More than you wanted to know: Part 1

Wondered what's inside this bag under the tree? It's the biggest and baddest Christmas present I've ever made. Or, I suppose I could call it the most time consuming, most frustrating, most rewarding. It's a QUILT, people. Overachiever, anyone? Over here! Over here!

Luckily, I had the right mind to start this thing back in October knowing full well what a beast it could prove to be. And beast it was.

But, let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sew you begin with scissors, a stack of fabric and a migraine. To reduce it from a migraine to a run of the mill headache, I used this Lemon Squares pattern for measurements. And let's be real. I'm not 95 years old. Scissors are for crazy people. Rotary cutters are where it's at. You slice the fabric like you slice a pizza.  A couple hours later, here were my stacks.

Oh, hold up. I forgot to mention that I wasn't just making a QUILT. I was making a PICTURE quilt. So the first step was wrangling pictures from all of John's siblings. Then formatting them, converting them to black and white and printing them on fabric paper (fabric lightly adhered to paper which peels off after having run through the printer). I went with a brand which marketed its color-fast quality, so I had the extra step of treating the fabric post print. Here were some of my prints laying out to dry.

And I suppose I also ought to mention that the picture sizes I needed left a lot of white space and that paper ain't exactly cheap. So, I pulled together a few "text pictures" on Photoshop to get the biggest bang for my buck.

My stacks of fabric stayed nicely organized until I was about 80% finished and Annie came to help me reorganize. So kind of her. Things got ugly after that. I couldn't find pieces I needed and had only bought enough fabric to barely make it. So I ended up working into the quilt a lot of mismatched scraps.

The piecing took me a couple of days. I sewed each individual block before I layed them all out on the bed and played around arranging them.

Like I mentioned in this post where I made our bedroom pillows, I'm not usually a perfectionist when I sew. But for this project I was pretty militant about ironing after each new seam in order to really keep my lines straight. I hate looking back at a quilt with mismatched corners that could have easily been remedied with a few extra seconds of attention.

Plus I had this girl keeping tabs on me and pointing out any inconsistencies. She's a tough cookie. Don't let the happy-go-lucky stripes fool you.

As you can see in that above picture, things got funky. The body of the quilt bored me. But that was also the point. I didn't want the photographs to be swallowed by the fabric around it. The quilt border gave me a chance to be bold. And Kaffe Fasset is my homeboy. His fabric makes me drool. These were all remnants I had from his collection...maybe ten years ago? Yes, that means I bought it in high school. What can I say? I was a dork. But at some point I had a temporary hiatus from being weird and quilting as a fifteen year old. And therein lay the reason for a handful of quilt blocks I never used and a stack of already cut Kaffe Fasset fabric. I incorporated those into the backing and border of the quilt. Layed it out, sandwiched in the batting and basted the layers together.

Then it dawned on me that I didn't actually know how to quilt. (Sorry John, I'm about to sell you out.) So, John and I sat down and watched tutorials on how to quilt. He was clearly bored that evening. And he and I jacked around on scrap fabric realizing how terrible we were and how it was going to cost a fortune to get this thing finished if I had to hire it out. (For all you cool people out there who don't know. Piecing is sewing the blocks or strips together. Quilting is securing the top, the middle batting (what keeps you warm) and the backing together. It's the hard part. The long part. The pull your hair out part.)

After practicing for not enough time, I took the plunge. I buried the layers under the neck of my machine, with the bulk of the quilt swallowing our dining room table, and I began free motion quilting. Wearing gardening gloves with rubber finger tips to grip and guide the layers. What? Lay off. I know it's weird. But it helped. A lot. Besides it was my mother-in-law who gave me those gardening gloves several years ago. I'm a terrible gardener and only used them but once. Given that this quilt was for her and John's dad, I felt like the usefulness of the gloves came full circle. BAM.

Okay, this post has gotten a little too lengthy. Let's do the reveal tomorrow.

(Pssst...here's The Reveal)


  1. Can't wait to see it! I loved that dorky high school kid, btw :-) still do now!

  2. Replies
    1. big thanks to you! this is that machine from the springfield sewing expo many, many, many years ago!


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