Friday, January 13, 2012

Red White & Blue is DONE!

After a very long time working on this project, or rather, a little while working on it, a very long time not working on it, and another little while working on it again, it is finally done.

This was the first pattern and fabric I bought to try my hand at quilting. I had, at that point in time, barely managed to piece a single block for a friend's Guild President's Quilt. She laughed at me all through reading about that particular little project, because my skills were so insanely pathetic. Only she laughed in the most encouraging manner so that I didn't give up.

When I bought the pattern, I had two thoughts -- a jelly roll pattern (something using pre-cut long strips of 2.5" width) would be easiest, since I would only have to cut the strips to the right length, and I knew I didn't want any triangles. The triangles in my friend's block gave me fits.  It never crossed my mind to worry about anything else, which is the benefit of being clueless when you start --- you don't know enough to know what's hard and what's not, so you are willing to tackle anything. At least, I was.

The helpful staff at the quilt shop where I bought the jelly roll and the pattern were encouraging, until I talked to the lady who wrote the pattern I was buying, and tweaking. See, she wrote the pattern for a 4-color way jelly roll. It was meant to have four colors in it, plus the black for the background. I wanted to do the whole thing in red, white & blue. Even with light blue and dark blue, that was four colors total, including the cream that would also be my background. She wasn't thrilled at the prospect of a baby beginner like me, with no confidence at the time, rearranging her pattern. She was really worried I would not get all the tweaking just right and would wind up discouraged. She was wrong.

Still, she was helpful. She figured roughly how much extra of the other colors I would need to compensate for using one less color than intended, helped me think through what I was getting into, and very dubiously set me on my way. She was more than a little concerned about accurate piecing since I was so new and doing this all by hand. I took that as a challenge, ignored her doubts and vowed to do a fantastic job.

Mostly, I did.

Now, I won't be winning any awards or anything, and my quilt did turn out a few inches smaller all around than what it is supposed to have turned out, but it also ended up where all my seams but one match up pretty well and the whole thing is square. When you put the borders on, you are to measure across the middle, top and bottom and average the three measurements to determine how long to make your border, and then work the fabric of the quilt into fitting that length. I did this and was delighted to have less than a half-inch difference between top, middle, bottom each time I measured. Now, maybe a time will come when an eight-inch difference bothers me, but for my first project and having heard from my mentor friend that a customer quilt of hers had a 2 to 3 inch difference, I was thrilled.

I finished all of the piecing and borders in time to take the quilt top with me, along with the backing fabric, to Colorado where Kim had a domestic machine and a long arm kind of machine and promised to help me quilt my quilt.
close up of the pantograph design we used on my quilt, "stars & loops"
I used Superior's King Tut variegated thread in a light to dark blue.
Turned out, having never used any machine before, I was not so good with the long arm. I managed most of one row, with several stops and starts, before deciding it really made me nervous.  Kim was just finished restoring a quilt for my grandma, and was to the point of hand stitching the binding down, which she graciously let me work on while she quilted my quilt. Whew! I was thrilled to have someone skilled driving the machine, and Kim was delighted to have binding work done. Bonus -- I got to "help" with the quilt for my grandparents.

the quilt, all spread out
the binding turned out, totally by accident, to be blue on the blue sides and red on the red sides,
except the side shown to the right which is half and half. Total accident, but lovely!
We sewed right up to the day I was leaving Colorado (having not started until the end of my trip; it wasn't a long project, but the restoration quilt was the priority, and rightly so) so that I still had to do the binding once away in Texas. But I did, and it's done, and my very own quilt is now laying over my couch, right there in the living room where everyone can see it and use it and I can think, "I made that!!" every time I walk by.

There are purists who will say that since Kim quilted it, I didn't make a quilt, I only made a quilt top. I'm okay with that (and the label, which is not on yet, will have both names; I'm proud to share credit with Kim on this one!). Seeing it on the couch, I kind of still can't believe I did it. Even part of it.
flipped so you can see the backing fabric, which I love.
We keep the quilt folded on the back of the love seat when not in use.
I have several projects waiting in the wings, which I'm sure I'll share about here soon. I need to finish up a few small items and then I'll get back to work on the diary quilt (yes, I know I still have a few stories to tell on that one; I'll get back to it soon) and then start on one of the others. My mind is full of ideas, my stash closet is filling up with fabrics I purchased for some of those ideas, and now I have a sewing machine to help things go faster.....hopefully I don't begin to bore you all with nothing but sewing talk!

Any new hobbies you have found this year? Or plan to start? Get back to? I'd love to hear about it.