2013 Challenge Quilt — Solids!

February 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm Leave a comment

Bright color camouflage

Bright color camouflage! Can you find the hidden child?

Once again, part of why my blog went dark in the latter part of last year was that I couldn’t show you what I was primarily working on. This year’s challenge was announced in May and was solid fabrics, at least six different shades/hues. My initial reaction was very negative:  basically, “eww, I’m not doing that!” After all, the fabrics I love are prints and batiks, and I have a houseful of them. Doing a solid fabric challenge would entail buying new fabric at a time when I’m desperately trying to use up my stash, as my stash decidedly lacks solids.

Finley helped

Finley helped me assess my feather coverage partway through the quilting.

However, when I told my mom about the challenge and how much I was NOT inspired by it, two things happened. First, she reminded me that the first quilts I fell in love with, the quilts that inspired me to start quilting, and indeed my first several quilts, were all made of solid fabrics. And second, she gave me a bag of twelve solid half-yards for my birthday. I subsequently added some neutrals, and the game was afoot. Besides, in retrospect, if my reaction to a challenge is “eww!” then that suggests that it really will be a challenge, not just an excuse to make a quilt I would’ve made anyway.

Early on in the process, I decided that the biggest advantage working with solids would give me is how well quilting shows up on solid fabric. Therefore, I wanted to keep the piecing simple. Since I love pinwheels, and have been planning for years to make a quilt that incorporates different sizes of pinwheels, I settled on the idea of making a quilt similar to this one of Kaffe Fassett‘s:

From _Country Garden Quilts_

From _Country Garden Quilts_

I started the cutting at my mini-retreat in late July with Rhonda and Diane, and didn’t really work up a strict plan. I decided to just run all the solid fabric through my Accuquilt GO! cutter (after all, I really wasn’t looking to start a solid stash) and make the quilt however big it turned out. I had a lot of fun cranking out all those triangles. I then paired them off into blocks using my standard concept of quilt entropy, trying to get the colors as mixed up as possible. I don’t know whether I will ever be capable of leaving things up to chance sufficiently to make a “brown bag” quilt, but I did have fun free-associating about the various bright color combinations:  green and purple is the Hulk, orange and fuchsia is the beach, red and brown is a robin, yellow and purple is Easter. The colors all coordinate with one another because there are so many of them; as Alex Anderson says, if the colors in your quilt aren’t going together, add more colors and they will.

Chain piecing

You know you’re really chain piecing when you can barely see the baby

I sewed all the large 12″ blocks together and had paired up the triangles for the 6″ blocks when I realized I’d goofed. In the original quilt, the smaller blocks are 1/3 the size of the larger blocks, not 1/2. Oops. Time for a new plan. I liked the idea of keeping the center of the quilt set on point, so I just sewed the large blocks together and planned on making the smaller blocks into a border. And that’s when I got seriously sidetracked with other projects (they’re in the next post.) That’s also when I fully internalized just how large a quilt (84″ x 84″!) I was ending up with, which hadn’t really been in the plan.

Just the center

Just the center

The primary problem with having the challenge meeting in January is that I didn’t get back to the challenge quilt until after Christmas:  even though we actually had more time between the announcement of the challenge and the meeting, I would have had to have the quilt virtually finished before Thanksgiving to have truly been on-time with it, and my brain doesn’t work that way. I very nearly packed it in and turned it into another UFO, but Dan was my cheerleader and encouraged me to finish it. Fortunately, the rest of the quilt top went together smoothly and the children more or less cooperated to get me some sewing time.

Some days, this is what cooperation looks like

Some days, this is what cooperation looks like

I wound up working in Danville, PA for a military dental event the weekend before the guild meeting, so I made certain I had the quilt basted and the quilting started before I left so I could get some dedicated quilting time in my motel room. I made the most of it and had the entire outer border and 1/4 of the center quilted by the time I got home. Once again, working under deadline really helped me make decisions as to what quilting designs went where. Feathers are favorites of mine to stitch without a great deal of marking and they always look fancy, so I put Patsy Thompson-style soft heart feathers in the outer border and Kimmy Brunner “twirly whirly” feathers in the center. I was able to get away with only marking the spines in all cases; the seam lines for the borders and the X through the center gave me all the other guidelines I needed. This was definitely not a project for subtlety, so I used neon green Brytes by Superior Threads for all of it. I managed to get the remainder of the center quilted and the outside edge zigzagged and trimmed in time for the meeting, so even though it wasn’t finished, it was finished-ish.

Before and after hyperquilting

Before and after hyperquilting

The inner border was reserved for my fanciest quilting, since it would show the best there. I think it also helped me finish this quilt, as I was really looking forward to quilting that border; otherwise, I probably would have lost momentum once the meeting was past and I no longer had a deadline. I rewatched Patsy Thompson’s Free-Motion Fun with Feathers Vol. 4 DVD again for inspiration and quilted a hyperquilted, symmetrical border flowing from corner motifs that started as Quilter’s Rule Dragon Scales template and evolved from there.

Detail, corner quilting design

Detail, corner quilting design

I used orange Brytes for the original feather and hyperquilted it with Superior Threads Metallic in variegated gold. I also shook up my standard machine binding protocol to add a little more embellishment by trading the stitching in the ditch for a decorative stitch in a variegated King Tut:

Detail, binding stitching

Detail, binding stitching

What would I do differently? Well, much as I love wool batting, it definitely increased the difficulty level on this quilt. I think as long as I’m quilting on my home machine, I need to reserve wool for the smaller projects. It doesn’t spray baste as nicely as the cotton blends, and I got more pleats and tucks on the back than usual. I didn’t have any problems with skipped stitches or shredded threads (even with the Metallic! That stuff worked like a charm and I will most certainly be using it more often from here on out) but I had more “nests” on the back than I normally do. I’m not sure why. I didn’t let it stop me (another benefit of being on a strict deadline) but I will be keeping my eye out for future problems along these lines and possible causes/solutions.

For a happy dance, I’m mining the classic movie musicals again. The bright colors in this quilt made me think of the old movies that would advertise being shot “in Glorious TECHNICOLOR!” including “On The Town.” Enjoy!


Entry filed under: Fabric Shopping, New Projects, Quilt Guild. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Did I Just Make A Modern Quilt? 2013 Shop Hop

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