Monday, June 17, 2013

Fun in the Sun - Galloping Horse Version

I've heard woman at my local quilt guild remind each other that "If you can't see it from six feet away, then it's not a mistake."  Or, the saying that I like even better, "If you can't see it when you're galloping by on a horse, then it's not a mistake."  At our last meeting one member gave a trunk show of her quilts titled, Mistakes Happen.  She commented that her problem is that she makes the horse rider slow down and then points out her mistakes.  Well, that's what I'm doing here.  I'm slowing down the horse and pointing out the errors because after a quilt like this it's just sort of therapeutic.

It feels like I've been working on this quilt for a year.  And I can't begin to tell you all the problems that I had with the construction.    It will leave this afternoon in the mail on it's journey to my niece who hopefully won't see this post before she opens the package.  And who, hopefully, will find the quilt comforting and "homey" in all of it's imperfection.  Because, personally I find that sometimes there is a comfort in less perfect things. (Like when you drive an old car you're less worried about getting that first scratch or when your carpet is starting to get older you relax when the little kids drop their jelly bread with the jelly side down.)

So, let me start with the positive.  I loved making the applique.  It was a lot of fun to fussy cut some of the designs to make "eyes" in the sunglasses and designs on the flip flops.  The quilt is a pattern by Kariepatch Designs that you can find at this link.  There are a few things I would have done differently on the larger applique. On the larger ones I would have cut the center out of the bond material so that the design would have been a bit less stiff and perhaps easier to quilt.  Let me show you a few close ups before I need to tell "the rest of the story."

Then came the backing.  My first thought was to use a wide fabric so I wouldn't have to deal with seams and since my "Plan A" was to free motion around the applique and straight line the frames I was going to get a small print to help camouflage any problems.  That would have all been good if, first of all, I wasn't seduced into buying this solid in a great sea foam color and secondly if I hadn't gotten the great idea to use a row of scrap strips across the back.  Because what good is a nice wide back if you seam it anyway?!?!?
The free motion part went south quickly.  I had lots of problems, most of which were related to thread breakage and getting the top fabric to lie flat around the applique.  Some of this (I think) was because of the thickness of the applique.  It's also related to my ridiculous thinking that I can dive into a project like a fully appliqued quilt just because I know how to sew.  Anyway, I proceeded to "Plan B" which was to do the straight line quilting down the frames first.  Here's where the backing decided to take on a life of it's own.  Honestly, it was like that backing grew every time I worked on it.  Even though I had everything pin basted and sandwiched using techniques I've used successfully for every other quilt, the back was a MESS.  The fabric pulled this way and that and wanted to pucker and fold over on itself.  I quilted and then I got the seam ripper and "un-quilted".  I pinned, I basted, I straighted and smoothed and used every trick I knew.  I lengthened my stitches, I lessened my presser foot pressure but still this quilt took a fair amount of my blood (literally - needle sticks), sweat (literally) and tears (yes, literally).  It was truly a humbling experience.  I even managed to accidentally cut a small hole in the backing while trimming threads!  And after working on this for weeks I realized that I totally missed stitching around one lens on one pair of sunglasses!  It was too late to go back and machine applique the piece so I tried to match it as best I could with a hand stitch.  I don't think it stands out, but if you happen to see it you can tell that it was done with a different technique than the other applique.

Finally during one of my frustrating sessions, my dear husband came in and spoke words of wisdom to me.  He said, "You know, the theme of this quilt has such a casual air about it that you can get away with a bit of wonky-ness here (I'm paraphrasing a bit) that you wouldn't be able to get away with on one of your more traditional quilts.  Maybe you should just go with it."  So with that, I began to look at things a bit differently.  I certainly didn't want any big folds in the fabric or giant puckers but I began to accept smaller gathers and some pulling up or down along the quilt.  Finally the quilting part got done.

Then, I went to bind it....never my favorite part of a quilt.  By this time I was a bit tired of this project and decided to use some store bought bias tape in white....but......the white was too see through and looked awful.  So, I un-sewed (which was more difficult that regular "un-sewing" because I used a nice serpentine stitch which, it turns out, is a real bear to un-stitch!) and made some regular binding, fought a bit with it and after two ugly corners and two decent corners it was bound.

And so, with the finishing touch of a label to hide the hole that I cut in the backing and a letter of "apology" for the's finished.  I still find the whole piece cute, bright and happy even if it isn't perfect.  Thanks for galloping by. 


  1. Well, what a tale! And what a lot you've learnt along the way. I love the look of the quilt, especially the fabrics you've chosen, lovely colours. And once it's been washed a few times most of your puckers will disappear into the general 'crinklyness' of the whole quilt. I tend to avoid straight line quilting for that very reason, it's seems to pucker more than FMQing. But i know what you mean about quilting quilts with lots of applique on, the applique tends to puff out. For that reason I think hand quilting that sort of quilt works best. But I'm sure your niece will love it and barely notice the imperfections.

  2. Oh, Nina, what a challenge this quilt was -- and yet as I gallop by it looks fabulous. And honestly, even when slow down and look at close-ups, I think it looks great. (I've never machine quilted. It just seems so challenging.) I think the quilt looks inviting and comfortable and I really liked the backing color that seduced you.