East Dakota Quilter


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the sampler quilt that was finished… and then wasn’t

I felt like a rockstar last week when I completed all 49 blocks of my original 7 x 7 sampler quilt design:

49 sampler blocks by craftprowler

It is decidedly more traditional than the quilts I’ve begun in the meantime.

In my original design, I included a border on either side to round out the queen-size requirements. I chose this over another row of blocks. But I’m not sure how well the quilt-as-you-go method would work for borders, and I also felt silly avoiding 7 blocks when I’ve already come so far. So… I have a new goal of 56 total blocks (design below).

56 sampler blocks by craftprowler

Since I started working on the quilt in September, I typically completed either 4 blocks per week or absolutely 0 blocks. This means I completed about 7 blocks each month for 7 months. Of course, this includes the time spent graphing my blocks, cutting fabric, and all the preparatory work, plus the holidays and a death in the family where progress halted. Could it really take a whole ‘nother month to finish a portion of a project that I had nearly written off as complete?! On the other hand, I made room for some fun new blocks that I only discovered after cutting all the pieces for my original 49, so I am excited in spite of myself.

My sister’s dog, a pit bull, wanted to be sure he wasn’t missing dinnertime when he heard me moving around.

dog helping by craftprowler

Top left:

sampler quilt top left by craftprowler

Top right:

sampler quilt top right by craftprowler

Bottom right:

sampler quilt bottom right by craftprowler

Bottom left:

sampler quilt bottom left by craftprowler

Earlier posts about this quilt (in chronological order): Starting a Dear Jane Quilt, Quilt Expo – Madison, Wisconsin (embroidering the Sarah Jane Studios design for one of the blocks), Sampler Quilt Progress, Sampler Quilt Update: First 12 Blocks, Sampler Quilt Progress Report, [Needle]working Through Grief (several blocks appear at the end of the post), and Quilt Planning & Practice


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Quilt Planning & Practice

Quilting – Sampler Quilt

I paid to have both of the quilts I’ve pieced so far quilted for a variety of reasons: my domestic sewing machine is old , I didn’t want to bunch up the quilt under the arm, I was afraid I would ruin my patchwork by sewing crooked quilting lines, having someone else help was too inexpensive to pass up and a time-saver… But I wanted to take a new level of ownership with my sampler quilt. I wanted to do the piecing and the quilting. Plus, I wanted to highlight the shapes of some of the blocks with the quilting, and I thought it might seem lazy if I had someone else do it within such specific parameters. So I needed to learn about quilting.

Somewhere on Pinterest in the last year, I found an article that said rows of quilting should be 4-6″ apart. I am planning to use this quilt-as-you-go method with my sampler quilt, and I figured the 6″ guideline would be close to what I was planning. Some squares might be a little farther apart, some closer. Could it really be that big a deal? Having determined my quilting method, I promptly put the issue out of my head.

Now I have only a few of the 49 blocks left to piece. That means the time for quilting is almost upon me! Terrified, I revisited my previous research. I found this excellent article on Sew Mama, Sew! about the requirements for different types of batting. The article says most cotton battings (which I’d planned to use since I have leftovers from some baby quilts I made to practice) require quilting every 2-3″ because cotton shifts much more than polyester. That really doesn’t fit with the quilt blocks I made, which will be [about] 12″ finished.

My new plan is to use a blend: the Warm & Natural brand Amy suggests in her article. It was 50% off when I went to the store last week, and it says you can go 10 whole inches (!!) between quilting lines, so I bought 3 packages of queen-size batting. I plan to make my quilt 3 layers thick for extra warmth if I can manage it in my sewing machine. (For some reason, this makes me a nut job to other quilters.) The lady behind me in line at checkout couldn’t help telling me how amazing the brand is… and about the rag quilts she’s making for her granddaughters, one of whom is picky and a teenager. I love fabric outings where everyone wants to tell you about their current projects!

warm & natural batting

All that said, I wish I could use the batting I already own. My boyfriend (Johann) was funny the other day when he asked in a nonchalant way, “Oh, is this fabric new? It looks good…” He was quiet a minute, then added, “Didn’t patchwork quilts traditionally used to be made with leftover fabric from stuff like clothes?” Nuance is not normally his thing, so I found this endearing–not that it stopped me from buying 10 yards of fabric for the sashing and border. At this point, I figure I’m in so deep with fabrics and batting, I don’t want to ruin the whole thing by putting some ugly, low-thread-count sashing all over. I selected Moda’s Warm Memories in Chocolate Brown. I had an amazing afternoon looking at all of Moda’s fabric collections, past and present.

sashing

Embroidering – Barn Quilt

In the same way I have traditionally not quilted my own things because I was scared I’d ruin the patchwork, I was worried I would ruin a piece of embroidery I’m working on when it came time to add knots. I am making a tractor for my barn quilt, and I wanted to include rivets. Too many rivets. I’ll be a regular Rosie the Riveter by the time I finish!

French knots aren’t my thing. When I do them, they look floppy. Below are some French knots I did on the first quilt square I completed for the sampler quilt. They’re buttons on a coat. They’re ugly and really uneven.

french knots

Since the next-most-popular knot seems to be the colonial knot, I decided to try that for my tractor rivets. No practicing first, of course. (How often I have regretted this enthusiasm!) The finished product isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than the coat buttons!

colonial knot

I had read that colonial knots consist of figure eights around the needle (with the thread) and that you need both hands. That advice was useful on both counts. I used the graphic from this website to make the knots, and I pressed the knot against the fabric while pulling the thread through to keep the knots tight. Whew! Much more even than the embroidered coat buttons, which I have chosen to consider “charming” and homemade.

Another concern is the traced lines. Each block will be based on a photo from my childhood. Once I’ve finished drawing the template, I size it and trace it onto the fabric. (Wish I could freehand it, but let’s be serious.) I tried air-soluble ink, but that left me with NO LINES when I let the project sit for a few days. Not good. So I switched to water-soluble ink. I read that even water-soluble ink can dissipate in time due to humidity in the air. Since I don’t want to wash my quilt right away, even though the DMC floss I’m using is supposed to be color-safe, I am going to try to use the humidity concept to my advantage and take out the water-soluble lines with a steamer. Wish me luck!

tracing lines

Block Arranging – Sampler Quilt

While I don’t spend much time practicing the more critical techniques like knots or quilting, I spend all the time in the world drawing and computer imaging what the finished quilt will look like. I want to see the result well before the pieces are finished. Below is an image that shows where I started with my sampler quilt (a grid on two different-sized pieces of paper where I drew every quilt block I liked that didn’t have circles or applique or otherwise look too difficult) to where I was mid-stream (closer color approximations since I didn’t have the correct colored pencils when I did the drawing version) to how I expect the finished quilt to look with sashing, using a combination of finished block photos and computer images for blocks I’m still working on.

13 left progress


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[Needle]working Through Grief

I didn’t post last week because I was home for my grandma’s funeral. Although I am still grieving, it was nice to see family, and I was so glad I worked on putting photos into albums the week before. My grandma’s next-oldest sister was able to identify most of the people in the hundreds of photos, including some from the early 1900s! Having the photos on pages we could flip through made for quick work, and I’m sure it meant getting through photos we wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.

double wedding 1924

war era grandparents

This past weekend, I really craved quiet time, but I didn’t want to sit around my apartment and dwell on things. My boyfriend suggested we go to his former professor’s second home in South Haven, Michigan. It was perfect. I worked on embroidering the first block of my barn quilt while it snowed Saturday morning. We also visited the town’s lighthouse and kitschy/antique shops.

embroidering in South Haven

lighthouse

After I dropped Johann at his dad’s house Sunday evening, I went home and worked on two new blocks for my sampler quilt. I hurried home after work again yesterday to add four more. (Note the ironing board cover has been updated since the Sunday Brunch Jacket.)

6 new blocks

Looking back over the past two weeks of projects, the embroidery especially was therapeutic at a difficult time. As an added bonus, some of the photos I shared at my grandma’s funeral are ideal candidates for my barn quilt, now that I know what they depict.


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Sampler Quilt Progress Report

I must admit I didn’t get much sewing work done last week because I had a birthday to celebrate. So far, being “old” is awesome! My boyfriend and friends threw me a surprise party. Since then, I’ve been working on three different projects:

1. Scanning & organizing family photos. My grandma’s health is failing, and I would really like to honor her by organizing some photos to share at the funeral that will likely happen this weekend. While the circumstances are not great, it has been incredible to see how meticulously she kept photo albums, indicating how much she valued the people in them. She also had some interesting documents from my grandpa’s service in World War II.

2. Sampler Quilt. I finish a quilt block every now and again, and I’m done with 23 of the 49 total blocks. (My original grid below shows I’ve finished 24 blocks, but one of them turned out ugly, even if the measurements were correct and the corners lined up. I felt cheated.)

grid

blocks

3. Barn Quilt. My sampler quilt requires use of a sewing machine, so the project has limited mobility. But ever since I crocheted the edge of a baby blanket, I have enjoyed working on smaller projects during my lunch break. (Much of the Windy Hill onesie was done in my car.) I have decided my new “mobile” project will be a “barn quilt.” There will be 13 embroidered blocks, each featuring an image from my childhood in South Dakota. Examples include my grandparents’ house, the house I grew up in, our barn, my dad’s 1980 Buick LeSabre (which we had looooong after the 1980s), our mailbox, the first tractor my grandpa bought brand-new, etc. This is general layout, minus some of the photos I’m still collecting:

BQ template

I plan to use a patterned tan-and-navy border in a primitive style–and since I already purchased 5 yards from Primitive Gatherings, this plan is almost certain to become reality! I also purchased several skeins of matching embroidery floss and traced the main lines of four different photos, so I am ready to begin as soon as I finish the most urgent family photos.

This project was originally inspired by the Barns of Wisconsin set I saw featured at the Quilt Expo in Madison (September 2012). I thought I was being clever by using a color other than red and including buildings other than barns, but I have since learned that bluework is a popular style of embroidery, and I discovered this set of quilt blocks, too. Mine will still be one-of-a-kind and feature images that are special to me, so I eventually found peace with not being as original as I’d hoped.


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Sampler Quilt Update: First 12 Blocks

Lest anyone worry I abandoned my quilt, I wanted to post a status update. I have actually completed the first dozen blocks between other projects.

I am really concerned about doing the quilting myself. I think I can manage straight lines and the quilt-as-you-go method, but I don’t want the backstitching to show, and hiding all the threads with an open-eye needle seems like a lot more work than I bargained for. Perhaps I can ponder this while sewing the next dozen blocks? I’m really excited that at least that the fabrics look nice together and my corners line up (if you don’t look to closely)!

12 sampler blocks


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Sampler Quilt Progress

The official verdict is that a quilt is not properly called a Dear Jane quilt if it uses my method. Some creative license is permitted, so I won’t attempt to define what does qualify as a Dear Jane, but my design does not. Thanks to a recent trip to the Madison Quilt Expo, however, I figured out the appropriate classification for my quilt: a Sampler Quilt. This seems especially appropriate given my decision to quilt-as-I-go.

Most of the colored pieces for the front of my Sampler Quilt are cut. The exceptions are some square-in-square pieces and other oddballs. I pinned some tips in Pinterest and will get around to them when I have more patience. For now, I’m too excited to get started to do any more math!

The white pieces still need to be cut, but there are SO MANY of them! I don’t really like cutting, and I definitely get bored with the sewing. I like quilting because I love the designing part and then seeing how the pieces and colors come together. (I have about three other quilts designed right now and am in various stages of purchase for those projects.) Since I don’t have time to commute home between work hours and a late-night video conference tonight, I decided to do some “quilting” from the office. It consisted of listing out all the white pieces I need to cut and breaking them into size categories. Compulsive organization? Maybe. I have several dozen spreadsheets or printouts for any given project.

Since I will have a visitor over the weekend, I doubt I’ll have much progress to show next week. My attentions are also being diverted into a handful of other projects. I can’t believe how long I’ve already been working on this one! …especially given how little I have accomplished. No matter. It’s the process that is the fun part, anyway.