Friday, May 10, 2013

Some Assembly Required

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.
–Lou Holtz
10 yards of fabric
cut to
252 – 2” Squares
504 – 1½” x 2½” Rectangles
1,260 – 1½” Squares
1,044 Triangles

A little over four weeks ago I dropped Grace off at the Babylock dealer where I bought her for a routine physical. And they happily told me they'd give her a good work-over and have her back to me in three or four weeks. When I got home, I got busy preparing for Grace's return. I pressed open about 600 half-square triangles and unpicked about 300 more, making 600 orphaned triangles. Then I cut buddies for them so they could become half-square triangles again and put them all away in a drawer to wait patiently and dust-free, until I got my machine back.

After that, I started cutting fabrics for another quilt that has been kicking around since late 2007. At least. I pieced triangles {which are actually star points} together here and there until I finally couldn't stand it and chain-pieced the rest together one day a few months ago while I was procrastinating quilting the Zig-Zag quilt. 1,044 triangles showing here:

This quilt started out as four blue fabrics from the Toile Christmas fabric line by Moda. I came upon them at my mom's LQS and stood in the store coming up with a plan to use these fabrics in a quilt for LadyBug's bed so that I could buy them. I was going to make a quilt of maple leaves. Blue maple leaves. I still don't know what I was thinking :confused:, except that I love maple leaves. And this pretty blue fabric.

One day, six or so months later, I came across the instructions for a Checkerblock Star by Marcia over at The Quilter's Cache. And I decided that the blue fabrics would be way more cool in a quilt of Checkerblock Stars.

The only problem was that I didn't have enough of my four Toile Christmas blues to make a whole quilt. 60% of the fabric gets pulled into seam allowances. Enough time had passed that the fabric was all sold out so I visited every quilt shop along a 100-mile stretch of I-15 {which runs North and South through Utah & Nevada. And maybe Idaho.} looking for blues to match those four shades of Toile Chirstmas. Matching the exact tone of these blues was tricky, but in the end I pulled together something passable.

At the time, my eyes had not been opened to the beauty of scrappy quilts and the picture in my head for this quilt was for a smooth, subtle and uniform flow of shades. I was reluctant to break up my original four fabrics and add other fabrics to the mix to give me enough for the quilt I wanted to make. Since then, I've come to love scrappy quilts, but I still waver between thinking this particular scrap quilt is going to be really great and a great big mess. Trying to make this work with four shades of the same color in a single fabric line is a little bit tricky. Trying to make it work with those same four shades but in a of a bunch of different fabrics {34, to be precise} is a little bit crazy.


Last Tuesday night, I had all my fabrics cut to finish the rest of this quilt. I was pretty sure that Grace would be ready for me to pick her up on Wednesday, because Wednesdays are pick-up and delivery days for the repair man. Also, three weeks was plenty of time for him to give her a tune-up. By noon on Wednesday, I was too anxious to wait any longer for a call from the shop. I called them, but she was not back yet. I guess she'd heard that I had big plans for her and wanted another week off. Reluctantly, I made a mental list of projects that did not require a machine and worked on a hand sewing project that evening.

On Thursday after work I was sitting at the stop sign on the corner down the street from my house, when the shop called to say my machine was in. I banged my head on the steering wheel several times because if they'd have called just 15 minutes earlier, I could have picked Grace up on my way home. The shop is two blocks from where I work {sidebar: on really frustrating work days, I fantasize about walking down the street and escaping in the bolts of fabric}. On Friday, I actually did leave work in the middle of the day and picked up my machine. And then I pretended I was an adult and went back to work. When I got home on Friday afternoon, Grace and I got right to work.

These are the center sections of each Checkerblock Star; 252 – 2” squares, sewn into 63 – four-patches. I used my Go! cutter and the 2" square die, but there was a little distortion because I tried cutting too many layers at a time. I was about a hundred squares in when I decided that I'd better not try to cut six layers of fabric all at once. They are kind of a mess. Not a single one of them measures the 3½” they should. I'm trying to decide if I should fudge it in the seam allowance when I put the blocks together, or if I should unpick them and sew them back together with a scant scant ¼” seam. If I had any fabric left, I think I would probably start from scratch, but that's not an option.

I strip pieced the rest. These are the outer edges and corners of the blocks, 252 – 1½” squares and 504 – 1½” x 2½” rectangles. Half of the rectangles were pieced to squares and the other half will be added to four-patches made from the remaining 1½” squares. I've only got a few strips left to cut.

These are the rest of the 1½” squares {in the rough}. 1,008 of them. They need cutting into 504 pairs and then sewing into 252 four-patches.

Did your eyes glaze over a little at all of those numbers? Mine did at the thought of all the cutting and piecing left to do. I might go back to piecing here and there again, and wrap this up in another 5 years or so. Eventually, all these pieces will become a twin-size quilt, finishing at 72” x 90”. In all, there are 3060 pieces, which includes a border using the triangle blocks.

The math is a little bit boring, and sometimes mind boggling, but I kind of like knowing what sort of dragon I've got to slay. It is highly satisfying to come out on the other side of a project this big and not just see, but know exactly how much work went into it.

I just wish there were some way to measure how many yards of thread I'm using.


Teresa Quilts said...

I love the blues, but not the numbers. LOL I think it will be a beautiful quilt when you finish. Good luck!

Jill said...

Wow! That looks like a huge jigsaw puzzle. I can sense the fear and excitement wafting over the Internet. Lots of luck and much fun!

Paulette said...

I'm of the camp that would rather not know all the numbers ahead of time, but just keep plugging away blissfully ignorant, or "forgetting" the figures. Something about putting a mathematical value on it seems intimidating, although I'm not sure why.

I love those blues, Elizabeth. I'm glad you were able to find some that coordinated so you can complete this. Bummer about the cutting throwing off the measurements. Hope you can salvage it in the piecing.

Michelle said...

E, that is going to be a beautiful quilt!

Ugh. I almost never count the pieces in a quilt - I would never start! It all seems so daunting numerically speaking. :)

Lane said...

The numbers are mind boggling. I know we use those kind of numbers all the time in quilts, but when I only count to four or five and then start over, it doesn't seem like as much. On your squares, I've had that exact problem and can recommend that when you lay your fabrics right sides together, try to match a square side with a not square side. Put a pin through the centers of both four patches. Sew the seam using the straight one to measure from and hold your breath. You'll be surprised how many come out right without that nasty unpicking. Be well. I love the idea of your quilt and am glad Grace is back. Lane

Richard Healey said...

I love those colors and I also love the scrappy type quilts they look so amazing.