Saturday, March 28, 2015

"For I Am Sure"

A month ago, a friend of mine had a Terrifying Medical Thing happen. She’s going to be fine, although getting back to 100% may take a long time. Since she lives rather far away from me, it wasn't practical for me to offer to take care of her kids, run errands, clean her house, or any of a dozen things that a friend who’s dying to be helpful might offer to do. But what I could do (other than pray for her, which I did and do) was to help keep her warm. Thus, a quilt was born.

Because I wanted to make it quickly, it couldn't be too intricate, but I wanted it to be personal. I was inspired by this quilt, and I asked my friend’s husband if there was a slogan or Bible verse that was particularly meaningful to them during this time. He said that they really loved Romans 8:38-39, so I decided to put that verse on the quilt. I used 4 red fat quarters (fat quarters are pieces of fabric that are approx 18”x22” and fabric stores often have them pre-cut) and 7 gray fat quarters. I cut them width-wise into strips 2 ½” wide. Then I shuffled them up into a roughly random/roughly consistent pattern, and sewed them together, varying the seam allowances by as much as 2” to get a staggered sort of effect. I had a few strips left over.

 Now, Rom 8:38-39 has a lot of words (50, including the reference, if anyone’s counting), so appliqueing the words was right out. Embroidery would have likewise taken an age. So I decided to draw them. I got a fine tipped permanent fabric pen, and very very slowly and carefully drew the letters. First I drew them with single strokes, making the letters fairly big, and then would go back and draw a second line and color in the space in between to make letters fatter. This method worked fairly well, and I particularly recommend it for the amateur calligraphers out there, because you can correct your mistakes and nobody will ever know. After first drawing the letter, for instance an “o,” you can draw the second line outside the circle to make the letter larger or inside to make the letter smaller. Or if you magically drew it just the right size, you can use the first line as your middle line and draw lines on either side to fill in.

There is something about writing words slowly and looking at them a long time that makes you doubt yourself and your ability to spell, and I’m still not 100% sure that there are no spelling errors in this quilt. If there are – well, it was meant to be a labor of love, and it will not stop being that if there are spelling mistakes in it. However, I think I’m probably just making myself paranoid. When I was making an appliqu├ęd plaque for my sister the first Christmas after she got married, I became briefly convinced that her name was Richardson instead of Richards. (It's definitely Richards, by the way. I checked.)

I pieced together the backing out of some black fabric and a few fun black and white prints. 

Paw prints! And daisies!
I'd like to apologize for my very boring picture of a gray quilt against a gray house. Somehow when we were buying our home, picturesque spots for photo shots didn't make the must-have list. Also, I swear this quilt is a rectangle. It's just the clothespins that are making it look like a wonky hexagram. 
I also incorporated the label (the red square) into the middle of the backing. (The label has an inscription; you just can’t read it from this distance because I didn’t make the letters thick.) This label in several ways made life a bit easier.

1. I didn't want to have to sew on the label by hand, and I was going to have to sew pieces together anyway to have fabric big enough for the backing.

2. I am new to machine quilting, and I knew that less experienced, uneven quilting tends to make fabric shift/slide/stretch. If I had put the red label on one of the edges, there was a fair chance it would have ended up more of a trapezoid than a square, which would have driven me bonkers. Putting it closer to the middle kept it square.

3. Two of the sides of the quilt had very uneven edges because I was deliberately sewing the strips together in a staggered way. Because of the shifting/stretching problem, I planned to do the quilting first, then trim all the edges to make them straight. If I had put my label on one of these edges, it would have ended up a rectangle instead of a triangle. 

4. I wrote the inscription on the label before quilting it. If I had make a mistake in the inscription after quilting the whole quilt, it would have been a royal pain to correct it.

5.  Because I was writing the inscription before quilting, I had no idea exactly how the quilting lines would go across the label. I didn't know if they would be spaced awkwardly in relation to the lines of writing, or if the quilting might be wobbly. If I took pains to make the writing perfectly straight and then the quilting lines were less than perfectly straight, it would have been very obvious. So I wrote the description on the diagonal instead and it worked quite well.

When I was squaring off the edges of the quilt, I discovered that the edges that needed trimming were almost exactly the length of my coffee table. This made the squaring off unprecedentedly easy. When I lay the quilt out on the table, Twinkle (who had seen me sewing together strips but had not seen the finished quilt) said, “Oh wow! Mama make the blankie!” How cute is that? 

When I was taking this picture, Munchkin insisted on taking some pictures of his own. Unfortunately my cell phone does not have a “macro” function, so these art shots were a little less artistic than could be desired and rather more like a three year old taking pictures with his mother’s phone.

After squaring off the edges, I made a bias binding and sewed it on using this technique, which is now my hands-down favorite for attaching the binding on machine-quilted quilts.

And then it was done! I’m so happy with how it turned out. This is such a fun, easy way to make a very striking, modern quilt, and I think the pattern is well suited to incorporating any sort of longish quote. What do you think? 

Title: For I Am Sure
Design: Staggered gray and red strips with a Bible verse written on the red strips
Materials: 100% cotton fabric, polyester batting, permanent fabric pen
Finished: March 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fabric Stars

Help me I don't think I can stop ...

They're easy and cute and they use up scraps that are really too small to keep but I like the fabric so I hang on to them anyway ...

At this rate our Christmas tree is going to be decorated in fabric stars and nothing else.