The Nightmare Before Christmas. A cautionary tale…

This is quite a long post, but hopefully it will give insight into the quilt process as per the process pledge.  And maybe be an encouragement that you can still come up with a decent quilt despite many, many mistakes. TL;DR version — beware biased edges and partial seams!  Beware!

When I first re-ignited my passion for quilting this fall, I threw myself headlong into finishing my son’s college quilt, pieced my Circles top, and shared them with a few friends I could bribe into oo-ing and ah-ing. One of those casually said, “Next make one for me!” In my re-ignited enthusiasm, I immediately and foolishly agreed. Therein began the nightmare before Christmas…

He wanted blues, maybe some teal.  I have a lot of blues and teals in my stash, and I was inspired by a couple of stunning quilts I had seen on Pinterest using diamonds or squares made of strips of fabric arranged in a color gradients.  Several of them mentioned that they made the quilts using paper piecing, but at least one pinner said she had been able to strip piece hers, though she mentioned that she had to be very careful of the many bias edges.  Then I found this tutorial by Leanne at She Can Quilt.  Perfect!

Except that i think that I was cursed working on this quilt.  What was intended to be a happy escape from a fairly stressful time at work became a series of frustrating mistakes and impromptu workarounds.  I cut strips 2 1/2″ wide instead of 2″, which would only allow me to get 2 squares for half square triangles out of each strip set, a waste of hard to find fabric.   To fix that, I decided to cut the blocks at 10″ width and then trim the top and bottom strips down to get a 10″ square.  That was fine as long as I remembered to trim all the base squares…*cough* why are these two triangles different sizes? *cough*…Then  I cut some of the graduated squares in the wrong directions so that I had too many right handed triangles and too few left.  When I finally got the blocks together, they were 13″ very stretch blocks…and 12 7/8″ blocks…and 13 1/8″ blocks…and given my fabric choices, I realized I couldn’t use the setting that Leanne had used.  Luckily I had another setting in mind. I used EQ7 to draw up it up.  It would be something like this:

The image in my mind
The image in my mind

I trimmed blocks down to 13″, put a 1 1/2″ black border around one to test it.  It really made the block pop, and I liked the design in EQ7.  Except that now my blocks were so big that I would be making a queen size quilt not a lap quilt!  Okay.  I would still make a strippy quilt, but instead of vertical strips, I would essentially make a zigzag of sashing between the blocks.  I was sure there must be a way to piece it together…vague memories of doing something with partial seams floated around my brain.  I would work that out when to that when I got to it.   But first I needed to choose my background fabric.  (Does anyone else wait until they have their blocks done to choose background fabric?)

I looked through my stash and found 3-4 fabrics that could work as background that I thought I probably had enough of and began auditions.

Here’s a look at some of the blocks with borders added auditioned against the background fabric choices:

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I went with the darker blue despite some vague misgivings about it not being 100% cotton or at the very least not being the kind of weave one would usually find in a quilt fabric.  Soon I had cut corner and set in triangles and a few sashing sashing strips, and it was time to figure out how to get it put together. That’s when I realized why I had had misgivings about that fabric.  It was so stretchy!  I felt like every piece was cut on the bias! Between the on-point blocks and the stretchy sashing, every seam was a struggle.  I pieced together the outer sections where I could find natural straight lines.  But when I got to the middle…how in the world was I going to get it together?  I scoured the web for instructions for partial seams, but everything I found had to do with individual blocks that had at most one or two partial seams.  The principle was the same…but what order to piece the seams?!  By the end, almost every seam was a partial seam, and I was maneuvering 1/3 to 1/2 the quilt trying to put the right seams together.  New Rule 1: Avoid partial seams.  Rule 2: If you must use partial seams, work from the center of the quilt outward!  I am surprised I did not tear one out moving the quilt back and forth between my bedroom, where I could lay the pieces out, the kitchen peninsula where that serves as my ‘sewing table’, and the ironing board in the laundry room.  Several times I got to the sewing machine and wasn’t sure I was really matching the right seams, and had to go back to my bedroom to lay the quilt on the floor to double check.

But it came together in the end.  Now I have to decide if it really needs that border I envisioned.  I think the top is fine on its own, but that border would look great…still, the quilt is already big enough for a very generously sized lap quilt…I think I’ll sit on it for a few days and see how inspired I am.



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