This really shouldn’t be hard, should it? I mean, I’m an intelligent woman. And I’ve sewn off and on through my life: my daughter’s dresses, a few shirts for my husband, skirts and shirts for me, and even a jacket. And while I haven’t pieced a quilt before, I have tied many, so I should be able to combine the two skills, right?
It all started when we spent a Friday evening up at Kim’s and she mentioned she was starting a block-of-the-month quilt the next day. “Why don’t you come, Mom?” she asked. Too much to do, a 45-minute drive up there – lots of reasons not to. But by the end of the evening I was considering it, and by morning I had made up my mind. It would be fun to do together and I could do it a section at a time, instead of spending several hundred dollars on the makings of my dream quilt and letting it sit there for two years. Which I have already done, but that’s another story.
We paid our fee and got our starter quilt block packet, and the first dilemma popped up: to pre-wash or not to pre-wash. If you don’t, the seams will pucker a bit when you wash the quilt, an old-fashioned look that some quilters like, and some don’t. I’m a Don’t. If you do pre-wash, the edges will ravel and you hope that it doesn’t ravel so much that you can’t get the right size squares out of your strips.
So I pre-wash, iron, and take it to cut out at another evening at Kim’s. At which point I realize I’m missing one strip. It must have gotten caught up with one of the sheets in the wash. Kim cuts and pins everything, I cut and pin what I can. I go home, unfold three sheets (and two of those were fitted bottom sheets!) and can’t find the missing strip anywhere. Which means the store forgot to put it in, and I need to drive the 45 minutes back to get a new one.
A week goes by and I never get back up there. Neither do I get to JoAnn’s to buy replacement fabric for the color I don’t like. I decide to at least sew what I have, but I search high and low and can’t find the Ziploc bag with my pieces! So I go to the second-month meeting and pay $5 for my next block set because I haven’t finished the first one. I also find out there were several of us missing a strip.
I come home and wash the new fabric strips, NOT putting them in with sheets this time, just in case. And I finally make my overdue visit to JoAnn’s,which requires two trips because I forgot my 40% off coupon. I’m not buying $9.99/yard fabric without my coupon!
Kim warns me that this block is harder than the first – there are a lot of points that have to meet right. Also that I shouldn’t go back and do the first one first, that I should use the time to get the second block done. Great, I get to start on the difficult one.
So this time, like a good girl, I start early and iron my strips. Which is when I discover that if you pre-wash and don’t pull it out of the dryer right away, you can iron and iron and iron, and some wrinkles are STILL set in stone! I let the strips hang over the back of a chair while I stew for two weeks.
A non-stewing Sunday rolls around. I set up the cutting table and bring my never-used quilt supplies downstairs (remember the dream-quilt purchase?): cutting mat, razor-sharp rotary cutter, and a nifty clear-plastic, gridded, wide ruler-thingy. Ready? No – I can’t find my directions! I search my purse, my office, the pile of papers on the kitchen counter . . . nothing. I’m about desperate enough to call Kim and ask her to fax me hers, but I don’t want to make her think I’m a total ditz, even if she already does. The directions finally appear in my purse, sans the Ziploc bag they were supposed to be in.
Before I begin cutting, I take her other tip to heart: spray the strips with starch to help them keep their shape when you cut. I mean, what person in their right mind expects you to cut exact squares and sew precise straight lines, when the material is stretchy? I thought stretchy only happened with bias-cut fabric, but maybe expensive quilt fabric is different. So I spray.
Now, mind you, this isn’t any old spray starch. We moved, and movers don’t like moving aerosol cans – they tend to explode at inopportune moments. Besides, my old can of Niagara Spray Starch was, well, old. Positively ancient. And one of the things included in my several-hundred-dollar dream-quilt purchase is a bottle of special quilting spray starch that stays clear. $7.99 for a small bottle, and I stand there spraying like it’s water out of the tap.
When my strips can almost stand on their own, I lay them on the cutting table and begin. Which is when I realize that 1) hurray! the spray starch took out all the wrinkles, 2) the fabric stretched while I was ironing it, and now it has hills and valleys where there should be a straight edge, and 3) you have to lean harder on the gridded ruler-thingy than you do on the rotary cutter, or the ruler-thingy slides. And you have to keep remembering that, over and over. Needless to say, I’ve got a few squares that are more like parallelograms. And a few squares that may be a smidge small in one direction because I had to cut the raveled part off and it didn’t leave quite enough.
It’s been more than two hours now and I have pretty little stacks of mostly-squares. I had wanted to pin them together so I could sew next session, but I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. After all, I’ve still got two weeks.