Friday, April 15, 2016

Big Quilt Photo Finish

Yippee! I finally got an outdoor picture of the Big Quilt. Last week Friday everything came together for just a little while--bright overcast sky, reasonably calm breeze, and my neighbor being home so I could borrow her and her high deck to help display the quilt. She and my husband held the quilt and I shot as fast as I could as they began to groan about holding their arms up. That quilt is heavy!! Within two hours, the snowflakes began to fly and we had several snow storms over the next few days. But here's what I got in my small window of opportunity: 

I don't think my neighbor will mind that she's peeking over the quilt. She had to stand on a bench to be able to reach high enough. It's kind of like the next door neighbor on the old TV show "Home Improvement." It was a running joke that he was always partially hidden behind something--usually his fence. But I digress. Here are some close-ups: 

(The quilt is square, but even the slightest breeze made it blow.)
 Shortly after the photo session, this was happening:

After I took the pictures, I took the quilt to a laundromat to wash and dry it before an indoor photo session. The weather has cleared up considerably. In fact, we are looking at temperatures of at least 70 this weekend. But the grass is soggy and anything I might drape the quilt on outside is grimy. Plus, it's just too heavy to lug around and drape gracefully. So indoors it is--on our guest bed, which I had to put up on risers to make it high enough (more about that later). 

Lots more photos, and then I'll give the quilt details and share some thoughts.

Note wrinkles in foreground--more about that later.

I fell in love with the backing material when I was using it for a quilt for someone else. I found out it was available locally--I needed a lot! I even matched the pattern when I pieced it.

More close-ups:

And my initials and date to prove that I really did finish it this year:

Here are the details: 
  Quilt planning started: early 2015
  Construction started: April 2015
  Quilting started: August 2015
  Last stitch in binding: April 5, 2016

Kona Solids in Black, Bordeaux, Cayenne, Celestial (including binding), Coral, Curry, Deep Rose, Dusty Peach, Eggshell, Espresso, Latte, Light Parfait, Paprika, Salmon, Silver, Snow, and Tan. 
Moda Bella Solids in Amelia, Fog and Orange.
Solid fabric carried by Joann (Country Classics?) in Honeydew
Backing: Retro Morocco Bud Vines Wild & Free Studios by Elizabeth Olwen 

Batting: Warm and Natural

Quilting thread: Superior King Tut Cotton in Canaan on light fabrics and Pumice on dark ones. (There's a little Masterpiece in Granite on the back, but my machine preferred the King Tut in the bobbin, so I used Canaan in the bobbin for most of the quilt.

Quilting motifs: Walking foot straight lines and wavy lines
    FMQ foot meanders and free form flowers (inspired by Lori at the Inbox Jaunt)

Pieced with a freezer paper technique in 9 40-inch square blocks on a Singer Featherweight. Quilted on a Singer 115 treadle.

Design is original, but the center block is based on a photo of the Right Angles pillow on I used Palette Builder by Play Crafts to figure out the fabric colors.

Binding from 2 3/8 inch strips, sewn on front and hand stitched to back. 

Dimensions: 120 by 120 inches before quilting; 117 by 117 after quilting and 115 3/4 by 115 3/4 after washing. And drying. And rinsing. And drying. 

Here are some thoughts: 

--I like the quilt much better hanging vertically than on the bed. Maybe that's because it's really a one-block design--kind of an art quilt. It's really imposing on the bed and the starburst-like design gets lost. Having said that, as I get used to it on the bed, I like it better and better. And it can't hang on the wall--it's too tall.

--I planned this quilt to shrink. I was hoping for about 7% shrinkage on a side ( to 112 inches) and I only got about 4%. That doesn't seem like much difference, but due to some miscommunication about the size of the mattress and boxspring, I overestimated the original dimensions of the bed. There's a simple solution: My son and daughter-in-law could go out and buy a king size bed. It would be perfect!! But expensive. They are planning to build a wood frame, so that should take care of the excess quiltiness. I hope. Putting our guest bed on risers helped for the photo shoot. But really, why didn't that quilt shrink? I washed it on cold and dried it on low to medium to high as I got braver and braver at the laundromat. It seemed like it had shrunk until I got it home. Not enough.I jammed it into my home machine and rinsed it on warm and jammed it into my dryer and dried on high. But I overdid it with the drying and set in some wrinkles in my smaller home machine. I'm sure they'll hang out over time. No further shrinkage though. My theory is that the close quilting and the whole bias thing going on with the quilt had something to do with it. 

--In my excitement to get the binding on, I forgot my practice of trimming the batting and backing 1/8 inch wider than the top, so my finished binding is 1/4 inch on the front and 1/2 inch on the back. Looks fine, though, especially with the match between the binding and the blue in the backing. 

--The more I quilt, the more I think I prefer quilting with a neutral (off white) thread or a dark gray solid thread. I stumbled a bit with my choices of variegated grays. They look fine, but weren't quite what I pictured as I planned the quilting  

--I found that freezer paper piecing eliminated any problems with working with a quilt that is entirely on the bias. And using a method of folding the paper while sewing made taking it off a snap. 

--I now know that I can quilt any size quilt on a domestic (treadle) machine. (Not that I'll be doing one this big again!) As long as I support every square inch on tables and bunch it loosely, it is easy to manage. 

--I'm also really comfortable now quilting with both my FMQ foot and my walking foot. I was really slow at first, but I picked up speed, especially in the last few weeks when I worked every day. I also learned that I was much faster if I waited until the end of the day to bury knots/thread ends. That was a good little activity while I watched TV. I might not always tie/bury knots, but for this quilt it worked better.

--Doing FMQ without worrying about symmetry or perfect lines is the best! I can see why graffiti quilting or flow quilting or whatever word you have for it is catching on. It makes the meditative aspect of quilting that much more satisfying.

--I Love, Love, Love working with modern solids. No color bleeding at all, even with the really strong colors. And now I have a batch of fabrics to start my super-sized swatch collection. Yippee!

Finally, I'm really glad I'm finished!!! If you are at all interested in my journey, there are at least 25 posts (including this one) referencing this quilt--and a few more not labeled from my beginning planning. Yipes! You can click on the label at the bottom of this post or on the sidebar (a new feature I'm working on; hoping to reduce and organize all the labels soon and make some tabs for the top of the page. I'm really slow at blog development).

Have a great weekend, everyone. (I'll be hugging my grands and handing this quilt over to my son and daughter-in-law, who certainly won't have to fight over who has the bed covers.)

I'm linking up today with Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop, Needle and Foot (subbing for Lizzie Lenard) for Free Motion Mavericks and Faith and Fabric for TGIFF. 



Jayne said...

Well, I'm totally in love with this. Seriously...this is just gorgeous. The colors, the design and oh my...that quilting! I cannot believe you achieved all that on your machine. It's just amazing!

Bernie Kringel said...

I knew it! I knew this would be outstanding. I love it!! Every bit of it. It has been really inspiring to follow this project with you. I bet you are thrilled to be done as this took such a long time. On the bed or off, it is just gorgeous.
Your quilting is amazing Janine. This line, "As long as I support every square inch on tables and bunch it loosely, it is easy to manage. " made me smile. A quilt that large cannot be considered 'easy to manage'. Not by me at any rate. Thanks for linking up today and, as always, thank you for sharing your work. It is such an inspiration to me.

Mari said...

Wow, what a beauty! It really is The Big Quilt! I love the quilting, but I also love the design. if you scaled it down it would make a really nice wall hanging. You know, in case you need a new peoject now that you're done with this one.

Alison V. said...

This is so striking! :)

Dresses and Spurs said...

Oh my goodness this is amazing!!! Great job! I sure hope to make a king quilt for my bed, 2 actually is what I have in mind and the fabric bought for. I will totally send it out for quilting though because I couldn't imagine it any other way. You did a great job and it look beautiful.

Sandra Walker said...

This is so so fabulous Janine! I'm so glad I checked in on you today. I remember last weekend's weather! Not great for my first weekend back home and sick. So glad you got the outdoor shots in; you are making me want to do an entirely solids quilt myself. The trimming that you do before turning the binding to the back intrigues me; I'm not sure how that leaves 3/8 on each side. Maybe because it reduces the bulk ever so slightly? There is such fabulous texture here and so much insight; I agree with Bernie. Having wrestled a large queen through my Bernina and attempting to do another larger queen this past winter, it is definitely NOT easy! Good to know that those solids are so colourfast too. Enjoy the sunshine, the warmth, grands and your own kids this weekend my friend.

Marla aka YaYa said...

Congratulations on your wonderful finish! And thanks for your post of what you learned. Inspiring.

Unknown said...

Beautiful!!! Nice finish!!

Nancy A. Bekofske said...

Congratulations! An amazing project.

Lara B. said...

Janine it's a fantastic, incredibly impressive finish! I've loved this quilt ever since you first started posting about it. Your son and daughter-in-law will be so thrilled. It is an art piece and if I had a wall big enough I would want to show it off that way.
You must have really toned your arms and added inches to your biceps, hauling that quilt through the free motion quilting.
So nice of Mrs. Wilson to help hold the quilt up for photos! LOL

Robby said...

Just stunning. There is nothing else to say except perhaps... perseverance!

Lynn said...

That is an amazing and beautiful quilt. The colours are gorgeous and your quilting just wonderful. I am in awe of you doing such a size on your machine. I only have a domestic machine (Brother) but am still daunted doing anything much larger than a single bed. Thanks for sharing the story and the great photos.

Kaja said...

Wow! I have loved watching this quilt grow and the end result is no disappointment: it is fantastic.

KaHolly said...

Absolutely amazing finish! I still can't believe you quilted that whole thing on a treadle! Way to go!

Gretchen said...


Preeti said...

I am speechless and that does not happen often :-) Your quilt is magnificent. I love it. It is big, alright but not just in size. It is big because it creates a huge impression. It is spectacular from a distance but then when you get closer it feels warm and snuggly and inviting. It is like being in the presence of a rock star - awestruck. But when you come close, he is kind, warm and friendly too. Best of both worlds - a modern sensation!!!

Jasmine said...

Congratulations on finishing such a big beautiful quilt! This is so impressive. It is totally possible to quilt big quilts on smaller machines when you aren't fighting gravity.

Val's Creative Life said...

Had so much following your progress on this one Janine I couldn't resist rejuvenating it as our highlighted quilt for our KING size Tuesday Archives theme this week! SMILES!!!

Marly said...

Absolutely beautiful! Spectacular and dynamic and amazingly LARGE!

Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty said...

Love this list of final thoughts -- we can take your experience and insight and apply them to our own projects!