Thursday, 29 January 2015

Essential Sampler Quilt [a {lovely} finish]

I don't know whether to celebrate, or to heave a huge sigh of relief...

Apparently I started this quilt on 21st January 2011. I've just read through some old blog posts about it and read that I hoped to finish it by January 21st 2012 - a year after I started it. Excuse me a moment while I laugh hysterically. We are now three years on from that, and four years on from when I first started it and I can finally tell you that it is FINISHED!

As in done.

I managed to get a couple of photos outside in between the
 flurries of rather pathetic snow #notquitejuno


This was my first foray into quilting, and was started as a monthly class at my local quilt shop and we used the book "Essential Sampler Quilt" by Nikki Tinkler. I pulled fabrics from my "stash" - again I must laugh hysterically - at that point my stash took up one 9 litre Really Useful box. Oh how times have changed. The first block I made for the quilt didn't make it into the final quilt, and along the way, as a refined my colour palette, a few more blocks didn't make it either. These are now sitting in the orphan block pile - some are even quilted. But I'm glad I sacrificed those blocks, because I love the simple palette I've ended up with. And I really don't love some of the fabrics I had originally picked out!
Pieced and quilted before I changed my colour scheme...

I didn't like all of the blocks in the quilt, so some got substituted out, but we still covered lots of techniques making this quilt that I'd never tried before: bias applique for a celtic knot block. I loved this technique, bought myself a little Clover iron, and bought a book full of similar blocks. One day, I will make a whole quilt using this technique.

Drunkards path and wedding ring blocks: my first attempts at piecing curves. In fact the first Drunkards path block was a discard, so I tackled curves twice. Having bought "A Quilters Mixology" late last year and discovering that my local quilting club has the accuquilt die for cutting drunkards path units from  charm squares, this is another technique I'm hoping to revisit in the near future.

And foundation piecing - we foundation pieced the mariners compass block and something just clicked. Just a couple of days after completing this block at the class I started my Farmer's Wife quilt and committed to piece it with this technique (until half way through when quilt maths suddenly clicked).

I also a technique I hated... templates. This is where that hatred comes from. But what I'm just starting to understand is that, as with most things, I just had to find the method that worked for me. Drawing round a piece of card is not the way forward: I've likely made a slight error when I've cut the template out, I'll likely make a slight error when I draw round the template. Chances are there'll be another small error when I cut out the fabric and, at that point in my sewing journey, a quarter inch seam wasn't always a given. So inevitably my blocks are pretty bad. Few finished at the size they should have, many points were chopped off and some were just awful. And because of that I've avoided templates for the last 4 years. Until recently, when I learned how to make freezer paper templates... I'll tell you about that later in the week.

The book instructions were to use the quilt as you go technique to finish the quilt. Scared of machine quilting, I chose to hand quilt. And whilst I found the technique to join the blocks to not be particularly user friendly, I absolutely don't regret choosing to hand quilt it. My hand quilting back then is even slightly better than my hand quilting now - I've got lazy by quilting so much with perle thread and using 'slightly' larger stitches.

So - my biggest regret: using the method of quilt as you go as described in the book. I have since found more user-friendly methods which at least for me, provide a much neater and stronger finish.  Unfortunately I could not work out how to get the seams on the reverse of my quilt uniform, so my seams definitely don't meet on the back. And even more unfortunately, back when I first started putting the blocks together, my slip stitching wasn't great either. This has meant that the quilt itself is rather delicate and can't really be used in the rough and tumble of our home.

On the plus side, I picked out a horrific backing material, which while not at all matching the colours on the front of the quilt, is at least busy enough to detract from most of the bad stitching and non meeting seams. My only excuse - it was on sale when I bought it and at that point I didn't know if I would stick with quilting.

I had planned to do some free motion quilting in the sashing on the finished quilt, and I did try. It looked wrong. It just didn't fit with the feeling of the quilt. I tried using some perle thread to hand quilt round the outside of each block, but it just made it more obvious that my blocks were all different sizes. So I added my binding, and in keeping with the feel of the quilt, I hand stitched it down on the back (not my favourite job).

So the quilt is finished. And whilst it is far from perfect, it is a really important part of my quilting journey. I know this post is quite wordy, but when I reflect back on this quilt, it's important that I remember where it took me and how it made me the quilter I am today. Also, coincidentally, as I've read back thorough old blog posts about this quilt, I've realised that I was making it alongside my Farmer's Wife quilt - another important quilt in my journey, and as I write this post, I'm curled up in that quilt!

Finishing this quilt was a goal on my Quarter 1 2015 Finish Along list (and on a few previous ones too!)

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

And was my January goal for a Lovely Year of Finishes.

So what's next? Funnily enough I have a few more unloved UFOs to finish, so perhaps I'll dig one of those out of the cupboard!


Deb said...

Jennie, how fabulous to have it all finished. You will always be able to look back and smile at all the adventures you had to experience to make your first quilt. It looks great, be proud.

Rozsamaria - Habibihomemade said...

I love your blocks! They look great, even if they're not all the same size!

Kay said...

Good for you, it is quite an achievement. x

Kymberly said...

Congrats on finishing such a long term project. Drunkard's Path is one of my favorite blocks. I hope you have a lot of fun with it.

Lin said...

Well done Jenny - looks brilliant. xx

Adrianne @ On the Windy Side said...

Such a great finish!