Making my First Quilt

I have been talking to my hubby for years about wanting to be more self sufficient.  At first it started out as just wanting to do my own crafty things.  I mean really, no one made any palm tree quilts and I had all of these grand ideas of decorating my whole house in all home made items.  It couldn't be that, hard, right?

I am not relating this tale to make myself look like a bumbling fool (though I'm pretty certain I also do an excellent job of that as well), rather I am trying to prevent you from making the same mistakes I made.

Back in 8th grade home ec we were taught how to use a sewing machine to make a class sweatshirt.   Never mind that I had sewn the stripe on upside down in an over-locking stitch then proceeded to have to tear out all of that thread, I still wanted to sew my own pillows, curtains, and such.  My mom generously bought me a basic sewing machine for my birthday in 2005, almost 20 years after my first sewing lessons.

Over the next year, I began to hone my sewing skills with some simple projects.  I went to work right away making pretty purple curtains (complete with glitter) for my daughter's princess room, pillow covers for our couch pillows in the living room, a swag and some curtains for the living room, shortening pants for our short family.  It was going great!  I even started making some clothes.  I was really proud of my accomplishments and wanted to keep on learning to do more.

Thread tension wasn't right
I bought the fabric I wanted, got it all cut into squares and rectangles using a cutting mat and rotary cutter.  I wasn't going to use a pattern because the last time I used one I messed up and had to undo what I had done then do it right.  No patterns, no problems, right??

Wrong!  The first problem I hit was that we had to pack up and move because Cheesehead got a job transfer.  These beautiful squares stayed locked up in a box for 7 years until they were rediscovered!

4 block squares
Once I found them and felt adequately motivated enough to get going, I started sewing the squares together into my first quilt I ever made.  Well, when the thread tension isn't set correctly it begins to make the material pucker and not lay flat so I needed to adjust that.  Um, I didn't...

I sewed the smaller squares into blocks of 4 alternating the material and reorienting the fabric from the palm fronds into different directions to give the quilt some added interest.  Except apparently I didn't really cut them into all exactly the same size squares...  Note to self, measure twice, cut once, write some notes if you are going to put it away for a while.  Seriously.

Well I was feeling pretty darn good about myself and how wonderfully the quilt was coming together.  I got all of the 4 blocks together, sewed the rectangles into a line that would go down the center or the quilt, and then discovered a couple of other little problems with my process.

Ironing
I washed the fabric when I first bought it, but didn't iron.  I hate ironing because usually when I iron something I iron more wrinkles into the fabric than I get out and it ends up looking terrible.  Well, washing the fabric checks for fraying, but when it's not ironed it doesn't lay quite right, so it can make your pattern go awry.  Plus, you need to iron to make the seams lay flat.  I learned this from some friends I met online who have actually made quilts before.  Well, I ironed to give the quilt a nicer look, see?

I didn't watch my seam allowances closely when I was putting the quilt together AND I didn't make sure the raw edges were completely lined up all the way up and down the entire square so there were some sewing misses that I had to go back and fix.  Bad, this was very, very bad.

Now, when I put the center strip in and started matching up the 4 blocks to be put together the fabric didn't line up right.  Rather than doing what I should have and ripping it apart and beginning again keeping the exact same seam allowance and trimming the squares to be exact matches, cutting extra fabric from the rectangles, I pressed on and did some improvisation.  All to save myself from extra work.

I found this great brown fabric in my fabric stash, isn't it great?  I trimmed it up (thinking I had already washed to check for fraying) and set it in among my mismatched fabric.  Feeling pretty darn proud I showed it to my husband who said he couldn't wait to use it.   Isn't the color combination stunning???   I even found this great sheet at a thrift shop that made for a beautiful backing material, see on the bottom right corner?  I also bought an unopened bag of batting from there. (Or so I thought...)

Mostly finished quilt
Now I was excited to get the two sides put together!  I know this quilt wasn't the queen size that the back sheet was, so I knew I would need to do some trimming.  I laid out the top and laid the backing material over it and carefully pinned it together.  This is when my sloppiness would really shine through.  First I pinned the wrong sides together, when I should have pinned the right sides together so I had to repin.  I also did the batting at that time to save myself an extra step.  I pinned it to the sheet and started trimming.

The pieces I cut from the sheet came off lopsided.  I mean, not even slightly uneven, but majorly so.  I'm thinking I should have gathered up my measuring tape and verified sizes of everything because I obviously didn't remember from one time to the next.  Did that stop me?  Nope, I just kept right on going!

I got the 3 side sewed together, turned it right side out, and finished the last seam.  Then it was time to tack the 2 sides and the batting together.  It was already wonderful, as it sat on my lap I felt so warm!  I decided to just tie the sides together as opposed to really quilting it because I really didn't know the first thing about making a quilt and I didn't want it to look bad.  (A little late to worry about that now, huh? lol)

I decided to use a nice green yarn that I got at a thrift store because if would really stand out against the tan sheet backing. As I worked through I placed a tie at each corner along the row of squares.  The first edge looked great, but the further I went, the tackier it looked.  Places that lined up when flattened together from one way bulged and buckled when viewed from another way.  I don't know how many ties I had to remove to make it look decent again.

Then, came the worst piece of information.  As I proudly viewed my "completed" quilt, I saw some edges coming apart along the brown fabric.  Apparently I hadn't checked it for fraying.  So now this fragile beauty will end up hanging on a quilt rack not to be used, but as a gentle reminder of my failings and of my lack of humility.

Lessons I took from this experience.
1.  If you take a break for any length of time, get back in slowly so you don't make mistakes.
2.  Measure twice (or even more!), cut once.
3.  If it doubt, check it out.  (EX. Meaning rewash if you don't know if you did or not!)
4.  When getting things second hand, check the size BEFORE you do the project.
5.  Follow the correct seam allowances even if you DON'T have a pattern because you obviously had something in mind when you cut the fabric in the first place.
6.  Do it right the first time, even if it isn't the easiest path.
7.  Ask an expert.  Really, there are processes for a reason.  At least use a book for Pete's sake!
8.  Pride cometh before the fall.



Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

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