Saturday, March 28, 2015

Beating the Queen of Hearts

When Sarah at put out the 4x7 sewing challenge in February, I used it to get my butt in gear and finally make a quilt I've been thinking about for years.  It's a heart pattern that I saw somewhere online and for a long time, I've pondered making that quilt.
It's a rare day that I look at a picture and plot out what I want to do, but since it was all squares and triangles, I thought I could handle this.  I could not possibly handle drawing lines down the center of 231 squares to make the half square triangles, so I used the method of sewing two diagonal lines across a square and getting 4 smaller squares out of it.

This worked beautifully because I didn't have any size requirements.  If I were to do an actual pattern that required HST of certain sizes, I have no idea how I would do the math to make that work.

4 weeks seemed like enough time to figure out how to do it, cut it, sew it and finish it.  Not even close!

What a surprise when I realized that my squares were really big and this quilt that was supposed to be a wallhanging became a queen!

The Queen of Hearts got the upper hand the night my last square was created.

Putting together over 200 half square triangles was new for me but overall, it went pretty well.  The top was finished close to the end of February but then I had a lot of thinking to do about the backing and the batting.

When I started the quilt, my plan was to only use my stash and buy absolutely nothing.  For the top, this was a no brainer.  I had plenty of pinks and reds and enough white that I should be fine.

For the back, I had nothing big enough to cover the back in one piece.  Anything that might have been big enough to piece had already been cut into HST.   I was left with a tough decision.  Go out and buy something for the back or piece something together with smaller pieces.

I wasn't in love with the fact that this quilt had epically grown from a small idea to a huge, queen size quilt!  I don't have hearts in my bedroom, nothing in there is pink or red, and really, I don't want a quilt on my  bed because we only sleep under duvets.  A quilt would really throw a monkey wrench into the whole sleeping thing.

So, I decided that I would have to either give away or try to sell this quilt on etsy, but I still couldn't justify spending money for backing.

Instead, I looked again at my reds, pinks and whites and decided to make a pieced backing.  It took a lot of rooting around in my stash to discover some of these fabrics, but 90 something squares later, I had a back.
Which could also be a front!

Pretty pleased with the equivalent of two queen sized quilt tops from nothing but my stash, now the question about batting had to be resolved.

I thought I had a lot of pieces of batting that I could put together.  Several people told me they do it often and explained how to cut the pieces and whipstitch them so they stay together.  But all of my pieces were too small to bother.  There would have been so many joins within the batting it would have been like a road map that I think you could have felt through the layers.  I knew I was going to machine quilt it, so I was afraid there'd be shifting in the batting and I'd be throwing away the entire project.

So, I bit the bullet and bought batting, which happened to be on sale.

And then I got to work.  I laid  everything out and actually used the binder clips to stretch everything a little bit, even thought I wasn't going to baste it.  I wanted to make sure things appeared to fit and that the backing was actually big enough, with enough margins  on the sides to cover any mistakes I might make when quilting.

Because I've created my own lazy way to machine quilt, I roll my quilt and work on the diagonal instead of basting it.  In the past, basting didn't work for me and caused more bunching and shifting that necessary.  Somehow, this method has worked, so I set about doing it for the Queen of Hearts.

I've done baby quilts and a full sized quilt this way, and I  knew the queen was going to be a bear, but I didn't realize just how frustrating it was going to be.  My method of rolling each side into tubes as I work seems like a great idea until I try to manipulate it alone.  I'm short, I have don't have a quilting machine so I'm just using my short throat Bernina and a rolled quilt really has the power to take over and do what it wants!
It started out fine...
but as I neared the middle, both rolled sides were big and getting it all through without breaking the thread or needles became a do or die process.

I'd rather not share just how many needles I broke but I will tell you it was an obscene number.  Too much weight pulling on the needle and less than stellar quality thread led me to asking k-ster if maybe he could help with the final quarter of this procedure.

I had done 3/4 of it alone, swearing, sweating and almost crying and the whole time, I kept thinking that if someone was at the other end, taking the weight off the table as it came out of the machine, that might help.

So, we first thought maybe he could help hold the quilt at the beginning so it could go into the machine easier.  He stood behind me, shouldering the giant quilt, but that was frustrating.  Once he got to the other side and could kind of hold up the quilt and guide it out, things went better.

We also decided that maybe rolling each side was causing more trouble than it was worth, so I relaxed the roll on the finished part and things went a little better.  The tight roll of finished work was like an anaconda that was too long to fit on the table because I was doing it on the diagonal.

As we finished, we talked about lots of different things that could make this process easier.  A  pulley system that would clip onto the edge as it comes out of the machine, which I could tighten as I get through the quilt, would lift the end of it enough to keep the weight off.  A bigger table.  A rolling system at one end.

But really, not doing such big quilts would be the simplest thing, aside from buying a quilting machine!

There were many thread breaks, so now I have to go in and creatively fix those by hand so they are secure and don't unravel.  In a few rows, when the thread broke, I completely ripped it out and started again.  But for many, it was more than halfway through the row and I just couldn't rip it out.  If I had done a more random pattern, this wouldn't have bothered me at all, but these diagonal lines are a little obvious, so the quilter's eye.

My favorite part is actually the way the back is nice and straight.  For the first time, possibly ever, I didn't have any weird bunching on either side!  That's usually one of my biggest issues.
It needs a binding and I need to go in and fix those broken threads, but it should be etsy-ready very soon.  I'm excited to bind it with my new binding clips instead of stabbing my poor fingers with pins!

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