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Quilting UFOs and Mystery Quilts

If I had known what a lousy quilter I was in 2000, I would have quit quilting and found a different hobby. Haha. Eighteen years later, I’m still at it.

When I lived in Minnesota, there were often quilt retreats to attend with my friends. This particular retreat had a mystery quilt that I thought I would participate in. It was my first, and probably my last. I didn’t finish this quilt because I was overwhelmed with it. We pieced together a bazillion 2-1/2 inch four-patches and another bazillion 2-1/2 inch half-square triangles (hst). Why so many hsts?  Because we then proceeded to sew them together into flying geese.


For some reason, this highly irritated me. The other reason I did not finish this quilt was that the thought of quilting that large, blank snowball block scared me to death. So it got put away and I hauled it out once, sewed four rows together and put it away again. Fast forward to 2017.

I still love the fabrics and colors I chose for this quilt so I decided to just finish it. I think it was originally going to be at least a twin-sized quilt, but I decided to make two smaller quilts instead. The remaining four-patches and hsts were not quite 2-1/2 inches square so I did a lot of ripping and repiecing and finally got enough units put together to finish the 8-1/2 inch pieced alternate blocks.

Side note on snowball blocks: The prevailing method in the past for snowball blocks was to sew diagonally across a square at each corner and only trim away the middle triangle, thus ensuring that the original base square would remain at the prescribed measurement (8-1/2 inches square in this case). The problem with this is there is a lot of bulk at the corners. I did not rip apart the four rows I had constructed, but I did go in and cut away all of the triangles from the remaining snowballs and made yet more hsts from these triangles.


Lesson Numero Uno: Always check to make sure you are sewing an accurate ¼-inch seam so you don’t suffer the agony of defeat (yes, I know the Olympics are over).


Kudos to the Duluth Curling Club for bringing home the gold and to all the other wonderful athletes who participated in PyeongChang.

Lesson Αριθμός 2: Quit with the mean tweets.

So I put together two quilts but had to wait until last week for the weather to warm up enough so I could spray baste them outside. This quilt is called Starway to Heaven but I’ve come to think of it as Paved Road to Hell.


In the meantime, I decided to work on this small baby quilt, adding borders and quilting diagonal straight lines in the center and on the first blue border. Those are prairie points sewn randomly into the seams and a creative border because I didn’t have enough yardage.



Then I had to take my Janome in for regular maintenance, I felt that the needle bar was once again not centered, and I just couldn’t get the tension right for free-motion quilting on this quilt. I only needed to quilt that last border but nooooooo—wasn’t going to happen. At least I had something to do while waiting for my machine: rip out the six inches of quilting that I thought was going to be okay.


Lesson Troisième partie: Always have something to do when you take your machine in for service.

Suffice to say, I need to practice my free-motion quilting again so I can finish this little quilt and then I need to decide how to quilt those snowball blocks. If all else fails, I can echo the octagonal shape.

Lesson Nummer Vier: Never leave more than three quilting projects unfinished. This creates the Unfinished Object (UFO) Nightmare. I think this is my third year trying to complete my UFOs. Of course, if I wouldn’t make charity blocks for donation quilts, or participate in challenges, or stop everything to try a new technique, or stop to cook/clean/do the wash/exercise… But where is the fun in that! Till next time, work on that ¼-inch seam allowance. Unless you’re doing improv piecing, it really does matter. Or does it?





Quilted UFOs: The Redwork Quilt

The Redwork Quilt has moved up in status from a UFO (unfinished object) to a WIP (work in progress).  I have had to take a break for technical reasons.  When I went to change my needle yesterday, I found I was out of my favorite, Schmetz Quilting Needle 90/14.  Since I had some 75/11’s, I tried it in the sashing where I was free-motion quilting and the thread only broke once.  I am using Invisafil 100-wt. in top and in bobbin. Today, however, the thread broke again while stitching in the ditch so I have decided to wait until tomorrow when I can go to town.

I’m not sure when I started this quilt (late 2011 perhaps) but I didn’t like the setting or the size so I started working on it again in 2012.  Here you can see the dark blue flap I had placed on the red and white bubble fabric border.  I love this fabric but it just did not work for this quilt.



Auditioning a new border.

AuditioningNew Border

AuditioningNew Border

Here is the quilt put back together, measuring 27-inches square.



Last spring I dug this out again and decided I wanted to make it bigger.  I have too many more or less useless small quilts so I am making quilts that can hang in my dining room, maximum 42-inches wide and around 45-50 inches long.  In order to make this larger, I dug into my 2-1/2 inch red squares and cut more squares from every piece of red I own and then added a 4-inch black border.  When I want solid black, I use Kona–it’s a nice, consistent very dark black.  Sometimes I’m even able to find it locally.  The quilt is now 41-inches square.



I started in the center and outlined each square motif and the inside of the white square.  Then I outlined them again.  I think I am going to add some more lines of stitching so it will lie flatter.  If I start in the center, I should be able to go around all four squares without breaking the thread.

Redwork Quilt Center

Redwork Quilt Center

Next, I was able to quilt the first border with a simple meander.  Is there a difference between meandering and stippling?  I used to be the world’s worst meanderer.  I just couldn’t get anything to come together between my brain and the needle.  So I started practicing.  And practicing.  And practicing.  Every time I was going to free-motion a quilt, I would practice meandering whether I was going to actually use it or not.   I have a small stencil which I would trace onto my practice piece and stitch over the lines.  Then I would try to do it on my own.  I still have to practice before putting it on a quilt but it has gotten much better.  Sometimes I do just a plain meander but usually I add some kind of design, in this case flowers and leaves.  I had a strip leftover from the Cotton+Steel quilt which was just the size I needed.  If you want to add to your quilting repertoire, practice some simple motifs with meandering.  I have added different flowers with leaves, stars, pumpkins, and Christmas motifs.  Try to practice making these motifs upside down to add variety without pivoting the quilt.  If you run into a problem, you can just rip back to the motif, and start there again–no one will be the wiser.

FMQ Practice, Meander w/Flowers

FMQ Practice, Meander w/Flowers

When I was cleaning out my files this spring, I got rid of the red work booklet with the embroidery design I used.  I found it online: The Red Book, designed by Diane Arthurs from the Powder Mill.  I saw it on a resale website for $30.  I assure you I did not pay that much for it but it must be out of print now, which somehow has translated into giving people license to sell books at outrageous prices.  Grrr.  Go to the library, check with a friend, look for any line drawing available to you.  Because the motifs were small, I used one strand of floss and a backstitch.  I just couldn’t get the outline stitch to look good.  I also lined the white-on-white fabric with a stretch knit interfacing so that the knots and traveling would not show.  Of course when I started quilting, I noticed a knot had migrated through the interfacing but If anyone notices that, then they are just looking too dang hard.

So that’s my story for today.  I’m over the recommended word count.  Sorry.  I’ll be back next week with an update.