Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sometimes Quilting Makes Me Laugh

Vicki from Field Trips in Fiber challenged us to post about our oldest UFO.  I knew which one it was; I just didn't know where it was. I was afraid it was in the attic, but first I searched every closet and under every bed. It is cold outside and I really didn't want to climb up in the cold and breezy attic, but by the time I had searched all over the house, I was determined to find it. And I did.

When I pulled it out the bag, I nearly died laughing.

I had made two or three quilts prior to starting this Jacob's Ladder quilt, and I didn't know anything about quilting when I made the first one except that a quilt was made of small pieces sewn together.

Above is the first quilt, made in 1999 with no known pattern because I didn't know there were quilt patterns when I made it, so I just looked at pictures in catalogs and made one up. I didn't know that quilts had quarter inch seams, or how they were put together, so I started in the center and worked my way out. The seams were 5/8 inch, just like sewing patterns of that time, and pressed open. I didn't even know that the completed blocks needed to be the same size. Binding was done just like a hem with top, batting, and backing all folded over, except the top where I sewed the backing to the top. Amazingly, that quilt has held up for sixteen years. It's not pretty, but it's still in one piece. It's been washed at least 100 times now so the colors are faded. I never even thought I might want a photo after making it.

For the second quilt, a baby quilt, I went to the library and checked out a quilting book for beginners. After reading the first chapter, I bought a small cutting mat, a ten inch square ruler, a rotary cutter and an assortment of fabric from Walmart. The book recommended that a beginner start with their easy quilt, a court house step version of a log cabin. It was anything but easy for me, but somehow, it turned out ok too.  I finished it in August 2003.

The third quilt was a mystery quilt at the local quilt shop.  It is the California Confusion pattern. When the owner told me about it, I told her I was a beginner and she said it was easy. And it was easy until I got to the half square triangles and had no idea how to make them. Luckily, the lady sewing next to me took the time to show me how. The ladies at the LQS pressed the blocks for us and I didn't realize until much later that they had pressed all the seams to one side. I didn't complete the quilt there, but had done at least one of every type block, so continued on at home. I still hadn't noticed that the seams done at the LQS were pressed to one side, so all mine were pressed open. It was a queen size quilt and I had no idea how to put the blocks together, so it was a bag of unfinished blocks for quite a while.  After finishing the top, I made some extra blocks to expand it to queen size, and hand-quilted it.  I began it on New Year's Day 2004 and finished it on New Year's Day 2005.

And then this quilt.  A Jacob's Ladder pattern.  In order to finish the third quilt, I checked out that book again (why I kept checking out that book, I have no idea) to see how to put the blocks together. By then, I thought I knew everything I needed to know to make a quilt top. I was so very, very wrong. The second quilt they recommended for beginners was Jacob's Ladder (I remembered it incorrectly as being an Irish chain). I think the one in the book was for a twin size, and I bought the amount of fabric based on their instructions. The instructions in the book didn't go into detail about how to join blocks together, such as matching seams. I know, I know, that should be obvious even to a non-quilter, but it wasn't to me. So not only were the blocks not square, they were often offset by a quarter inch. Still, I put a few rows together and pressed the seams open (no instructions on which way to press either). At that point, I either thought it looked fantastic, or I was just overly ambitious, but I decided to make it a king size. So I made more blocks, formed them into rows, and sewed these rows perpendicular to the previously completed rows to make it wider. I think it was then that I realized my rows weren't that straight, or flat, and the blocks had some serious overlap, and I bagged it until I knew more about quilting. And then I forgot about it.  I began it in February 2004, so that makes it my oldest UFO.

Eventually, I took a few quilting classes and learned the basics - things I thought I already knew and much, much more. And I continued to ignore the green and white mess in a bag in the closet. Until this year, that is when the desire to finish ALL my UFO's overcame my desire to forget about that quilt.

Obviously, it needs a major overhaul. No way am I going to put enough effort into this to complete a king size quilt. Plus, the fact that I only bought enough fabric to make a twin size and couldn't get any more now. I just hope I can salvage enough of it to make it a lap quilt for the Quilts for the Elderly project.

So here it is, the sad looking Jacob's Ladder. Contain yourself.


There was also a bag of four patch blocks, but not enough fabric to make any of the half square triangles. I must have lost count while I was making them. Maybe I can make something else out of them.



Karen said...

Well - this isn't really a compliment since I don't quilt, but it IS heartfelt - I think it looks nice. I like it.

Nancy said...

Stop being so hard in yourself and this first quilt. No one produces "perfect" items when they are learning. Heck, I still don't create perfect quilts with perfect points and blocks, but I continue to sew and finish quilts. Often the recipient doesn't notice the quirks that I can see. Be proud of your first quilt(s).

martidiy said...

LOL, yes, it was heartfelt. And it was a learning experience too I guess. Marti

martidiy said...

It's not horrible, but you should see it close up and from the back. It's pretty funny actually. I still look at my very first quilt, which we are still using, and wonder how I managed to get it together and quilt it since all the pieces were cut with scissors and I didn't use rulers or templates. I'll try to take a picture of that one and post it on this thread today. Marti

Brenda said...

The picture doesn't really look that bad. Kind of reminds me of the saying, "If you can't see it from a galloping horse, don't worry." I'd just pull six blocks off of the bottom and make one more 5-block column to attach to the side. Use the last block as part of your label on the back. I think it looks just fine, and a child or nursing home resident isn't likely to complain about seams not matching if I can't see them in the picture! Use your four patches as a strip across the back or otherwise tying into the leftover block. Or send it to me and I'll do that!

Brenda said...

To make it for a kid, just finish the quilt, back it in something fairly neutral, and then run it through the washing machine with a package of pink of purple or blue or green dye. Yellow and black might be a bit much for a kid!

elle said...

Aw, we all start somewhere. Good start!

martidiy said...

That's what I thought too. I'll probably have to take blocks off in the same zig zag pattern as they were put on, but I think there are enough good ones to make a lap quilt. Marti

martidiy said...

I have GOT to learn how to use our new camera instead of this old point and shoot. The quilt is actually green and white but in my dim living room with yellow walls, it does look yellow. Marti

martidiy said...

It's amazing I kept with it isn't it? I remember when I went to my first quilt show. After seeing all the gorgeous quilts, I thought maybe I should just quit. Except I wanted quilts for my beds and couldn't afford decent ones, so I kept at it. Still not great, but I enjoy it anyway.

Thanks for visiting! Marti

Pat V. said...

I think you can make this into a charity quilt quite easily. Looking at the picture, I only see three spots that need a tweak. I'd follow Brenda's idea for reworking it. Love your story about teaching yourself to quilt. I also decided to teach myself about four years ago. Still so much to learn!

martidiy said...

When I started, I didn't know there was any other option. I always wished I had had a quilting mom or grandma so I could have gotten an early start. Marti