Monday 29 April 2024

Tales of Ireland

I don't know how many years ago, I started this quilt, but I mentioned it in a blog post in 2014, so about 10 years ago. At that time, I only made one block.

Lucky Clover Block
Then it sat for several years until a year or so ago (some time in 2022?), I got it out and made another block. 
Irish Cross Block
Unfortunately, at that time I also realized that the fabricI bought for this quilt predated the time when I became more discriminating about the quality of fabric I purchased, and it is inferior quality. I was planning on finishing this quilt for one of my great nephews, whose favourite colour is green, and considered lining the quilt top with muslin, like I did for the Children of Israel quilt, but decided I didn't want to use inferior fabric for one of my great nephews. I then debated on whether I would make the quilt using better fabric, but then what would I do with this bunch of fabric? I decided to continue with this fabric, especially since the finished size would make a good table quilt, but will make an alternate quilt in the future for my great nephew. I cover my table linens with a clear plastic sheet, so they don't get dirty. I would therefore seldom, if ever, need to wash the quilt and so the quality of fabric is not as significant. And I needed a table treatment for the month of March anyway. And since March is Irish Heritage Month, with St. Patrick's Day on the 17th, this quilt would be perfect. 
This year, I determined to finally finish it. March is not only National Crafting Month, but it's also Irish Heritage Month. What better time to finish an Irish quilt. But when I took it out and looked over the blocks, I realized why I'd been stalling. These are by no means simple blocks, and are quite labour-intensive. 
I Left My Heart in Ireland
I spent many hours doing the English paper piecing for the Fairy Ring Block. Remember, I normally avoid hand stitching if at all possible, but I actually didn't mind doing it this time. 
Fairy Ring Block
However, it was quite time-consuming. 
The pattern for this quilt suggests pink for the coordinating fabric for the sashing and block accents. Specifically a pink fairy print, which was to be fussy cut for certain blocks, like the centre hexagon in the Fairy Ring block. While pink complements green very well, it is definitely not a colour I would associate with Ireland. Orange, or maybe gold, but definitely not pink. And I did not want fairies on my quilt. So I salvaged some gold fabric leftover from another project (I cannot recall what project) and decided to use it instead. 
Folktale Circle Block
The Folktale Circle Block was to have a fussy cut fairy in the middle as well. Being a fairly large space (6½" square), I didn't necessarily want to just fill it with the gold fabric or even the background. So, instead I downloaded an Irish-themed colouring sheet from the internet, reduced it to the correct size, traced it onto some solid white fabric, and coloured it with my Inktense pencils. I'm pretty pleased with the results and for me, it's much more appropriate than fairies. Aside from the time spent making the centre square, this is actually about the easiest and quickest block in the bunch. 
Celtic Twist Block
I really like the looks of this block and have actually considered using it to make a quilt for my living room sofa. I recently discovered that Missouri Star Quilt Company has a table runner using this block, or something very similar. 
Connemara Flower Block
For this block, I again did a self-coloured centre, this time using my fabric markers. I skipped the instructions in the pattern for the flying geese units, and instead used the No Waste Flying Geese instructions. I love this method because I hate wasting the fabric with the stitch and flip method. It's interesting that the Tales of Ireland quilt pattern is from McCall's quilting, and so is the video for the No Waste Flying Geese. Why couldn't they put the two together?
Having the first 6 blocks finished, I decided to put the top part of the quilt together (the Lucky Clover block that I finished first is in the bottom half of the quilt). 

I am really happy with how it looks with the gold sashing. Another thing I'll point out is that the pattern uses various fabrics for the background. I decided to stick with the one solid green fabric. I think it gives it a more cohesive look. 
Celtic Knot Block
I have to admit that I sort of dragged my heels about making this block, and I actually delayed it until the other two blocks in the third row, even though it came first. It involved making my own bias tape, following the method in this video. I've used this method once before (following a different video) to make bias binding, but found that I ended up cutting it with my rotary cutter and ruler (think about trying to do that with a tube of fabric) because the lines just wouldn't line up for me properly. This time I found the same thing - I couldn't get all of my lines to line up properly. I did end up cutting it with my scissors, but had to fudge it quite a bit when I came to the seam where the lines didn't line up, resulting in pretty wobbly edges. 
The instructions say to put a strip of fusible web on the back of the bias tape. Not happening here. I've used my Heat'N'Bond Lite enough to know that it's too stiff to be able to bend it to conform to all of those curves, not to mention the added bulk, especially at the corners where the bias tape has to be folded over on itself. Plus, I also knew that I would likely end up sticking it down in places that shouldn't be stuck down until the next loop of tape was under it. 
And I didn't have a bias bar or an applique iron, and couldn't justify the expense (even if I could find them to purchase them) when they might only ever be used in this one block. And I don't intend to repeat it. 
So, I ended up just pinning the whole thing down, finding that the design in the pattern had a couple of errors, with the bias tape going over in one place, where it should have gone under the previous tape, and another place where there was no indication which piece went over and which piece went under. I figured it out, however, and got the whole thing stitched down. I have nicknamed this block the Irish Pac-Man Block because that's what I saw when I finished it: 4 green Pac-Man (Pac-Men?) facing each other. 
Treasures from Ireland Block
For the centre of this block, I used the alphabet function on my sewing machine and stitched in "Ireland", adding a map of Ireland, coloured with my fabric markers. Once again, I used the no waste method for making my flying geese, but miscalculated and they ended up smaller than they were supposed to. I made it work, though. 
Seven Lucky Shamrocks Block
This was one of the simpler blocks, just having to trace and applique the 7 shamrocks. 
I was down to the last two blocks, and they were probably the most challenging - or maybe just annoying - blocks of the quilt top. 
Leprechauns and Gold Nuggets (aka Fairies and Flower Petals)
For the Fairies and Flower Petals block, which I renamed Leprechauns and Gold Nuggets, since I used neither pink fabric nor fairy fabric, I had to make 20 of these miniature 9-patches. 
In the pictures of the block included in the pattern, it appears that the corners of the 9 patches touch the edges of the block. 
And I really wondered why the instructions said to cut such oversized pieces for the setting triangles. 
Nowhere did it indicate that there would be a fairly large margin of the setting triangle fabric extending beyond the corners of the 9-patches. It only said, "The dark green setting triangles on all edges and corners are cut oversized for subsequent trimming." Well, I normally do this with setting triangles, but definitely not this huge. So, not wanting to waste fabric, I reduced the size of the setting triangles to a more reasonable size. Then I wondered why my block ended up so small. There are multiple seams in the block and I thought maybe my seams had been too "generous". But no, my individual squares came out at 1½" finished size, as they were supposed to. Then I started calculating diagonals and realized that there was no way that this block could have come out at 12" if the corners of the 9-patches touched the edges. It would have been more something like 10½". So, I ended up having to add a border of the same fabric as the setting triangles. 😖 Grr! Yes, partly my fault, but also the fault of the pattern - both the designer for not being more explicit, and the picture for not clearly demonstrating that the setting triangles extend beyond the corners of the 9-patches by nearly ¾ of an inch! It's not the first time I've changed a pattern to make it more efficient, but this is the first time that it turned out so wrong. Nevertheless, I still like the finished block and it has not significantly altered the appearance of the finished product. 
By the time I hit block number 12, I was sick to death of this project and hating this block. The technique is time-consuming and ridiculous, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong: I'm not afraid of challenging and time-consuming blocks. But this one is more annoying than challenging. 
First, I was to cut out 72 of these little "mushrooms" (she calls them scallops in the pattern). 
The instructions say to also cut out 72 little strips of fusible web. 
This picture shows the template for cutting the fusible web and where it should be placed on the mushrooms. Not only did I not want to spend my time tracing, cutting and applying these tiny slivers of fusible web, but I failed to understand how well it would actually work. 
Normally, in using fusible web for appliqué, you apply the appliquéd piece to the background fabric. In this case, with such little slivers of fusible web, only the top row will have the fusible web against the background fabric, and not even all of that, since it overlaps the edge, and the mushrooms overlap each other where the fusible web is. So, likely 95%+ of this quilt block wouldn't even be held in place on the background square until I stitched it down. That didn't make any sense to me. What else didn't make sense was cutting out whole mushrooms where an itsy-bitsy piece of fabric would do. And the pattern doesn't suggest reusing those mushrooms on another row at the opposite ends, so that you're at least getting more use out of it. No, let's just go to all that trouble of cutting out a whole mushroom, and throw most of it away... But then, when assembling the block, I found out that I did need those extra pieces, even though the instructions didn't tell me that. I even cut 74 of these mushrooms, instead of 72 and used all 74 of them. plus some of the scraps.
It's a good thing this was the last block.
Anyway, instead of using fusible web, I got a glue stick out of my freezer and put a dab in the middle of the mushrooms, so that the glue wouldn't be along the edges where I had to stitch. Aside from on the tiny little pieces on the sides. And it worked, but not as perfectly as I would have liked. The pieces shifted during stitching, so I did end up with some puckering. But by this time, I didn't really care. I was so tired of this quilt and these ridiculous blocks. 
So here's the stupid thing I did. The glue stick I used was one of those purple ones that is supposed to fade to clear when it dries. But it wasn't all fading like I thought it should. I then decided to just "wash" the glue out by spraying the block with water. Not a good idea because it was insufficient to wash out the glue and instead, by making it wet again, the purple came back with a vengeance. Here's where the really foolish part comes: I decided to iron the block to dry it out fast to get rid of the purple - hopefully, completely - but instead, it appears to have set the purple colour permanently! And if you look for it, you can see it in some of the fabrics in this block. Live and learn. I definitely wasn't going to remake this block and I was afraid to actually wash it lest it make the problem worse. Or the block shrink significantly. I may someday wash the entire quilt and hope for the best. It's still a nice looking block and, as my mother used to say, "a blind man will never see it."
I still had the border to put on (I had been putting on the sashing and cornerstones as I went along). I was puzzled why the instructions said to cut pieces 68" long for the sides and 52" long for the top and bottom. The sides should be 63½" and the top and bottom should be 48½" each. Did the pattern designer expect them to grow? I'm kind of shaking my head over that. I appreciate that, if you cut them before finishing the quilt, you might not want to cut them to exact size, but that much longer? Anyway, for the most part, I don't care if my borders have seams, and so I was able to get sufficient cuts from 1 metre of fabric. 
The border in the pattern was supposed to have been a green ivy print, and I would have preferred something in green. I gave brief consideration to purchasing some, but I decided to use the fabric that I already had for this quilt top, especially since I did have enough of the white shamrock fabric. 
The there was the matter of the backing. Several years ago, I had picked up an old bed sheet at a thrift store. I bought it for sentimental reasons because my mother had had a sheet (set?) with the same print, and I intended to use part of it in a quilt - eventually. I considered using it as the backing, but I would have had to play around with the usable fabric on it to determine if I could make a backing big enough. It was quite worn in the middle and had a tear in it as well. 
But then, while perusing the clearance section in an online quilt shop, I found this fabric for less than $9.00/metre. Perfect, that beats me messing around with that old sheet to try and make a backing out of it. And since I was already planning on placing an order with them, it wasn't like I would be paying any extra for shipping. But it wasn't delivered until after the end of March. So, I finished the quilt top during Irish Heritage/National Quilting Month, but the quilting had to wait until the backing arrived. 
Quilted using the Luck of the Irish pantograph. 
One last hitch in making this quilt: I discovered that the sewing machine was skipping stitches when I was attaching the binding to the back. Sometimes when I don't have the bobbin in perfectly, I have had some problems, but I had already re-inserted because I was having some issues when I was stitching the ends of the binding together. Not sure what really was going on, but I discovered that that there was actually some places where there were pretty big gaps between stitches. But I was oh, so tired and I wasn't going back and starting over. I finished stitching the binding to the front and I'd had enough of this quilt. After 10 years, it's done! I may some day go back and hand stitch those gaps closed, but not right now. 
It's now on my dining room table and even though it's almost May and this quilt was intended for March, I will leave it there for awhile to just enjoy it. 
In the centre of the table, I placed a teapot, cream and sugar set that I think are supposed to be beehives, complete with bees, but feature shamrocks/clover. This set came from my paternal grandmother's estate, and I was able to find the matching salt and pepper shakers on the right at an antique mall. The clover/shamrock salt and pepper shakers on the left also came from an anique mall (I think). 
That's it. Now on to the next project.

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