Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Rag Quilt Adventure ...

After finding directions and deciding on a pattern - combining ideas from a few sources - and ordering fabric online, I decided maybe I should try something simpler first.  So off to the fabric store where I picked out two fabrics to coordinate with a UNC Tarheels print for a baby quilt for a friend.  Then, I learned she was having a girl... so back to the drawing board...actually the fabric store...  found a pink tonal pattern to pick up the pink in the teddy bear blocks.

And then the REAL collecting began.  Tools, lovely tools!  Rulers, cutting implements, storage... and of course... MORE FABRIC. Did you know that Fiskars makes specialized scissors just for rag quilts - snips.  They are spring loaded to make it a little easier on your hands. More on those later...

Now - to preface this project - I started and cut everything BEFORE the Quilter's Academy Freshman Year arrived at the house, and definitely before reading any of it. I'll describe my steps and missteps first then reflect on what the project taught me.

Step one - cutting.  I'd never used a rotary trimmer before, so was a little hesitant to start.  I started off with the flannel - after a few missteps with the ruler slipping I felt confident enough to start on the patterned fabrics.  A few more ruler slips later with minimal wasted fabric, I had a nice stack of blocks ready to go.

Step two - pinning.  Hmmm - thought that the 8.5 inch squares would line up a little better (2 matching fabric squares sandwiching a flannel square) - somehow, they weren't square.  Also - how many pins to a side should I use?  I experimented with 1 and 2 per side (6-8 per square).  Not sure if that was the reason for the funky matching (it wasn't) or if it was something else (it was).

Step three - sewing.  My new-to-me machine arrived just in time (especially as the baby arrived three weeks early) for me to stitch everything together.  Happily I had read about chain stitching during my initial research, and let me just say - it rocks!  I'd never tried it before and am totally sold on it. Though, it does take careful organization.  Let me just say, it pays to look at the direction in which you are pinning your pieces... I managed to sew quite a few seams in the opposite direction of the rag side of the quilt (and no, there are no pictures - and I got some good practice removing seams).  Sewing the rows together, I again pinned backwards - but was able to simply reverse the order of the rest of the rows without having to rip out more seams.  I still haven't figured out the secret to which way the seams should go together (butting them seems to work - but stitching them open on the edges didn't).  Before snipping, I zigzagged around the entire quilt edge on the sandwich seams in order to protect the seams from undoing themselves later.

Step four - snipping.  The recommendations are correct - DO NOT try to sit down and do this all at once. Your hand will thank you.  Three ice hockey games later, spreading lint liberally around my husband's car, my sweatshirt and the bleachers at the hockey rink - everything was snipped.

Step five - washing.  Off to the laundromat with a nine-year old in tow.  Gus had end of grade exams this week - so he headed out with me with the intent of practicing for his reading exam.  Though I think he spent more time watching the quilt spin in the dryer than he actually did reading. I put the quilt through their washer and dryer first then took it home and washed and dried it again to increase the fuzziness and softness.

Overall, I'm pleased with the quilt - from a distance it looks great - though if you look too closely you can see where seams went awry or where I didn't line things up the way they should have. I did have several nice spots where the corners came together.  Ultimately, my friend was thrilled with it, and I'm glad I made it. Gus hammed it up for the pictures and is looking forward to getting his quilt.

Next stop - the lessons I learned...

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