I (finally) Made a Quilt!

I spent the later 2/3 of 2017 working on checking off bucket list items. It has been a much better process for me than making resolutions. Sadly, I have not yet achieved “regular blogging” status, something I strive for mostly as a way to chronicle and preserve our days. I have made progress, though, and I am extra excited to be crossing off “sew a quilt.”

I made this quilt as a Christmas gift for my oldest daughter who has been needing a bedroom makeover to suit her maturing tastes. So we traded in her bunk bed for a simpler twin sleigh bed and passed her pink owl comforter down to her little sis.

I’m really happy with how it came it, despite the laundry list of things I did wrong. See, I have always wanted to make a quilt but was always so intimidated. I tend to be a planner and have a hard time going off script, or jumping in to something blindly. Then one day, a fellow crafty friend who had successfully made several less-than-perfect quilts herself said, “just wing it. What’s the worst that can happen?” And I had to agree she was on to something.

That’s how I found myself in Joanne Fabrics one day this summer randomly grabbing fabrics that I thought might look cool. In addition to being a planner, did you know that I am also prone to nervous breakdowns in craft stores? I get SO incredibly overstimulated and can’t make a decision to save my life. There’s just too much going on and the lighting is awful. And will somebody please tell the CEO of Joanne’s that the insanely strong-smelling cinnamon pinecones are literally ruining the experience of being there? I could probably spend twice as much money in that store if I wasn’t driven out the door by the inevitable pounding headache caused by that horrible odor. Does anybody even buy those pinecones? I suspect those bins have been full since the 80s… I digress.So after grabbing six different plain-ish fabrics in colors I guessed worked together, I swung by the quilting supplies aisle and discovered these lovely plastic pieces in various shapes to help with the cutting of many uniformly sized pieces of fabric. Triangles seemed cool and easy so I grabbed one and headed for the register, full of self-doubt and on the brink of cinnamon insanity.

Lessons learned:

  1. Buy high quality fabric. Even if you’re a beginner, a quilt is going to last a long time. You will spent a crap load of time on it and like me, you may wish you could go back in time and tweak the rules of frugality a little.
  2. Start with squares. Triangles, while not circles, are not as easy as they seem.
  3. Don’t be afraid to get funky with your fabrics. I had this assumption in my head that they should be plain, and I am happy with how it turned out, but while preparing for this I came across some majorly cool pieces that used fabrics I would never have thought of as quilt fabric.
  4. Have a basic idea of the size you are making and how much fabric you’ll need. Also, save your receipt so if you need more at any point and the store has stopped carrying it, you can easily look it up online with the code.

Any crafter can probably guess what happened next: nothing. The fabric sat in its plastic shopping bag for weeks, untouched as I twitched through life uncertainly. Eventually, I washed and pressed the fabric and one magical day I somehow managed to break out the self-healing mat and rotary cutter and cut triangles. I wish I could tell you at this point that I gathered momentum and got right to it but actually I was plagued once again with anxiety and let the triangles sit for about two months before touching them again.Lessons learned:

  1. While I was waiting for a spark of inspiration, time was passing and Joanne Fabrics was selling out of and discontinuing the fabrics I was using. Don’t wait. Don’t be afraid!

Finally, I started looking up ideas on Pinterest for ways I could arrange my triangles. By this point I had also decided that I would make a twin-size quilt and it would be a gift for Lucy. I thought the chevron pattern would be good for a tween since it’s kind of “in” right now. I laid them all out on the floor to see how it would look in various patterns to conclude that the chevron idea was best. Then I got to work turning my pile of triangles into a pile of squares by sewing two together.Lessons learned:

  1. At this point I was still half-assing things. I didn’t lay out ALL my triangles, just a small section to get a feel for the pattern. I should have laid them all out because then I would have known, in time, that I was short a few.
  2. Use quarter inch seam allowances. I didn’t even think about it and went ahead and used half inch allowances because that’s what most of my regular projects use. Using quarter inch allowances will greatly reduce the amount of fabric ends tucked behind the front of your quilt making it neater and less bumpy. Also, with triangles, getting those points lined up and corners to come together with all that extra fabric in the way was quite a special experience that I don’t wish to repeat.

Once the squares were created I arranged them all on the floor to use as a guide as I sewed the squares into rows. (It was at this time I realized I was short a few pieces of fabric.) Once in rows I was able to figure out which would be the starting and ending rows. I only had this kind of flexibility because of the pattern I chose, stripes, essentially. Most quilt pattern you would need to go in with a plan from the start.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you figure out you are short on fabric, DEAL WITH IT IMMEDIATELY! If I had I would have saved myself a lot of time and headache.
  2. Buy a lot of thread for this project. Before, I’m not sure I’d ever used up a spool of thread entirely on one project. I believe this quilt used more than three! (Aside: winding bobbin thread has got to be the bane of my existence.)

After spending about a week trying to track down the three fabric pieces I needed, I only found two. I was short one teal-green triangle. A brilliant friend suggested I use a different fabric, put it in a corner, and embroider a message on it to make it seem like I did it on purpose. Brilliant!

The final task of sewing all the rows together was so satisfying. I finally felt, “I’m really doing this!!” I was getting very excited.

Back to Joanne’s to find fabric for the back. I miraculously found one fabric that had all of my colors in it and was pretty cool, too. I ended up cutting that fabric into four large rectangles and sewing them together for the back.

After watching many YouTube videos about how to layer the thing, I discovered this stuff called quilt adhesive which is basically spray adhesive that you use to keep the layers from moving while you quilt, rather than basting. Since basting is the absolute worst way to spend one’s precious time, I was in. Back to Joanne’s for quit spray! (I also bought quilt binding at the craft store because I wasn’t able to purchase any more of my fabrics to use for the binding.)My house is tiny so finding a good spot to do this was tough. I ended up using the freshly-vacuumed basement floor. I ironed front and back first then laid the front face down on the floor with the batting on top. I pressed it all down as neatly as I could with my hands and began spraying, working in sections. Once that was done I topped it with the back and did the same. The great thing about the spray is it is reposition-able. Once I was happy with the outcome, I set about the nail-biting process of squaring off and trimming all three layers so they were even. I knew my quilt top was square so I just trimmed the batting and back using the top as a guide. Lessons learned:

  1. Although I was so upset about the missing fabric, the embroidered message is such a wonderful additional. I think I will do this to every quilt I ever make. That being said, it would have been just as loving and sweet if embroidered on the correct fabric!
  2. Next time I will choose a fabric for the back at the same time as I choose my front pieces. I recognize that I got very lucky finding one that matched so well and it’s probably only due to the fact that I used such plain fabrics to begin with.
  3. Many of the YouTube videos I watched for this stage used a giant piece of flannel underneath the whole thing so that the fabric would sort of stick in place to it when pulled straight. The carpet worked well enough but I imagine the flannel would be even better. I may try to acquire some for the next time.

Next came the quilting. I kept it super simple and used my machine. Perhaps next time I’ll go a little more wild. All I did was “stitch in the ditch” and follow the chevron pattern using white thread. It was a little tough forcing the bulk of the quilt through the machine, but it worked! Not sure I would have been so luck with a queen size!Finally, it was time for binding, I machine stitched the first side then folded it over and hand stitched the back. Let me just say, I have a newfound appreciation for The Amish. I have never been much of a hand-sewer. Most of my experience with hand stitching of any kind is with embroidery. This was tedious and a little painful! But I did it late at night while the unknowing recipient slept and entertained myself with Christmas movies. I think it took two movies and a bonus half hour session one afternoon to finish. Finish! I did it! And promptly drank a celebratory glass of wine. Next morning I washed it to get the adhesive out, and promptly wrapped it for my girl. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt prouder of myself.Whew. It was quite a project. I feel like I need to do another one soon to solidify all these lessons. Next one will surely move along more quickly. The hardest part about this one was it was a surprise. Homeschooled kids are always around so I could only work on it about one half-day per week. But I finished and she was surprised, and she loves it!

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