Friday, September 26, 2014

My First Quilt

I've always loved textiles:  fabric, yarn, quilts, weaving, colors, textures.  
The melody and harmony of quilt designs especially call to and inspire me.  
Through the years, convinced that I hated sewing, all I could do was gaze and admire.
A few years ago I dipped my toes in the sewing sea, working through some Stitch by Stitch lessons with the girls.  Then last fall Len asked if he could give me a quilting class for my birthday. I think we were both surprised when I said yes!

That class series turned out to be one of my best gifts EVER.  My teacher was wonderful--calm, generous with her time, highly skilled, and encouraging.  Once I picked a pattern she helped me select the fabric.  I knew I wanted to use batiks; the movement and washed quality of the colors are exhilarating.  The problem is that it's hard to narrow my choices down when there are so many gorgeous options!  Sharon has a great eye for color and patiently walked me through the fabric selection process.
Once we had narrowed it down to one light, one medium, and two dark fabrics, it was time to map out the blocks.  The pattern I chose used many small pieces.  The original version called for multiple shades of four different colors.  I kept it simpler with only blues, but that meant I couldn't directly follow the written pattern.  I needed to make my own decisions about fabric placement.

Sharon teased me about over-planning, but I did find out that there were some arrangements I actively disliked.  I needed to draw and see the work on paper--I can't visualize all the options in my head yet.
After the color mapping came the cutting guides.  
Time consuming, yes, but I agree with the carpenter's refrain of "measure twice, cut once."
The class ran for about eight weeks, with homework in between each session.  
This got pretty stressful some weeks, as I was neither a quick nor confident sewer.
As the blocks came together, though, I got more and more excited.  Amazed, really, that I could do this!
My instructor taught me a pinning technique that makes it easier to join corner seams accurately.  If you look at the multiple corners in these blocks, you'll see that most of them match up beautifully.  Thank you, Sharon!

The main body of my quilt was supposed to have 16 blocks--eight in the style you see above, and eight of a different style (see the bottom of my diagram page, above).  After cutting and sewing the first set of blocks, I decided to work like an assembly line, cutting all the remaining fabric, arranging it by block, and then putting it together.

Unfortunately, I ran into a huge problem.  

Quilting seams are supposed to be 1/4".  Exactly.  I thought the edge of my sewing machine's presser foot was 1/4" away from the needle; I measured it, and my seams too.  As it turned out, my seams were just a tiny bit wider than 1/4".

Because of the style of the first blocks, the only problem this caused was that the blocks were smaller than they should have been.  Okay.  The way the second set was built, however, left no tolerance for too-wide seams.  It's a long story, but with seams that weren't exactly 1/4", the little pieces could not fit together properly.  They couldn't match up!  And even if I found a way to make my seams the correct size, the new blocks would be bigger than the first ones, meaning they couldn't be joined properly.  Aargh!

I ended up making all sixteen blocks in style "A".  I was able to salvage some of my already cut fabric, but did need to buy some more.  Thank goodness it was still available!  There was, of course, no way to get back all the time I spent cutting the blocks that were not to be.

As you can imagine, this was my biggest set-back.  Everything worked out in the end, and I am thrilled that I was able to create something as beautiful as my first quilt.  It took a lot of hand-holding and coaching, but that's fine.  More pictures and the rest of the story coming soon!


Rachaeldaisy said...

What a wonderful story of you first quilt!!! It's great you have found a lovely teacher. Please don't feel that you've wasted time or fabric with the blocks that weren't quite the right size. You could sew the blocks to make some matching pillows, and the time spent was valuable sewing pactise and you learnt along the way.
Thank you for your comment on my blog. How exciting that you can look out for my denim quilt. From the few photos I've seen there are lots of amazing quilts in the show. You'll have a wonderful time.

Kristin Nelson said...

Wow, Barb, you never cease to amaze me!!!!