Thursday, 12 September 2013

Finally!

Hurrah! My grandson Damian's quilt is finished. Even though I've been quilting all year, this is the first quilt I've finished this year. Working full-time certainly limits the amount of time I have to quilt, though I have quite a few other projects on the go as well. 
I'm not quite sure how other quilters take really good quilt pictures. If you take the picture with the quilt lying down, you end up with an angular view of the quilt. But where is there to hang a quilt to get a decent picture? I do have one of those umbrella-style clotheslines, but it's not installed yet and I don't know if the lines are high enough to keep the quilt off the ground. In order to get this picture, I took the quilt to work and got a couple of colleagues to hold it up. Not perfect, but it was the best way I could think of to get a good overall view. 
The pattern is the Triple Irish Chain. When I first decided to make Damian a John Deere quilt, I wasn't sure what pattern I would use. I just started collecting John Deere fabric. Once I started looking over the fabric, I realized that something with a lot of small and/or triangular pieces was not going to work if I wanted to avoid chopping up all of the farm equipment, slogans and logos. Short of fussy cutting the whole quilt, I knew I couldn't keep all of them whole, but I wanted at least some of them to be. So I chose the Triple Irish Chain with a 3-inch square as the basic unit. Since this is a 7-patch with two complementary blocks, that made for very large 21" blocks.
Block A
Block B
These are the two basic block units. 
It's a pattern that would have lent itself well to strip piecing.
Unfortunately, some of the fabric was in fat quarters and some was full width and that did not work very well with strip piecing. It did create some frustration and some misaligned squares. 
Another quilter had posted about increasing accuracy by pressing the seams open instead of to one side. I did some research and decided to give it a try. And decided I wasn't too impressed with this method in quilt making. Because there are no knots or backstitching at the ends of the seams, if you press the seams open, it's very easy for the seam to start separating. So, I don't think I'll be using that method again. 
I finally managed to get the quilt top done and it was around this time that I realized I had calculated the backing without the added border on the quilt top... Not enough backing fabric. What to do? The local quilt shops did not sell John Deere fabric and I really did not have time to run to every fabric store in Edmonton to see if I could match the fabric. Nor did I want to wait to order more online. I could have bought a whole new JD fabric for the backing, but I really liked the one I had chosen. I finally decided on a more creative approach to resolve the issue.
After sewing the two main pieces of fabric together vertically, I then split it horizontally and added the green solid to which I had appliqued my grandson's name in some of the JD fabric from the quilt top. I'm quite pleased with the result. I'll talk about the bottom green square shortly.
Next there was the issue of where and how to pin baste the quilt. I asked one of our casual nurses, who also quilts, how she did it. She said that she had actually brought a quilt into work and used the big tables in our largest meeting room. So, one Sunday I packed up my supplies and that's what I did. No pictures as I forgot to take my camera along. 
Next, I had to set up my sewing room for quilting by adding a couple of extra tables.
Finally, there was the quilting to be done. After a brief but unsuccessful foray into free motion quilting, I realized that I needed much more practice before I attempted it on a quilt. I decided to just use my walking foot and do straight line quilting. 
I had lots of help.
Tinker
Mystery
I had originally planned on doing crosshatching, but after doing all of the diagonals in one direction, I decided I had done enough quilting and left it at that. And my lines are crooked and uneven, but I'm still learning.
I then trimmed up the edges.
Mystery didn't see how I could possibly do that part of the job successfully without him. 
So he stuck around and offered his assistance.
And tested out the quilt for comfort.
I consulted the internet for advice on binding a quilt.
Confession time: I don't hand sew unless I absolutely have to. So I used my machine to attach the binding, as instructed in this video. And I have an embroidery machine, so I have lots of fancy stitches from which to choose. 
The quilt's done, except... I actually planned on making it a quillow. You can find quidelines for making a quillow here: http://www.craftsy.com/project/view/how-to-fold-a-quillow/54472
My next step was to do the pillow panel. I had purchased a JD pillow panel, to which I added a border. 
Pin-basting the Pillow Panel
Now I have another confession: I seriously dislike cotton batting. This is actually the first quilt I made using it and I really prefer the loft and drape-ability of polyester fibrefill batting. In comparison, the cotton is flat and stiff, kind of like quilting with cardboard. That might be fine for a table runner or a wall-hanging, but not for a quilt meant to snuggle with. It just isn't as cuddle-able. And when I folded it up to see about the fit for the pillow panel, I realized it would not make a nice soft pillow. So, in order to soften it up, at least a little, I used polyester fibrefill batting for the quilt panel. Ah, the pins go in so much easier. And the quilting went much smoother as well. There's much to be said in favour of polyester fibrefill batting, in addition to the fact that it's a lot cheaper than cotton. I read somewhere that you shouldn't use it with free motion quilting. Well, considering the fact that I have yet to master that art, that's not an issue for me at this point in time. And when I do learn FMQ, I will see if I can figure out how to do it with polyester batting. Because I really do prefer it. I wonder if the cotton batting softens up at all with washing. Since this quilt has been fully tested by my cats, I decided to wash it before giving it to my grandson. It's still drying so it's too early to tell, but the polyester in the pillow panel still feels much softer. 
Back to the pillow panel. I just reviewed the instructions in the above link and discovered that I wasn't supposed to bind it. And I did. And I realize that the hand-sewing to attach the panel to the quilt probably would have been a little easier if I hadn't bound it. But it still looks good and works fine. Now you know what that green square on the bottom of the quilt back is. And here's the finished product.