Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The second quilt

As soon as I finished my t-shirt quilt, I wanted to try my hand at a "real" quilt. I am totally drawn to these - I think because I love bright colors in eye-catching patterns. Earlier this month, I made my first foray into a book of patterns called Country Quilts in a Day that Josh's aunt gave me last Christmas. I've looked through the book a zillion times, but everything in it made infinitely more sense now that I've actually tried making a quilt before. Even though the in a Day part of the book's title didn't prove quite true for me, it was an invaluable guide.

Right away, though, I rebelled a little bit against the instructions by choosing two similar fabrics (a red and purple print and a basic red calico) instead of completely contrasting white and dark fabrics. I ended up being happy about this, because while the contrast wasn't quite as punchy, it helped hide some beginner's mistakes I was making.

The book I have is based on the premise of strip-quilting - just to be very clear, that means sewing with strips, okay? (Yikes!) It's a good time to say I'm not sure if what I'm doing is exactly quilting - or it's not the traditional kind I picture in my head when I think of quilting, anyway. I'm definitely not sitting in a chair and sewing everything by hand. The whole thing is done with my sewing machine, so to me it just feels like sewing lots and lots of strips together to make blocks, and then sewing blocks together, and then doing the sashing and borders until voila, we have a quilt! (My next project, by the way, is learning how to do the pretty spirals all over the design that finishes the whole look. I'm not there yet.)

You start by cutting lots and lots of strips - dozens and dozens - of varying widths. I imagine this process will get easier each time I do it. As an added bonus, measuring everything out and calculating how many strips a piece of fabric will yield is also a healthy basic math refresher.

Then I sewed lots of those strips together, into groups of three, which I'd go on to use for both small squares and border strips for the larger blocks:

And then I cut some of those strips into a gazillion tiny strips, and sewed those together to make blocks - 64 in total. This was very pretty to look at but also showed me what I was getting into. I'd end up sewing all 64 of those squares to other pieces of fabric!

(The lighting in my apartment at night was a little weird, by the way. I don't have canary yellow walls, nor are these fabrics flaming red. You'll see a more accurate look in the daylight at the end of this post.)

Anyway, at that point I was ready to assemble the blocks for my quilt. It's approximately a full-size quilt, and it incorporates 16 blocks. This was when Wish started to get bored with my work. Or maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe he just wants to help! It does look like he's taking a peek at my pattern here:

Here he is, supervising me to make sure I cut the strips correctly:

I love the subtlety of the ball next to his paw.
No, I think he was fully aware that quilting is valuable time that could be better spent throwing a ball for him or scratching his belly. My favorite example of Wish frowning on my hobby was the night that I laid out my blocks to consider what fabric I wanted to use for the sashing. I carefully arranged a few while he watched:

Then I went to grab the rest, and when I came back, he had swiftly and effectively blocked any progress on my project:

But sometimes he just wanted to keep an eye a paw on my work:

Or...all paws:

After the top layer was done, I laid the back, batting, and top layer all together and sewed those three pieces together. (Actually, I was able to do nearly a double layer of batting, so it's extra heavy and cozy.) Then I sewed on the outside border and finished it with a little zigzag stitch.

Then, when I was finally finished, I was so excited I wanted to take a photo with my quilt for the archives. Josh wasn't home, so I set up the timer on my camera. Hello!

Wish found joy in impeding this process by sitting just out of the picture, between the camera and me, so I tossed the quilt on him to see how he'd like it.

Well...after the initial surprise, it turned out that he was quite happy with it - as in, he started to settle into a nap then and there:

I don't blame him a bit for that. It is a cozy napping quilt.

I've learned so much through both projects. I made mistakes on the t-shirt quilt, improved on the red quilt, made different mistakes on the red quilt and now have ideas about how to improve on those for my next project.

Many parts, though, went much more easily this time around. Having a rotary cutter and knowing how to use it confidently helped immensely. A rotary cutter is really sharp and looks like a pizza cutter, and with a hefty protective board underneath whatever fabric you're cutting, it makes cutting a bunch of strips at the same time much faster and more accurate. I also had a little Plexiglass strip to help out. The quilt book's author recommends going to a hardware store to get a strip cut that's 2.5 inches by 27 inches, because a lot of her patterns' strips call for a width of 2.5 inches. Josh and I totally ran this errand one weekend afternoon, and the Plexiglass strip is worth its weight in gold - both as a measuring tool and as a prop to help me cut straighter lines with the rotary cutter.

That's the story of my second quilt! I think our house is finally clear of the red thread and fabric remnants that covered the home (and everything I wore while I sewed). I've had a lot of fun this winter working on the quilt projects - and I have more ideas hopping around in my head!


  1. WOW! Rebecca that is awesome! My 30th birthday is next January and I love quilts. *Should give you ample time ;) Sara

  2. I am AMAZED~ This did NOT come from me..must be trickle down from Grandmas. Wow..I need to learn from MY daughter!

  3. I am AMAZED~ This did NOT come from me..must be trickle down from Grandmas. Wow..I need to learn from MY daughter!