoming holiday, amongst other things), some bag-making (the Whole Lotta Bag pattern), and even – shock horror! – some quilt block making.
After the Quilt from Hell debacle (of which more will be revealed once said quilt has reached its intended recipient…), I had no real desire to start a new project (even though I have several I need to get to grips with), or even to work on something I already had in progress. What I really wanted was to play with some fabric – and my new sewing machine, too, of course – and what better to play with than my strippy-scrappy quilt in progress?
Personally, I love scrap quilts. I love how every piece of fabric holds a memory, of what quilt it was bought for, maybe, or who gave it to me, or where and when I got it. It’s a visual reminder, too, of how my tastes have changed since I started quilting. And even if a piece of fabric is just plain ugly (yes, I admit it, I do possess some ‘ugly’ fabrics!), it never seems to looks out of place in the quilt as a whole.
Anyway, being in a reflective kind of mood yesterday afternoon, this was just the ticket. I spent a very happy couple of hours cocooned in my sewing room, Mr. Boy and Mimi Bubba keeping me company, sewing up random wonky strippy blocks.
I just picked pieces randomly out of my strips scrap bin, and sewed them together one after another, before pressing gently and trimming to 6 1/2″ square. No points to match. No precision needed in cutting. Just wonderfully mindless, repetitive, even meditative piecing, for a change. Extremely unlike me, but exceedingly relaxing none the less. Oh, and may I just say, I absolutely LOVE my new sewing machine 🙂
Then I decided to get up to date with my blocks for the two Block of The Month quilts I’m working on, and which had, sadly, fallen by the wayside over the past few months. First up, Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club over at Stitchery Dickory Dock.
I fell in love at first sight with this fabric line – Taxi by Alice Kennedy for Timeless Treasures – and towards the end of last year, I ended up investing in a half yard of each of the prints, plus a couple of yards of the yellow solid. I’ve been itching to use it for something, and when I saw that Amy had used 2 different background fabrics in her blocks, I just knew it would be ideal for this project. And so far, I’m loving how it’s turning out!
Secondly, I got up to date with my Fat Quarter Shop Designer Mystery Block of the Month.
I’m not so keen on the house blocks as I am on the twirly star ones, but I think the fabric is just beautiful, so I’m pretty sure they’ll grow on me…
So all in all, a very productive few days, even if I have scarcely left the apartment! It’s been wonderful, but I’m starting to miss RR now, so I’m very pleased that I’m off to join him in England tomorrow, even if this does entail a week or so’s break from sewing 🙂
Linking up with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced. Why not pop over and see what other people have been up to this week?
… Lynne Pusscat will play!!!
It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve just waved a fond farewell to RR, who is off back to the UK for work. I’m joining him at the end of the week, and we will visit family and friends, watch 2 rugby games, eat a lot of curry (and Fish and Chips and Chinese takeaway and Jam Doughnuts…), go and see the Lego Movie, and drink copious quantities of tea, before returning to Switzerland happy and exhausted and several pounds heavier.
Incidentally, not 5 minutes after RR had left the apartment, Mr Boy had claimed his side of the bed and is currently revelling in his new status of “Man of the House” 🙂 I don’t think he’s too distraught at the departure, do you?
RR’s driving back, as he’ll be in the UK for 2 weeks. So I sent him off with my sewing machine, which is in need of a good service. There are no Janome dealers here in Switzerland, and the local sewing machine store wanted 300 CHF ( around $340, or £200) and 3 weeks to service my machine. 300 CHF??? Three weeks???! Dear Lordy me! So, she’s off on holiday to Bath where, for around a quarter of the price and a turnaround time of 1 day, she’s going to get a jolly good service and tune-up by a proper Janome dealer. Hooray!
In the meantime, I shall be playing with my lovely new machine.
Oh yes, a new sewing machine!
I took advantage of the January sales to invest in a lightweight sewing machine that I can take away on quilt retreats and to classes. My MC11000SE is a wonderful machine that does everything I have ever asked of her, and more, but lightweight she’s not! She weighs in at around 50lbs (23kg) – and is way too heavy for me to lift. Not a great feature when I want to take her places…
So meet my new machine – the Janome MC5200.
What a little beauty!
At a weight of 18lb (8.5kg) she’s infinitely more portable than her big sister, but has plenty of features to keep me happy. I’ve not had a chance yet to have a proper play and explore exactly what she can do, as I’ve been busy finishing The Quilt from Hell, but now I have five blissful days free to sew, sew, sew, before I join RR in England!
So RR’s en route, the kitties are settled in their accustomed spots in my sewing room, the apartment is clean and tidy, the freezer is full of food, and I have a stack of projects in my head and a lovely cup of tea at my side. What more could I ask for?
Let playtime commence 🙂