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!
Face masks are all over the news, so I certainly don’t have to tell you much about them. If anything, there’s currently TOO MUCH information out there. If you’re trying to make masks to donate to medical professionals, make sure you understand the requirements of your local community. Many hospitals are requesting specific patterns and styles. Mask Match can help match you with a local medical professional who is in need of your masks!
But my masks are not to a specific hospital spec, they’re just for me and David to wear on errands, as a courtesy to the community and the workers there. Fancy Tiger Crafts summarized it perfectly, and helped to convince me: “We all need to be wearing masks when going on essential errands or outside, both to protect our essential workers and the most vulnerable, and to help de-stigmatize the wearing of masks.”
I am so grateful for everyone who is still working at Publix right now, enabling me to pick up essentials like bananas, salad, and Haagen Dazs. But these workers are out in public all day, and have to come into contact with so many strangers. I’m choosing to wear a mask at the grocery store to help give the Publix workers a tiny bit of peace of mind.
One of the many tricky things about this virus is its incubation time: the long period of time in which people may be contagious without having any symptoms. We may be asymptomatic and still pose a risk to our community. We all have to continue to do our best to remain isolated, and for those moments that we can’t maintain isolation, a face mask is a courteous way to protect our community.
The Fancy Tiger Crafts post has many good resources. This is the mask pattern I used. Just two 6×9″ rectangles (optional middle layer for more filtration) and two 7″ elastic ties per mask. I used quilting cotton for the outside, and a soft flannel for the inside/face side. Three pleats on each side (the most finnicky part) and some topstitching, then all done!
I made two masks for each of us so that we can wash one after each wear, and wear the spare while the first is drying. We don’t wear them outside – it’s too hot for that, and not necessary since we maintain distance from others while walking. But for going into stores, it’s nice to be able to show the workers that we care about keeping them safe.