Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back Under the Needle: My 2003 Double 9-Patch Quilt

My "Celestial Double Nine Patch" Quilt from 2003, Back Under the Needle for More Quilting!
In August 2003, soon after Anders was born, I finished my second-ever quilt, this "crib sized" double nine patch that I spread out on the floor for him as a play mat before he was even rolling over.  It's 51" x 51" and I got the pattern and beginner-friendly instructions from the book Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes.  This is the quilt that was folded up underneath the stroller for trips to the mall, and this is the quilt that was used as a "beach blanket" when the preschool held its annual end-of-year party with inflatable kiddy pools on the lawn outside the church.  Let's just say it's been through the wash a few times!

Bernie with Anders, June 2006
I was very proud of my piecing skills on this quilt, especially on the narrow sawtooth border, but I was intimidated by the quilting part.  I quilted a diagonal grid over the nine patch blocks with my walking foot, but that left those big, blank 9" alternate blocks that cried out for something fancy.  I used my embroidery module to quilt the decorative motifs "in the hoop," but even after enlarging the design to the maximum stitchable area of my machine's largest hoop, it was still way too small to fill the blocks properly.  I vaguely remember lowering the feed dogs of my sewing machine, experimenting briefly with free motion quilting on scraps of fabric and batting, and flinging the ugly results across the room in horror.  Apart from aesthetic concerns about the unbalanced quilting, I wanted to be sure to meet the batting manufacturer's guidelines about how far apart to space quilting lines.  So I put my walking foot back on, and added awkward-looking straight lines radiating from the horizontal and vertical centers and corners of each motif.  I didn't love the way that looked, but it was the best I could do at that time, and I was terrified to try any free motion quilting that might "mess up" my beautiful quilt top.

Now that this quilt has been folded away in the closet for several years, I finally decided to pull it out and add some free motion quilting around those motifs.  My confidence was bolstered when I found one of those early FMQ practice samples in my sewing room and saw how much I had improved already, so I threaded up my machine with the same variegated 40 weight cotton quilting thread I'd used originally and chose the quilting design I feel most comfortable with at the moment -- back and forth squiggle lines.  Why oh why did I put this off for so long?  Free motion quilting is FUN!

Upper Left Block Finished, Lower Right Block Awaiting FMQ Squiggles
My squiggles aren't perfect by a long shot, and the brightly colored thread shows every "oops" up close, but nothing jumps out at me horribly when I step back and look at the quilt as a whole.  For my next quilt, I'm going to choose a thread color that blends in better.  Anyway, I worked on this for about an hour yesterday and was able to squiggle-quilt half of the twelve alternate blocks.  Once I got into the groove of it, the quilting went much faster than expected.  I plan to finishe the remaining blocks today, and then tomorrow I think I will be ready to add some diagonal FMQ squiggling to the outer block corners of Lars's "Drunken Dragons" (drunkard's path) quilt-in-progress.  By the time I finish this nine patch quilt my squiggles should be much smoother and more even, right? 

Meanwhile, I've got a piano lesson in 20 minutes so I'd better scoot.  Have a wonderful day!

1 comment:

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