Finished! Halloween Buzz Saw

October 31, 2011 at 9:25 am 3 comments

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Ronan the baby dragon at Hershey's Chocolate World

Ronan the baby dragon at Hershey's Chocolate World

I started this blog with the intention of its being a chronicle of, and a motivation for, finishing my UFOs. True, my life over the last 21 months has been rife with more changes than I could ever have anticipated: getting pregnant, losing a job, traveling the country, finding a job, having a baby, learning to balance the whole job/baby situation. Thus, I really shouldn’t be particularly hard on myself over the fact that this is only the second true, preexisting UFO I have finished since starting this project. But all recriminations aside, the fact remains:


Halloween Buzz Saw

Halloween Buzz Saw, 68" x 85"

I’ve referenced this quilt here before due to the minor fabric miracle I experienced, but I hadn’t told its full story. It’s possible that this quilt was my oldest UFO, as I believe it may have been only the third quilt I started when I got back into quilting roughly ten years ago. To begin at the beginning, I love Halloween and always have. Considering I love theater, sewing, and candy, it’s pretty much a natural. My sisters and I always had homemade costumes thanks to our loving, creative, Bernina-having mom, and as soon as I was able to contribute in any way to the construction of my own costumes, I jumped right in. I was a wizard, a werewolf, the Grim Reaper, a pumpkin-headed Headless Horseman, a witch doctor, and a basket of dirty laundry at various points in my costumed career. At one point, I made an octopus costume for my sister Cassandra. So I’ve been collecting Halloween fabrics since before I was quilting; in fact, some of the fabrics in this quilt were purchased while shopping with my best friend from college, Nichole, who died in August 2000. At the time, I didn’t know what I would do with those fabrics, but I knew I had to have them.

I believe it was probably fall of 2002 when we went to visit Kathy and Doug in Haddonfield, NJ and I saw a shop model quilt I absolutely loved at The Little Shop. They had used multiple dark Halloween prints, and then one light fabric as the background. I bought the book and decided that this would be a great showcase for my collection.

From "Leisure Arts Presents Quick Cozy Flannel Quilts"

From "Leisure Arts Presents Quick Cozy Flannel Quilts"

Here is where my woeful lack of experience came into play. My previous quilting endeavors had primarily revolved around solids, so I didn’t have much real-world knowledge of how value worked with prints. I laid out my fabrics on the dining room table and realized that I had two distinct piles:  prints with a purple or black background, and prints with a cream or orange background. In large pieces, these two groups definitely read as “dark” and “light,” so I thought that rather than mimicking the book or the shop model in having just one light print, I would get to use more fabrics by making both value families scrappy.

You see where this is going. What I failed to recognize in my naiveté was that when you cut a medium to large print into 2 1/2″ strips, you inevitably cut through some of the motifs. And on a light-background print, those motifs are dark, and vice-versa. So when I sewed my strips together, the competing prints just bled into one another and completely lost the sense of the larger design. Again, my inexperience meant that rather than evaluating the situation as I sewed, I just blithely pieced along until I had the whole thing done. I held it up to behold my triumph and saw– a mess.

Detail, Halloween Buzz Saw

Detail, Halloween Buzz Saw

I sought out the advice of Diane and Rhonda, who agreed that the wild mishmash of prints caused the intended swirling pattern to be lost. We all agreed that the eye needed somewhere to rest, so I took the twelve blocks apart and sashed them with an undeniably light fabric, an orange ditzy print on a cream background, with lime green cornerstones. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough of the sashing fabric to go around the outside edge. My plan was to use plain muslin, possibly with an orange stripe pieced into it, as a replacement, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this idea, so the top was put aside as a UFO.

This actually wound up working in my favor, as I subsequently found the sashing print on the bolt at Quilt Quarters. But by the time I came triumphantly home with my fabric, I was wrapped up in other projects. Every year since, as Halloween has approached, I’ve thought about trying to get this quilt done in time for the holiday. Unfortunately, October is also the month that guild challenges are due, and I’m usually working down to the wire on those. But this year, the planets all aligned:  I had chosen not to make a challenge quilt, as I didn’t want to start another project when I had so many unfinished; I wanted to get some tops ready to quilt in preparation for quilting higher-stakes projects like Ruby Wedding; and it was, after all, nearly Halloween.

The outer sashing and border went together nicely, despite the fact that my piecing from lo these many years ago was woefully uneven. The blocks finished at an average of 14 1/4″ (?!?) and they varied a good bit block to block. But this was never a quilt for show; this was a salvaging of a fun collection of fabrics as well as a bit of an object lesson. I had to piece my border fabric, especially as I wanted the bats to be right side up the whole way around the quilt, but it made me feel thrifty and virtuous.

I used the bamboo blend batting from Pellon Legacy, and this is the first of their battings I’ve been disappointed in. I’ll have to see how it behaves with wear and repeated washing, but while I was quilting it and the excess was exposed around the edges, it shed like mad. I had little fuzz balls all over the quilt top. It’s definitely softer and better draping than Warm & Natural, but overall I wasn’t impressed. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by all this wool.

I wound up taking a relatively short-notice trip to Pottsville, PA for a military dental event the third weekend in October, and since it’s nearly two hours from my house, I had a hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights. Pottsville isn’t exactly a vacation destination, so Dan and Ronan stayed home. To my mind, the only way to find a silver lining in being away from my family for a weekend was to turn my hotel room into a travel quilting studio! Housekeeping must have gotten a kick out of this:

Machine? Check. Sew Ezi table? Check. Law & Order? Check!

Machine? Check. Sew Ezi table? Check. Law & Order? Check!

My hotel stay gave me a solid start on the quilting, and momentum carried me through so that the last stitch went into the binding with five full days to go before Halloween! I quilted the whole thing using the Superior Threads Rainbows in Piñata that I had bought at Quilting with Machines, and the only marking I did was to divide the sashing into quarters for the freehand pumpkin seed design (I love using that on Halloween quilts.) I used Sue Patten‘s “Questionable Question Mark” with flames along the spine in the buzz saw centers, and placed strings of pearls and some weird little flaming heart things I invented in the orange corners of the blocks. The lime green cornerstones got spirals, and the outer border was done in piano keys using my Accents in Design ruler. I loved doing the quilting; I had no thread problems whatsoever! I can only hope my luck holds.

Quilting detail, Halloween Buzz Saw

Quilting detail, Halloween Buzz Saw

The backing is one of my favorite fabric buys ever, Skull-finity by Alexander Henry. I had bought 6 or 7 yards of it at JoAnn Fabrics (of all places) a few years back, and I used the last of it on this quilt. I put a piece of the selvedge on the label so I can’t forget that name.

Back and label, Halloween Buzz Saw

Back and label, Halloween Buzz Saw

The binding was scrappy, since I didn’t have enough of the lime green bat fabric from the cornerstones, but I had plenty of similar hue and value scraps from my Tucson Saguaro guild challenge quilt from 2007.

This quilt was a terrific confidence builder in many ways:  1) I really can finish my UFOs, even if it takes nearly a decade. 2) The piecing doesn’t have to be perfect. 3) The quilting doesn’t have to be perfect. 4) My machine and I seem to have reached detente.

I think this quilt deserves a slightly different type of happy dance:


Entry filed under: UFOs. Tags: , .

Last Post about QwM 2011: Vendors Eastern PA Quilt Shop Hop 2011

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Barbara Colvin  |  October 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Loved your blog! Bring the quilt to Nov meeting. I would love to see your quilting!
    Barbara Colvin

  • 2. Finished! Ronan’s Quilt « Sarah Loves Fabric  |  December 16, 2011 at 7:25 am

    […] considering how many seam intersections there are in all those hourglass blocks. However, Halloween Buzz Saw was a great confidence builder, so I was willing to venture a try. My guild retreat the first […]

  • 3. Finished! Spumoni Spring « Sarah Loves Fabric  |  May 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

    […] Ronan, AKA Ronan’s Quilt; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Dragons Galore, AKA Minkee Dragons; Halloween Buzz Saw; Spumoni Spring, AKA Pink and Brown; and the shop hop sampler quilt. That final one is still on the […]


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