Monday, December 15, 2014

Quilting in Alaska Part Two

Making my first quilt made me very aware of my personal faults and my limitations.  I like making things, but I'm somewhat of a perfectionist and I can get very frustrated when I can't do things exactly right.  That has led to lots of unfinished projects that got set aside when they didn't go the way I wanted them to go.  Since I started these quilts with the intention of actually finishing them, I had to push through that character flaw.  

As for limitations, my equipment is pretty basic and well-used.  The rail fence quilt required me to sew strips together and then cut them into 6-inch squares.  That seemed simple enough until I came up against another personal problem - I HATE ironing.  I will do anything to get around having to iron anything and with quilting - that's a BIG problem!

I quickly learned that not ironing every seam out as I went along caused my 6-inch squares to be anything but 6 inches and there was no way to "fudge" my way around that.  The only thing that saved me from having a horribly "skewed" quilt was that it was only a baby-sized quilt. If it had been any bigger, my end result would have been far worse than it turned out.  

The other problem that tripped me up right away was the only way I had to cut my squares was with scissors and a school ruler.  When you're working with small pieces, a miss-cut can also skew your quilt blocks.  I figured the only way around this problem was to choose a different quilt pattern for my second quilt.  

I went back to Liz's quilt pattern e-book for inspiration and picked the simplest pattern - the stripey quilt.  To add more interest to my new hobby, DannyLee asked me to make quilts for his new grandson and his granddaughter too.  Still glowing with the success of making a baby quilt, I happily agreed.  YIKES again!

I had a lot of thoughts in the beginning about Liz's description of this quilt being "simple" and they weren't happy thoughts.  You start this quilt by sewing forty 42-45" strips of cloth together end to end.  I ended up with a big LOOONNNGGG strip that I didn't know how it was ever going to become a "quilt".  It wasn't like I could just lay this all out on the floor (You can do the math here! My "math brain cell" goes to sleep at midnight.).  I managed not to panic.

As I walked out the instructions, (with LOTS of ironing!), I started to see a quilt emerging and I got really excited.  On one hand, I could see that I was making a quilt.  On the other hand, I couldn't see anything about it that was really special.  So, I decided to unleash my "creativity brain cell" on this project and see just how far I could go with this quilt. 

One of the fabrics had little monkeys on it and I had some "bits" left over from cutting the squares for the rail fence quilt.  As I looked at my "bits", suddenly I saw little pockets.  I LOVE pockets and pockets on a quilt?  Why not??  I had found something that would make my quilt special.  I designed little pockets and backed them with flannel so that toys and papers and such would be more inclined to stay inside.  I also quilted the pockets before I sewed them on the quilt face.  

I didn't make a bed-sized quilt.  The instructions said it would be something like 50"x 64".  I never actually bothered to measure it.  The picture below has DannyLee on his knees on our bed holding it up and he's 6'3" so it's plenty big enough to me.  

"Monkey Shines"

I didn't have a big enough piece of flannel for the backing, and I didn't want to cut up a blanket as I wanted this one to have the same kind of look and feel as the baby quilt as they both went to the same branch of the family tree.  I did have two pieces of flannel that I liked so I decided to piece them together in a more interesting way that just sewing them together with one seam.  

The back of "Monkey Shines"
I did put an edging on this one and after I did that, I tried to "quilt" the thing using "stitch in a ditch" like I'd done on the baby quilt.  "NO GO" on that!  If you look closely at the back, you can see how that went "south" on me right off the bat.  The flannel is too soft and stretchy and I couldn't keep it from slipping away from me.  I fell back to using bits of yarn to tie it all together which was far more fun.  

I was sad at this point that I had "ruined" all my work but the truth is that it wasn't a fatal error and unless you put the quilt down and smoothed it all out to look for my mistakes (or I told you), most people probably wouldn't even notice (or so I can hope!).  Anyway, it's only my second quilt and I've learned a lot from every mistake.

Happily, my great-grandson probably won't care and with the little toys and gifts that I put in each pocket for him, I highly doubt that the quilt will get all that much attention anyway.  So, I'm back to my sewing machine and I'm already well on my way with quilt number three with big plans for quilts number four and five!  

Happy Quilting!

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