Thursday, 29 June 2017

365 Quilt Challenge 2016 [A finish]

I can't believe I've just typed that heading! When I made the block for January 1st 2016 I could not have imagined the journey this quilt would have taken me on. So make yourselves comfortable and grab a cup of tea, because this blog post may get lengthy!

I'd seen the 365 Quilt Challenge on Facebook. I think every quilter on Facebook must have been aware of it. Loads of my friends had signed up and it kept popping up as a "Page you might like" thing. In the end, in November 2015, I joined the group, had a poke round. Decided it wasn't for me.

One of the things that really put me off were the fabric requirements: you needed x amount of dark dark fabric, x amount of medium dark fabric, x amount of dark medium, medium, light medium, light, background.... I just couldn't get my head round those requirements. I'd looked at the mock ups on the wesbite and couldn't bring myself to pick a colour. I put it to the back of my mind.

But I had obviously at some point subscribed to the emails, and when the first few popped up in my inbox, I though "these seem easy - I'll have a go". I think it was then, about 4th January 2016, with no real plan that I had the idea for my colour scheme. Once I had seen how the blocks were turning out, I knew that I could use a dark background and then any colour I wanted and still end up with "dark block", especially if, when it came to the light blocks I used a light background with the colours I liked. Out came my daughter's crayons and I had a plan.

I'd like to remind you, that at this point, I was five months pregnant. Doesn't everyone take on a mammoth project the year they're due to give birth to their second child? Up until the end of March, I kept up to date. And by 17th April, just three days before Jess was born, I had completed the centre of the medallion and the first dark border. I knew, as Jessica's birth approached, that even if I never made another block again, at I had completed something that would stand as a quilt in it's own right, albeit a small one.

It was around this time, that the best aspect of this quilt became apparent. I had joined a UK based Facebook group for the 365 quilt, and I have never experienced a group come together like we did: we got to know each other, we chatted, and as Jessica's due date came and went, everyone wanted to know.... And once she's arrived, and I'd posted to let everyone know, I got the loveliest congratulations for "Our 365 Baby".

Inevitably, I took a break, not from sewing entirely, but from this project, in the weeks after Jess was born. I was still sewing (it truly does keep me sane), but not this. I did the odd block through May and into June and by this time last year, I was 42 blocks behind. At the worst point I hit 84 blocks behind. And I'm not going to lie, it was a mammoth effort to pull myself back. I found that spending a day or so cutting the fabric for the next chunk of blocks and then piecing a bit here and there in spare minutes really worked - I had quite the system going!

The 6" blocks released in May and June last year were absolute stinkers. We were dragged into this project with the exceptionally easy 3"blocks in January, but by midsummer we were ploughing through 6" blocks with more pieces than I care to think about. The blocks were beautiful though - not your bog standard churn dashes and pinwheels, but complex and beautiful - some of the half square triangle units finish at less than half an inch in some of the blocks. What I found truly amazing is that some of the blocks I would have thought were impossible without foundation piecing or using templates, but through careful cutting, corner covering and angles, every single block was rotary cut without the need for templates!

These were the pieces for just one of the 6" blocks....

By mid-September I was back up to date and on the 21st September we moved from the sublime to the ridiculous with the instructions: "Trim the half square triangle units to 1 and 7/32". And so ensued a discussion: does one say "thirty-secondths" or "thirty-seconds" or my preferred option "thirty-tooths"? The girls (and guy) on the Facebook group cried with you on those days, and we heaved a collective sigh of relief on the days when the block was "easy". Easy is, however, a relative and changeable term, and what I classed as easy in September was definitely not what I would have classed as easy back in January!

Then came the 12" blocks for the corners. Kathy, who designed the quilt, outdid herself. These blocks were absolutely horrific little stinkers. So. Many. Pieces. So many covered corners to get the right way. Y-seams.Each 12" block was genuinely the equivalent of making 16 of the hardest 3" blocks. But there was another block released the next day already.

On 8th January 2017, I made the final block - just a week behind! And it was some block - Y seams all over the place. But I will never, ever be scared of a Y-seam again!

And then I hit a slump. the next step was to add the final borders. And if you've read this blog for some time, you'll know that sashing, and long seams are my least favourite part of the process. I did bits here and there. But it wasn't until 5th February, that I finally added the the last of the pieced borders and a final, plain black border to tie it all together. And the reason I did it on that particular day. It was a weekend. But it was also a beautiful day - there was no wind and lots of bright sunshine. Which meant once finished, I could lay the quilt in our front garden and hang out of the bedroom window to photograph it, without it being blown into the North Sea - which is normally the case! I knew we wouldn't get another day like that.

Next up was backing fabric. On such a special quilt, I splashed out and order Tula Pink Free Fall from the US. I then bundled up the quilt and the backing and entrusted it to Royal Mail to get it over to Cath in Cumbria. We'd hatched a plan.

I decided towards the end of 2016, that I wouldn't quilt this one myself. It's the first time I'd ever contemplated not quilting a quilt myself. But with so many seams, I knew that if I tried to quilt it myself, I would break needles, snap thread and generally get very cross with the quilt.So I asked for contributions towards the cost of long-arming for my birthday, and got in touch with Cath Brough who is Cumbrian Long Armer. Michael and I had a holiday to the Lakes planned for late March and she confirmed that she could get it quilted and was happy for us to pick it up in person.

So at the end of March, we went to see her and picked up this monster of a quilt. The work she had done on it was stunning, and the quilting made it come alive. I chose a bubbles pantograph as I felt an all-over design would not detract from the piecing, which really is the star of the show! I brought the quilt home, trimmed it. And then did nothing.

The prospect of binding it didn't really appeal. Inevitably I left it until midsummer to hand sew over nearly 400" of binding. And you know what - it took no time at all - two hours to make the matched binding and attach it to the front of the quilt and then four nights in front of the TV to hand sew it down.

And the quilt was finished. And I love it. And I cannot believe that I did it.
Here is the THE photo from our recent photo shoot at Seaton Delaval Hall.

I learned so much from this quilt: although I was already quite an experienced quilter, this improved my accuracy without a doubt. It taught me some organisational skills which have proved invaluable - such as cut out a load of blocks, hold them together with clips and pin them to a noticeboard - this is a great way of sewing for a busy mum who grabs moments here and there. Everything is where I need it and in manageable chunks!

I realised that I don't like having my quilts long-armed. That is absolutely nothing against Cath - she did a fabulous job, I love the effect, and she was such a helpful and friendly person. But I don't like the fact that I didn't complete this quilt from beginning to end. Of course, if I had decided to quilt it myself, you may not be reading this post now! Or ever!

I learned that a support group can be fantastic - the lovely ladies (and Bruce) over on the Facebook group have cheered me on when I fell behind, congratulated me when I achieved minor miracles and laughed over thirty-tooths with me. I think if it weren't for them, you wouldn't be reading this post either.

So here are some stats and facts for you: This quilt was a stash quilt. Although I did have to buy some of the "light" and "dark" fabrics I used as my backgrounds, all of the coloured fabrics came from my stash. I would love to say it was a scrap quilt, but while it does have a scrappy look, with hundreds of different fabrics, and no cohesive background fabric, it actually created more scraps than it used!

The family crazy was never far away - even during the final photo shoot!
The finished quilt is made up of 365 "blocks" either 3" (all of which are dark) or 6" (all of the lights are 6" and there are a few darks too). There are 4 12" blocks, one in each corner, and the centre medallion was (I think) 10 days worth of "blocks" including the four light 6" corner blocks. As a group we were daft enough to add up the total number of pieces in the quilt to 10909 (with some variation as some of us used slightly different blocks - but I'm not counting my own quilt to give you an exact figure!). It finishes at 94" x 94" and I completed it with a scrappy matched binding.

The next adventure for this quilt, if I get my act together and add a hanging sleeve, will be in Birmingham. Twenty of us from that Facebook group will be hanging our quilts at the Festival of Quilts in August in a special exhibit. I won't be able to go in person, but if you're planning on going, I'm sure my quilt would love to see you there!

This is a Finish Along finish! You can find my original list here.

Charm About You


Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts said...

It's a fantastic finish. Sure enjoyed reading the story of your quilt.

Izzy said...

Oh my goodness - this is an epic finish! Congratulations! On behalf of the global FAL hosts, thank you for playing along with us this quarter.

Wendy said...

Wow Jennie, it's fabulous! Absolutely beautiful! i look forward to seeing it at FoQs

Anthea said...

Hi Jennie... It's been a privilege & so very interesting (& entertaining at times!) to read this post...
Of course, CONGRATULATIONS on the completion of this beautiful quilt - every block tells the story of your skill, determination, planning & endurance.
This really is a stunning feat of sewing, I hope you cherish your work & admire your guts to keep going!