Finished! Matt and Alyssa’s Wedding Quilt

January 5, 2011 at 12:45 am 3 comments

The baby’s asleep — I can get a post up here!

Full A&M quiltYou know what they say about good intentions… and what they’re used to pave…

When my friend Alyssa asked me, roughly a month before her November 2009 wedding, if I knew anyone who’d be willing to make a wedding signature quilt for hire, I jumped at the opportunity:  “Let me do this as my wedding present to you.”  I was very sincere in this.  Despite having already planned for 2010 to be my Year of the UFO, I thought this project would make a worthy exception.  I love signature/album quilts; they’re such a wonderful tradition, and speak to me so volubly of Why We Quilt — they are literally a way for the recipients to wrap themselves in the good wishes of people who care about them.  Besides, it was going to be a simple quilt:  big blocks, straight-line piecing, nothing fancy.  This wouldn’t take much time.

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  Because this became Murphy’s Quilt.

Everything started well:  I prepared a basketful of precut 4 1/2″ squares of the JoAnn Fabrics Kona cotton in a nice cream, prewashed and ironed onto freezer paper, with a 1/2″ seam allowance premarked with blue washout marker.  (I figured, mostly correctly, that a marked 1/2″ seam allowance would probably yield a useably empty 1/4″ seam allowance.)  As their wedding colors were dark blue and chocolate brown, I brought along fine-tip Sharpies in navy and brown, which I had pretested for colorfastness.  Dan made a nice sign for the table at the reception, explaining the project, and the guests did a nice job leaving signatures, notes, wishes, and even some artwork on the squares.

detail A&M quiltI had planned the quilt to encompass 25 Air Castle blocks, measuring 12″ each, as I wanted it to be big enough for them to share as a couch/cuddle quilt.  I chose the Air Castle block because it’s simple, attractive, and  contains 5 solid squares; thus the quilt could accommodate up to 125 signed squares.  Projected attendance was roughly 100, and I made sure I had plenty of extra squares available to allow for mistakes, but as most couples and families signed just one square to represent them all, and some guests didn’t sign at all, I ended up with only 39 signed squares.  This was fine; it meant that I could put a signed square in the center of each block, with a second one in the lower right hand corner of slightly more than half the blocks.  It also gave me room to make an additional square to place in the center of the quilt with their names, wedding date, and details.

I had warned Alyssa when I offered to take this project on that it wouldn’t be finished anytime soon; there was no way I could start it before the new year, and she was fine with that.  I was able to pull all the necessary brown fabrics from the leftovers from Window on Whimsey, but the not-quite-navy of the bridesmaids’ dresses wasn’t really represented in my stash, so it gave me something to look for on the Shop Hop last year.  I then bundled up the fabrics, the sketch, my copy of Marsha McCloskey’s Block Party book, and set them aside.  And then my life got complicated.  I started this blog; I found out I was pregnant; three weeks later, I found out I was losing my job; and two months after that, I lost said job.  Then I started traveling so I could work for the military dental contractor, and next thing I knew, it was the middle of summer and I hadn’t yet started this quilt.  (Hello, quilt guilt!)  I had taken the supplies to the April guild retreat, but didn’t actually work on it.  In fact, I didn’t start the quilt until the weekend before my mini home retreat with Rhonda and Diane; I had started the cutting at my parents’ house during a quilting day with my mom, thinking I’d be able to knock out the whole top the following weekend.

Again:  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

As regular readers may recall, that was when I mistakenly cut a large portion of my fabric into the wrong size triangles, having forgotten in the criminally long interval between planning and starting that I had changed the block size from the 9″ in the book to 12″.  And I couldn’t just change my mind and make either more blocks or a smaller quilt, because the signed squares were 4 1/2″ and could not be cut down.  All I could do was get over myself and recut the pieces.  Fortunately, I had enough of the brown and blue fabrics, and the cream was a standard solid from JoAnn’s, easy to procure more of, right?  Right???

The first time I looked for more of the solid cream fabric was when my mom and I were in Pittsburgh to hear Bonnie Hunter speak, and we stopped into a local JoAnn’s to kill time before the meeting.  I couldn’t find anything that looked like what I’d been working with, but I didn’t have a swatch with me for comparison so I didn’t worry.  I started to worry, however, when I did take a swatch to my local JoAnn’s and still couldn’t find anything that matched.  I remembered having bought Kona cotton, but I started to second-guess myself and looked at all their solids.  Still nothing.  Could they have discontinued an entire line of solids between November and July?  Could there be a missing off-white that no one was stocking?  I was really puzzled.  I finally bought a yard each of the two closest matches, the Kona cotton and the Egyptian cotton, hoping that one or the other would look significantly different once it was washed.

And surprise, it did!  Turns out, both fabrics apparently have so much sizing and finishing additives on them that they radically changed in appearance once they were washed and dried, and the Kona cotton was indeed the winner as I had remembered.  Washed, it looked lighter in color, much more matte, and with nearly a seersucker texture even after pressing.  If I needed a reminder of the importance of prewashing, this was it.  Another obstacle surmounted.

I finished the top and also pieced the back.  I’d found on last year’s shop hop not only a beautiful blue and brown large-scale Oriental floral perfect for this purpose on the bargain rack, but also a piece of Gail Kessler‘s life-size piano keyboard fabric, which I thought would be very appropriate to incorporate into a pianist’s quilt.  It made the construction of the back somewhat more challenging, but I think it was worth it:

back of A&M quiltI then basted the quilt and started quilting.  And that’s when the final round of Murphyness raised its ugly head.  As previously discussed here, I had unprecedented problems with skipped stitches and frayed threads, especially every time I crossed a heavy intersection of seam allowances.  In a pieced quilt, there are a lot of these, and it made me nervous about my prospects for quilting both Ruby Wedding and Taupe Winding Ways.  Manipulating tension and needle choice solved most of the problem, but I still had to periodically stop, rip out, and restitch throughout the project, which really ruined my momentum and greatly prolonged the process.  I was happy with my choice of quilting design, though:  a virtually no-mark, Pam Clarke-inspired combination of continuous curve quilting in the blue and brown triangles and in the signature squares, with additional loop and curl embellishments in the solid cream squares and triangles.  The light blue thread created enough contrast for visibility without distracting from the primary focus of the top.  I finished the quilt with a scrappy binding of all the blues, once again using the Sew Precise, Sew Fast machine binding technique.

quilting A&M quiltIf this were a fictional story, this whole tale of woe would culminate with my putting the finished quilt in the washing machine to remove the washout blue marker and the water-soluble thread, and having all the Sharpie signatures inexplicably vanish off the fabric, thus ruining the entire project.  Fortunately, this is real life, and I really had tested the markers first, so there was no final tragedy.  I was able to give them their quilt on their first wedding anniversary, and they loved it.  Despite all the roadblocks I encountered, I am happy I made this quilt for them, and it certainly was a learning experience!  Therefore, I’ll leave this happy dance in the capable hands and feet of Mr. Gene Kelly, who danced happier than anyone:


Entry filed under: New Projects, Time Management, UFOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

My Brand-New Little Project Multitasking Mama

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Triumph Over Tension Headaches! « Sarah Loves Fabric  |  October 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

    […] I’ve posted repeatedly here, I’ve been having a great deal of difficulty over the last year and a half with skipped […]

  • 2. Classes at Quilting with Machines 2011 « Sarah Loves Fabric  |  October 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    […] different aspects of the material, especially as she responded to class questions. Also, since Matt and Alyssa’s wedding quilt and the double pinwheel table runner, two of the only projects I’ve finished in the last year, […]

  • 3. Vickie Bradham  |  April 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

    What kind of pen did you use on this quilt. What did you do to it and has it faded with washing?


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