Writer Meets Quilt: the Quilt is Winning

Not my favorite pattern or color combo, but fine to start with.

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.

Still Wrinkled!

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.

Smooth Success!

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.

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6 Responses to Writer Meets Quilt: the Quilt is Winning

  1. Sherri Jensen says:

    Just when I get thinking life isn’t REALLY worth living I read your piece and laugh again. BLESS YOUR BEAUTIFUL HEART!

    Sherri

  2. Teresa says:

    LOL. Every time I try to take on something home-makerly and money-saving (quilting, sewing curtains) it ends up costing me twice as much as just buying whatever it is I’m trying to make.
    JoAnn’s is a trap. They put all those cute kits and stuff out with the unspoken promise that you, too, could create that exact “cute thing”… when actually it just ends up being attic insulation.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Oh, yes. JoAnn’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby – I can’t count how much fabric I gave away when we moved that I bought 5 & 10 & 20 years ago and then never did anything with. (Still working on the needlework projects, though!)

  3. JM Tohline says:

    Jennifer,

    I don’t know if you commented on my “Your Job is to Write, Not Worry” post on the Writer’s Digest GLA blog because you simply appreciated the thoughts set forth, or because you were hoping to win a copy of The Great Lenore…but just in case:

    I wanted to let you know that I am giving away 4 additional copies (and a $200 Amazon gift card!) on my site this month [ http://bit.ly/t7NPZd ]. I figure the more people who know, the better!

    Keep writing.
    ~JM

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Loved this! Glad I’m not the only one who collects projects that will outlive a cockroach! This whole quilting thing is why I cut my old blue jeans into BIG patches (measured in yards, not inches) and keep it quick and easy. Not as pretty a look, but it’s the only way I ever finish them.
    Love you, Sis!

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