This. took. forever. A labor of love for ELEVEN YEARS and I am SO glad to be done and also so proud of myself for finishing. So many mistakes were made, so so so many, which is why this quilt did not turn out as one big 6ft x 7ft quilt but instead became TWO MINI QUILTS. I’ll get into that in a second. 🙂 Also DISCLAIMER: this post is SUPER long but it’s only fitting since it took me SO LONG to finish this quilt haha.
I’ve made a total of 2 (well I guess now 3) quilts in my life and each time I started a quilt it was during a summer when I didn’t/couldn’t go to summer camp. Each time I found myself so camp sick and wishing I was in the Shenandoah mountains, jumping in the river. I needed something to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t go crazy from boredom. Lesson learned: summer camp is more consistent fun than ANYTHING ELSE you can do in the summer, always choose to go! So this quilt was my second project and I started it in the summer of 2010. I had just graduated undergrad from JMU and my graduate school program started immediately after in May. All my college room mates moved out to go on with their grand adventures and I was in Harrisonburg in my very lonely townhouse. I couldn’t go to camp that summer since my grad classes started in May lasted through July before picking back up in late August. So I decided to pick up a new project and this quilt was born. I sat down with a pen and graph paper and sketched out the design. I wanted it to be a full sized throw so I did all the math calculations for how big each block would need to be in order for the final design to be 6ft by 7ft. I picked out five green fabrics and five yellow fabrics and started to cut! First mistake made.
Now you should know that this entire quilt, from start to finish, was one mistake after the next. I nearly gave up and threw EVERY BIT of it away multiple times. The first big mistake I made was not understanding basic quilting techniques. I thought that I would sew all of the diamonds together and so I cut out the large diamonds before really figuring out how I’d piece them together or do the edges…. So yeah, I have TONS of precut squares of EVERY fabric for this quilt just sitting in bags upstairs… because they were the wrong size once I finally figured out how to do it properly…. Mistake number 2: I bought more fabric and cut MORE fabric for the new pieces instead of just making the old pieces work…. (so many face palms here).
Well then the quilt lay dormant for a few years because I realized I didn’t actually know how to piece these together. Then I met a friend teaching at Quioccasin Middle School who also liked to quilt and was far more experienced than me! She invited me over to her house and we had quilting dates were we hung out and did projects together. In all honesty, without her encouragement and guidance, I would have NEVER finished this or actually enjoyed the process. Well I finished about half of the blocks and then, I got busy with life. I’d pick it up here and there and do a little bit more before putting it back down again. What I realize now is that Alex in her 20s didn’t dig the meticulous process that is quilting. I didn’t love having to sew and then iron and then cut and then sew and then iron and then cut and on and on and on it went. It was too slow for me then. So even when I wanted to finish it I just couldn’t get enthusiastic enough to do it. And then I was doomed. My sewing machine died.
Yes it’s true. The sewing machine I got when I was in 3rd grade and had ever since, called it quits on me. I tried taking it to the sewing machine doctor to get it fixed but was ultimately told that the machine I had had run out it’s life and wasn’t fixable. So that was that. My pieces of this quilt sat in a box for the next 5 years traveling from house to house to house. In grand total this quilt has moved with me to 10 different homes. WOW.
Flash forward to Mother’s day of last year when I was pregnant with Finley and my parents gifted me a new sewing machine for my first pre-baby mother’s day. I now had the opportunity to finish this quilt! I didn’t have any more excuses. The reality though was that I honestly didn’t want to finish it, I just didn’t like it anymore. I fell out of love with the fabrics and couldn’t get myself geared up to finish. The real reason I finished this quilt was because I made myself do it. I have three (or more if we’re being honest) projects that I am SO excited to start and I looked at this big box of fabric and half pieced quilt and said “I’m not allowing myself to do any of the fun projects I want until I finish this d*#$ quilt.”
So with a new found motivation I sat down and BUSTED IT OUT! I mean really! The quilt in total is 42 blocks and before this moment I had finished 20 of them. In TWO WEEKS I finished the other 22 blocks and was ready to piece the whole thing together. I was PUMPED! I instra-storied the whole layout of the big quilt, organized the rows, sat down to start pinning and realized the biggest mistake of the entire eleven year project. The blocks didn’t fit together.
Yup. All of the blocks that I started on my old machine measured 12in x 12in (almost) exactly. All of the new blocks from the past two weeks… measured 11in x 11in (or even 11.5in x 11.5in)…. Yup. It’s because my old machine had a quarter inch seam presser foot and I assumed that the edge of my new machine’s presser foot would also yield a 1/4 inch seam… No such luck. It instead was 3/8inch seam. And yes, the 1/8th of an inch did make that much of a difference. Full discloser moment: I did notice the mistake earlier on in the process but that that maybe all of the fabric had collectively shrunk… at the same rate… over the course of the last eleven years.. Yeah, my brain was off that day.
You might ask – “So what? What’s the big deal?” Well with the blocks being off by an inch all around meant the points on the diamonds didn’t line up and the edges didn’t match. Huge deal with a HUGE headache of solutions that was WAY MORE work. “UGGGGHHHH” + tons of curse words was my response. I literally sat slumped in my chair staring at the pieces for 30 minutes thinking “Welp, I’m done. I’m throwing this all away.”
I reached out to my old quilting buddy friend for ideas and she was such a help problem solving with me. And then I realized the answer. Just split them up and make two tiny quilts. It was almost evenly split with 12x12s and 11x11s and so I took what would fit together and made two separate baby quilts. Each quilt used 15 blocks, totaling 30 of the 42 blocks. Blocks that were too small, wouldn’t fit, or in a fabric I no longer loved, got tossed to the side and I only focused on what I could make work. The other 12 pieces became scrap for practice or are still being stored in my attic. (Shout out to anyone wanting them! They are yours for the low low cost of FREE!). Years before I had bought new yellow and green fabric to use for the quilt instead of older fabric I no longer liked and it happened to be just the right size for the backing fabric. Within a few weeks I finished both!
With a TON of broken needles, A LOT of cursing, the wrong walking foot purchased, a trip to the sewing machine doctor, and mistakes made EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, I finally finished, eleven years later. With the final touches of quilt labels hand sewn onto the backs and a vinyl applique of our camp’s symbol ironed on, they are done. Since I was on the green team, Finley is going to keep the quilt with the green backing and the quilt with the yellow backing is going off to Richmond for my camp friend Lauren’s baby girl Rook (Lauren was on the Buff (a version of yellow) team).
Now that they are done, I kind of love them. I also love that they are two separate quilts and will have a longer life in two homes. I love that the quilts are twins and can connect Finley and Rook, if they want of course :). I don’t typically brag on myself but I have to say that as many visible mistakes as there are (like 1/4 of a block being cut off the top), I’m really proud of these. I’m proud of them not because they are beautiful or perfect but because they are done. I didn’t let myself throw away years of work just because I was bored with it and now I have something to give away that represents finishing the job even when it’s not perfect and when you’re mentally over it. 🙂
So here are some pictures of the finished projects and of course some cutie pics of Finley too since she was my side kick through the final push! You won’t have to look too closely to see the mistakes haha but I think they’re pretty regardless. 🙂 Also it’s worth mentioning that the 30s version of me LOVES the slow meticulous process that is quilting. 🙂