Monday, 4 January 2016

12 Hour Quilt

Last weekend I made a quilt in 12 hours!

Start to finish. Literally from getting the materials out of the bag and choosing which colours to use, to snipping off the last thread on the binding and handing it over to my son. (Although actually - as we'll see - there is a bit of binding that needs some attention....)

I got this book for Christmas:

Sherri Wood's 'The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters' 

And having read it from cover to cover, I wanted to get stuck in! Sherri's style is almost totally improvised, and the book includes several different sets of ideas for quilts based on some of hers. She calls this ideas 'scores' - I found myself thinking of them more as algorithms. The idea is that you choose two or three constraints - fabric quantity, shape, or whatever - and then just take it from there!

The first 'score' in the book, and the one this quilt follows, is called Floating Squares. You start by choosing just three fabrics. I was stuck - so I added an element of randomness by asking my 10 year old son to choose three for me, from the bag of fabric fat quarters and remnants that was another of my Christmas presents (what a perfect present!).

He chose the orange batik, the brownish floral and the yellow that you see in the centre and top of the picture above. We then decided together that we would use half as much of the brown as of the orange. The yellow became the 'filler fabric' that the score calls for by default, as there was more of that than the others - about 3/4 metre, whereas the others were a fat quarter and a quarter yard remant which we cut in half.

Following the score, we then hand-cut rough squares from the orange and brown fabrics - again, I let him decide on the size. It is part of Sherri's style that you don't use rulers and don't worry about straight sides! Perfect for quilting with kids - frankly, I myself lose the will to live if I'm asked to measure 45 3" squares, so goodness knows how a child would cope.

You then simply add enough of the yellow to the squares to get them to fit together!

When I had run out of the orange and brown (basically the bottom half of the full quilt above, minus the last row or so), I said it could be a wall hanging. But my son then asked if it could be made a bit bigger and become a quilt for him!

So I found some other fabrics and kept going until I had run out of yellow. Making all the bits fit together when I had run out of yellow required a bit of thought, but I got there! It was still a bit small, so I added a deep border (around 6-8") of some fabric I had in my stash. It has ended up being exactly width of fabric wide, as that meant I could do the long sides first and then the short sides, log cabin style, with wof strips from the metre of fabric I had.

To get to this point had taken one afternoon and evening - about 6 hours.

The next day, I rooted around in my stash for some suitable backing fabric. I didn't have enough of any one, so again I improvised and cut one brown metre in half, and added enough of a similar black.
Then came the quilting....
I'm not very experienced at the actual quilting, and I felt I could easily have stalled at this stage and had it sitting on my unfinished projects shelf for months, if not years. But having bish-bash-boshed it so far, I wanted to keep going!

My son helped me do a quick-and-dirty spray glue basting on the kitchen floor. I was musing aloud about how I was going to quilt it when I only had black or white thread, neither of which I thought would go with the yellow top. 'Can't you just stitch along the lines of the joins, mum?' he asked. So that's what I did - not along all the lines, but along a path that I found as I went, stitching in the ditch with a walking foot. It has ended up looking rather digital, I think!

Then the binding. I found another brown fabric in my stash and cut the strips, sewed them to the front, and then thought - hmmm. If I hand sew this around the back it will never get done tonight, and I'd like to give it to my son before bed time.

So I had a go at machine binding it. I don't know if this is a 'proper' method, but what I did was fold the binding over, and clip it in place, making sure it was covering the line of stitching. Then I stitched in the ditch all around the front of the quilt, the theory being it wouldn't show on the front and would catch the back edge in.
It isn't the smartest binding in the world on the back, but it was quite good enough for my son!
There are about three places round the edge, though, where I didn't catch the edge properly, so I do still need to do a little hand sewing to sort those out. That, however, can wait!
So, there you have it - an improvised quilt in 12 hours flat!

The funny thing is, I was very ambivalent when I started this as I didn't really like the colours my son had chosen. But I now love the result! And I am totally sold on this improv quilting lark. In fact, no sooner had I finished this one than I started, that same night, on the next 'score' in the book! I have finished the top for that one, so watch this space...

Finishing a whole quilt like this has given me so much more confidence - I highly recommend getting the book and trying improv quilting for yourself - or just sewing a jelly roll together and finishing the whole thing in a weekend, for a confidence boost!

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