Quilt top DONE! I spent most of Thursday piecing and sewing. I had arranged and pinned the turquoise triangles Wednesday night, so I knew that if I powered through, I could finish both the turquoise section AND the cobalt section to finish the quilt top by Thursday night. It was a lot of sewing for one day, but I’m so excited to have a completed quilt top!
I immediately wrapped it around my shoulders and ran (carefully) down the stairs to show David my “coat of many colors”.
Quilting has been wonderful for keeping my hands busy while my mind wanders or listens to stories and podcasts. I’m always looking for recommendations! Here are a few of my favorites at the moment.
In daily snippets, I’m loving the Robinhood Snacks Daily Podcast. It might not seem like the best time for financial news, but the hosts are goofy and give good perspective on the incredibly volatile market movement lately. It’s interesting to hear how different companies are responding to what the hosts call “the coronaconomy”.
And in longer form, I’ve been listening to Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a compilation of essays that were previously published in a variety of magazines. It’s always wonderful to listen to an audiobook read by the author, and this is no exception… I love Patchett’s subtle but endearing Tennessee drawl. The essays are the perfect length for sewing entertainment – they’re long for essays, at about 1-1.5 hours each, so they give me a good amount of focused time but then remind me to take breaks. I just completed her novel State of Wonder (in visual-book, not audiobook, form) and was entranced! So it’s fun to listen and absorb her non-fiction writing for some contrast.
And, especially while doing the endless ironing that a quilt requires, I’ve been streaming lots of Bluprint classes (free for another 3 days!). I’m trying to soak up as much about free-motion quilting as I can, because I’m hoping to quilt this one myself on my home machine. I’ve never wrestled a quilt this big through the quilting process, but multiple instructors have shown me that it’s possible, so I’m going to try.
I even chose my backing last week! The majority of my stash is half-yard to 1.5-yard cuts, so I was convinced I’d either have to piece a backing or wait to go to the store (not a great option!). But then I remembered this mustard cactus print. It’s a block print I found in Jaipur, and I loved it so much that I bought five whole yards. Five yards! That’s unheard of for me. And wouldn’t you know, but that’s exactly what I need for this quilt. I have about a foot left over.
It’s always hard to use a fabric that I love so dearly, but as I said at the beginning, a main goal of this quilt is to give life to some of my most beloved fabrics so they’re not just confined in bins forever. So as much as I dreamed of using the mustard cacti to make as many projects as I could… it will be a well-loved quilt back and this is a place of honor for it.
It’s also very, very soft! And was I really going to be able to wear that color? Absolutely not.
Now I’m just waiting on my batting to be shipped by the skeleton crew at Joann’s… but it’s already looking very much like a Real Quilt!
Yesterday I completed all the yellow rows, which brought me to 10 finished rows out of 18 total… more than halfway there! I laid out all the turquoise blocks last night, and pinned them all so they’re ready to sew today. After that, all that’s left is blue!
I can’t believe it, but this means by tonight I could have a completed quilt top!
The photo above shows all of the blocks that will make up this quilt. I’ve taken my many, many cut squares and sewn them all into pairs of triangles.
Now I’m faced with the true challenge of arranging the blocks. This is not at all an exact science, and my only basic rule is that two triangles from the exact same fabric cannot touch. Beyond that, I want the layout to be random but visually pleasing. This means no big clumps of one color or pattern, a good distribution of my white and gold “sprinkle” accent fabric, and a gradual transition from one color group to the next.
In practice, this means a lot of placing fabrics down and then blurring my eyes, looking squintily at the quilt to make sure I’m not missing any odd repeats or off sections.
This stage is creatively taxing but also so full of reward, because I’m finally building a quilt: not just a pile of squares, but a cohesive unit.
Laying out the blocks on the table and seeing them all together is a great preview, but seeing them all sewn together is 100 times better. The lines are so crisp and clean, and most of my points line up! Row by row, it’s all coming together.
As you can imagine, self-isolation translates to some of the fastest progress I’ve ever made on a project of this magnitude. I’m hopeful that I’ll actually finish this quilt in a reasonable amount of time (or at all… it’s much more fun to start quilts than it is to finish them). But I’m making lots of progress and keeping momentum.
Now that all my squares are cut, it’s time for the fun part: sewing my HST blocks. In my first QUILTID-19 post, I laid out some blocks to start to visualize the layout and decided that I do want to aim for a rainbow gradient approach. So the majority of my HST blocks will be pairs of the same color: pink-pink, orange-orange, etc. But there will also be a smaller number of blocks that I’m calling “bridge blocks”, whose two triangles are from different but adjacent color families: pink-orange, orange-yellow, and so on.
I made lots of stacks and began methodically pairing fabrics to make sure I didn’t end up with a bunch of identical blocks. In the end, there will be 2 or 4 of each block in the quilt, since each of the squares makes two identical HST blocks. With a total of 270 blocks, that means there’s a lot of different blocks! I love math, but I never liked statistics… but this was a permutations problem for sure.
I chain-pieced my way through the stacks. Chain piecing is fun because you don’t cut the thread in between blocks – you just keep sewing, and the thread makes a chain connecting them all. It’s nice and fast. Of course, 270 blocks, so it still takes time, but it’s efficient.
Here’s a preview of the quilt idea on a small scale. I’m excited about one addition: at the last minute I decided to add this ivory + metallic gold “sprinkle” print. There aren’t too many of these blocks, but just enough to add some contrast and make the bright colors pop even more.
Next: pressing the blocks flat, trimming them square, and laying out the quilt itself!
Disclaimer: “quarantine” is technically not the right word because I am not sick, thankfully. But sewing a quarantine quilt sounds so poetic, doesn’t it? Megan of Designing an MBA wrote a really fantastic blog post a few weeks ago about making “art babies” during self-isolation. Yes, it’s a weird way of putting it, but her post really resonated with me as permission to start a BIG project. Especially with the very likely possibility of staying home for multiple weeks, I knew a big project would keep me motivated, healthy, and clear-headed.
So as soon as we were sent home for good, I began pulling fabrics for the quilt that’s been rattling around in my brain for quite some time now.
I have many fabrics that I just love, especially my happy/cutesy Japanese prints, and sometimes I worry I’ll never get the chance to use them all. I’ve long considered a quilt to show off my favorite prints, and I realized there will be no better time: this is my art baby, QUILTID-19.
I’ve been saving aspirational quilts to my quilty Pinterest board for years, but these are the three that inspired me most for this project:
I made stacks and stacks of fabric, combing through all of my cottons for everything bright. I’m aiming for super saturated jewel tones. I ended up excluding the blacks and grays of my initial pull, as well as green, sticking to five main color groups: hot pink, red-orange, yellow, turquoise, and cobalt.
I did so much ironing, and then I cut squares for hours. Quilting is tedious but it’s also fun because so many of the steps are mostly mindless. And I’m using fabrics I really, really love, so it feels great to get to work with them.
The most consistent theme of my quilty Pinterest board is TRIANGLES. I am strongly drawn to triangle quilts and have always wanted to make my own. I’m still somewhat intimidated by the thought of lining up the points on equilateral triangle quilts, and I didn’t want to have to worry about cutting out something other than squares, so this time it’s half-square triangles (HSTs for those in-the-know).
Before I could start sewing blocks, I had to make one more big decision: random, like inspiration image #3 above, or rainbow gradient like the Alison Glass quilt (#1)? I was strongly leaning towards random – it seemed easier and more fun – but I laid out some sample squares to check my gut. And I’m so glad I did. The picture above shows the drastic difference in impact between the rainbow-sorted blocks on the left, and the random blocks on the right. Rainbow wins, hands down.
Finally, with most of the planning out of the way: the sewing can begin.
If you’re working on an “art baby”, I’d love to hear about it! And of course, if you’re making your own QUILTID-19… please share!