Monthly Archives: June 2013

I’m not even watching Wimbledon this year

Good job the floor's clean

Good job the floor’s clean

I wish I had a solution to allowing my creation to fall on the floor while I’m sewing another line to it. Draping it over a chair doesn’t work, but if it’s on the floor, the weight of it pulls it down and drags my sewing line (at least that’s my excuse if it turns out that any of my lines are not dead straight).

The quilt is growing so quickly now; just two more lines and I’ll be on to the border. I have really put the hours in this week. I’ve watched no Swedish crime drama; read none of my Saul Bellow book; watched absolutely no tennis and have even, in writing this list of what I’ve forsaken for quilting, forgotten what I used to do to wind down in the evenings.

I made a galling mistake a couple of nights ago. I was so annoyed about it that I couldn’t post it on here. I have now relaxed about it, realising that the overall quilt design will swallow it up, and can even bring myself to display the horror:

I know. Awful, isn't it?

I know. Awful, isn’t it?

Stupidly, I put together one of the lines of eleven blocks in two halves. I left half for the next day, believing that my elaborate system of pinning would work to remind me which way round to sew the blocks. But, no. What actually happened was that they were all wrong, and this is the result: One large diamond with two of the same pieces of fabric; one large diamond of medium colour value with a triangle of a dark value;  and (I know the poor quality of the photo makes it difficult to see, but) too many areas for my liking where small squares of the same fabric are next to each other.

Now, I know all of that makes my desire for order and my necessity to control the minutiae of my world sound just a little unhealthy, but… No, there is no but.

Anyway, I decided not to unpick eighty-eight inches of stitching and to move on. That’s got to be healthy.

Quilting really is therapy.


Quilt swiss roll


It’s proving to have been quite effective to pin all of the blocks onto a sheet. In the left of this picture you can see the blocks I’ve already sewn together, and to the right are the ones I am revealing slowly, like some sort of giant piece of confectionery that I am savouring.

Rolling it up and folding it away at the end of the evening to make space for my son to play the next day also turns out to be an unexpected pleasure. It’s like it helps to keep this quilt to myself. A solitary thing I am doing for me. I’ll share it only when it and I am ready.

Sewing the first two lines

Stitching first line

This is nerve-wracking. Is it all going to be straight? Are all the blocks the same size? Did I get a quarter inch seam on every single patch in this line (of course I didn’t)? Will it matter? Can I fix any mistakes as I go along? Erm… I had better.

Perhaps you can see the pins in the two blocks waiting to be sewn onto the long line of eleven blocks. They are there to remind me which way round to sew them.

Even with the pins I was terrified of getting it wrong and sewing it upside down or back to front.

First two lines

PHEW! It’s all fine! My first two lines are (more-or-less) straight. The big diamonds all seem to look right and the main thing is that the thing is going to be big enough. My maths did not fully desert me when I was sizing up the pattern I used.

I am really getting excited about this now.
Pin cushion

Oh, and here’s a close up of my pin cushion. Everyone needs a patchwork pin cushion to match the quilt they’re making, right?

Stay out of the sitting room

Stay out of the sitting room!

This quilt has taken over my life (and my home). It’s not the most practical of hobbies when you have a full-time job, a two year-old and a two-bedroom flat.

Oh, and can you see an ugly, small children’s armchair in the background that’s in desperate need of being re-upholstered? That’s a future project.

Better finish this quilt first, though.

Assembly, at last

Happy happy joy joy! Time to put all of the blocks together and play around with colour combinations. This is what I’ve been waiting months for.

I resisted the temptation to start sewing the blocks together until I had made all of them. This was hard as I got more and more excited about the overall design the higher the stacks of little blocks got. Enthusiastic friends didn’t help much with my resolve, as they demanded that I lay the blocks out before I had made all of them to get a feeling for the quilt. I had to bite my lip so that I didn’t (entirely) display my obsession or pedantry by pointing out that there was no way they could get a feeling for the quilt until the quilt was actually a quilt.

This is what I've been waiting for: assembling the quilt top

This is what I’ve been waiting for: assembling the quilt top

I have pinned it all to a massive sheet so that I can sew a line of blocks at a time and know where they all need to go. It took an hour just to pin it.

Although it feels as though I have progressed at a great pace this week, it will still take me months to finish this quilt. As long as it’s done by Winter, I’ll be happy. Then I’ll have the world’s cosiest bed.

All patchwork blocks completed!

All patchwork blocks completed!

This is what you need for a UK king-sized Jacob’s Ladder quilt: 121 8″ square blocks of 12 patches for the main quilt; 44 half blocks for the border; 4 4″ square patches for the corners.

A few days later – oh dear, I wish someone who knows what they are doing had looked at this photo. I now realise that I shouldn’t have sewn all of my half blocks for the border together as some of them need to face the opposite way to fit into the border correctly.

A terrible mistake

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

I do enjoy being able to break some of the rules of quilting, but I broke this rule by accident. Hopefully the photo shows you the colours clearly enough to work out what I have done wrong.

Unpick, unpick, unpick…

Is it wrong to obsess about sewing stuff to other stuff?

Chain piecing, or, "lots of little flags, Mummy"

Chain piecing, or, “lots of little flags, Mummy”

I know that to the untrained eye this looks like a bundle of unloved scraps. And I’m not certain I can convey how pleasing a pile of perfectly measured shapes sewn together in a chain with an exact quarter inch seam is to me.

I spend a lot of my day thinking about quilting. If I’m unable to sleep, I imagine the patterns I’m going to make in my soon-to-be-finished (surely?) quilt. I think of thread colours that would complement the twenty or so different fabrics in the patchwork. I wonder which fabric I should use for the edges and the back of the quilt. I visualise the finished thing lying on my bed and wonder whether I’m even going to like it after having worked on it for so long.

At work today, I caught myself wishing I could order all of my patchwork blocks into lines instead of planning lessons and marking.

It’s nice to have a project to think about in snatched minutes during the day.

In fact, quilting is turning out to be the perfect pastime for me. It’s something I can obsess about and use to avoid thinking about difficult things. It’s creative, but not too terrifyingly creative if I don’t want it to be. It has rules, but I can break them if I decide to and make my own if I want to. It’s precise and has enough maths in it to delight me. It’s long-term and encourages me to practise things I’m not great at: patience, strategic thinking and spatial awareness. I can do as much or as little of it as I want to.

Just ten minutes helps a quilt along and an hour creates a bundle of scraps pieced together like the one above.

I think it’s okay to obsess about it for now.

A very small quilt for a dolly

Dolly models quilt

Being frustrated that I had months of work left ahead of me before I could start piecing my patchwork blocks together, I was impatient to get a sense of how they might look when they were part of a quilt.

Actually, I haven’t succeeded in achieving my desire to find out how my quilt will look.

This ‘quilt’ is very small indeed (in fact, it’s more of a squished cushion) and certainly does not show me that magic thing about patchwork – the merging of hundreds of separate shapes into one glorious whole.

Ho hum. At least my son’s dolly is a little warmer and he can have the joy that I will have to wait a little longer for: cuddling up with a quilt.

A quilt in bits

A very large potential quilt's constituents parts

A very large potential quilt’s constituent parts

I realised today that I have spent quite a long time making a heap of small squares and triangles.

I have sewn some of them together already to create blocks of twelve patches. There are sixty-four blocks in the stack in the top left of the snap. The other stacks include all of the patches that will eventually be my quilt. It took about nine months and several sewing machines to get to this point.

Somehow this lot has to be put together to create a huge square of beautifully incorporated squares and triangles.

My son says the triangles are “a bit like sandwiches”.

I fear I may be out of my depth.

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