February 13, 2014

Quilt

One of the top items on my craft bucket list has been to make a quilt. I've made several imitation quilts (surfboard, baby patch), and started a few that never amounted to much, but I have never made a true quilt with piecing, batting, backing, and quilting. 

The problem with me and crafts is that I am incredibly lazy and frugal, but also very inconsistent. I like to do all of my projects within the confines of my room (and an Internet connection). I am always trying to craft new projects that might somehow combat my spontaneously-growing yarn and fabric collections without going to the store to buy more stuff. And I also craft in binges.

Instead of, say, knitting for one hour every day, I'm more likely to knit for six hours straight for two days and then not touch my needles again for the next month. I'm very much a project-to-project person. And because I knit intensely over large blocks of time, I tend to grow weary as the completion of a project grows near, where frequently catastrophic shortcuts are taken, projects are never completed, and my insanity index grows exponentially overnight. But enough excuses, now. 

The Fiber Arts class I took last semester was a very unique crafting experience for me because I was forced to spend only one hour a day working. The fact that showing up to my next class prevented me from working "overtime" showed me what working on a craft project consistently and in small chunks feels like. I've never worked on a major project feeling refreshed and energetic all the way to the end without my typical dose of headaches and crazy eating schedules. It was strange to feel good throughout the entire process.

The first of two major projects in the Fiber Arts class is an embroidered pillow, and the second is a nine-patch quilt. This project is designed to be a first quilt for students, as it is about as simple as it can be.

The first (and hardest) step is to buy the fabrics to be used in the quilt. It literally took me four hours over two days to decide on all my fabrics. I decides to go with a rich ocean color theme, and picked a dreamy batik as my theme fabric. I purchased all the materials at Eddie's Quilting Bee, which is more expensive then a generic place like Jo-Ann, but offers a bigger variety of high-quality fabrics and has a staff that is very helpful for a beginning quilter like me. 

This quilt is a little bigger than a crib-sized quilt. I would have made myself a twin-sized quilt, but I was not sure how much of each fabric to buy for this size. The instruction sheet was horribly cryptic and unreliable both to me and the Eddie's staff, and I didn't want to spend a ton of money on fabric that I wouldn't end up using.

The next step was to design the blocks. For this beginning quilt, each block ended up being 12.5" square, and only consisted of 4.5" squares, quarter-squares, half-triangles, and quarter-triangles. This restriction certainly limited the number of block designs to choose from. I used five different block designs, although three out of my five designs ended up being variations of the traditional star pattern. 

I had about two months to make the quilt. The bulk of the time was spent piecing, or sewing together the blocks. I managed to piece about two blocks in three hours, which may sound tediously slow, but it was still faster than the class average.

The next step was to attach the sashing, which are the purple strips between all the blocks in this case. Since I had a little extra time, I also added an additional border around the perimeter. I'm really glad I did this because it tones down the harshness significantly. 

Then I sewed together the backing. Unfortunately, after making the "extra credit" border, I didn't have quite enough fabric to have that fabric be the complete backing, so I had to use a strip of purple in back as well. Then the batting and backing was sewn to the topquilt like a pillow. The last step was the actual quilting, where I "stitched in the ditch" over all the blocks and borders. 

Nine-Patch Quilt, made October-December 2013. 
Size: about 60" square.
Cost of materials: about $65
Hours to complete: 30-40 hours
You can see the back of the quilt, as well as some of the quilting (stitching on the back).
Now that I am done with the Fiber Arts class, I can't say that I will miss it much. I will allow that I learned more from it than I initially expected, and I also finally realized my decade-long dream of making a quilt. I'm happy now to have two preps at school and to work on my own crafting adventures (unfortunately, on my own wonky schedule).

I hope to improve my quilting skills this semester and summer by working on a more advanced, twin-sized quilt. Second semester of senior year is notorious for not being nearly as freeing as we'd all like it to be, and I still have a lot of stuff I have to do before I have time to start working on a new quilt. And then there's the whole "should I try to make my own prom dress?" temptation. But hopefully I'll get to it this summer, if not earlier. If you have any pattern suggestions, etc., let me know in the comments!

If you have any suggestions for a name for this quilt, let me know in the comments below!

Stay tuned for the third February post on Sunday, where I'll be sharing a one of my favorite things to cook!

Happy Crafting!!
--Elizabeth

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