Fabric Art: North Woods Quilt Quest

There is an artistic side of me seeking to be remembered by the other side of me.  You know, the busy side.  Beyond the many responsibilites I have, I want to carve some time out of my day to be creative.  And so that is just what I’m doing.

I took advantage of some free time over the holiday break, and I’ve begun my lastest fabric art project.  Ever since I finished the Explorer’s Colorful Cars  quilt in November, I’ve been planning in my mind.  This will be the first of several posts regarding the North Woods quilt I’m making for the Architect, 8.  You’re welcome to follow along with me during my journey to develop this quilt [and remember my artful side] through both its trials, and hopefully, eventual success.

Design Decisions:

My son loves all things outdoors like trees, moose, bears and cabins.  I was inspired by several North Woods quilt patterns I’d seen over the years, and I’ll put them all together into a design for this twin-sized quilt.

About 8 years ago I designed this baby quilt for him, also North Woods themed.

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North Woods Baby Quilt, 2005

I prefer hand-quilted quilts, and some of my favorite quilts are those made by the Amish.   I enjoy browsing at Amish Country Lanes, and I am a big fan of their applique quilts.  The care taken in every stitch by these ladies really shows.  (I admit that the quilts I make are not quite as carefully quilted. ;))

Similar to the Amish, I also construct my larger quilts with a pillow fold, where you fold back the head of the quilt to tuck the pillow in.  Though this may add an extra 11 to 16 inches to the quilt top, I don’t mind.  Then I don’t have to make accompanying shams.

Fabric Finding:

My son and I recently made a trip to the local quilt store.  I’m fortunate to live about two miles from the coolest quilt store in the state!  Really.  The selection in this store is amazing.  We wandered around a bit, but were soon drawn to the fall colored woodsy-themed patterns.  The owner came over and helped us with choosing between a few different reds, and I was impressed with her knowledge.  For example, she advised against a lined fabric, because she said it’d be more difficult to line up the lines when piecing.  She also special ordered for us some soft fabric backing to make the quilt especially warm.  The colors of this quilt will be mostly greens, browns, and a little orange and red.

Preparing the Fabric:

I always wash my fabric before using to shrink it right away and test for color bleeding.  I just throw it in with some gentle deteregent and take it out when it’s a little damp to iron it to prepare for cutting.

Cutting With Care:

This quilt will be a combination of both machine piecing and hand applique.  Machine piecing is relatively simple, IF you are careful with cutting and 1/4″ sewing.  I fold the fabric, line up the ends, fold once more, and then I cut.  A wise person once said to measure twice, cut once.  Speaking from personal experience, I’ll tell you that that’s great advice.

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Strip cutting

Here are some of the items that I’ve found useful for cutting, especially the pizza cutter looking thing (a rotary cutter).

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Border fabric

I cut for a for about an hour or so, of course with a little music playing in the background.

There.  That’s more like it.  All done with my cutting.

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Fabric to be used box

 This is a good place to pause for now.

The next step is to start constructing the lower section.  I start at the bottom of the quilt to allow time to refamiliarize myself (make mistakes in a less noticable place) with what’s next: hand applique.  It’s the hard part.  Hand appliquing trees with inner and outer curves can be tricky, and you can bet that I’ll have to remove my threads and start again at least once. 😉

Please send your prayers or positive thoughts my way for this next step.  Thanks!

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Wrapped Up in Art

I still have the quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was a child.  Though no longer in the best condition, it has a special significance and is still warm.

Over two years ago, I started a quilt for my now five year old.  But after realizing how much of my time it took, I decided that I’d finish it the next summer when I’d have more time.  Of course, when next summer came, it did not get done.

I had pretty much given up on finishing it until about a month ago.  My older three children already have a hand-made quilt from me, but my youngest son does not.  I knew I had to do something.

I mostly learned how to quilt by reading quilt books, experimenting, and especially by making and fixing lots of mistakes.  For example, I really wanted to make an eight-pointed star quilt several years ago.  I’d cut on the bias and pieced everything just as I had read in a quilt book.  But when I’d finished the final stitch, my star did not lay flat.  I felt frustrated.  Rather than give up, I got out some scrap fabric and started over – that day.  I was determined that if the lady smiling back at me on my quilt book could make this, then so could I.  But this time I was more careful and aware of the seam allowances.  And after the final stitch, it laid flat.  This was a lesson for me.

In light of my busier schedule with homeschooling, for my youngest son’s quilt I chose a simple pattern – squares and rectangles – with the theme of cars since he loves cars.

Though I pieced the quilt fairly quickly with a sewing machine, I decided that I didn’t want to machine quilt it.  (In the past, I’ve found that the machine jerks the quilt too much when quilting the final patterns.  It’s also difficult to stay on the lines.)  Instead, I prefer hand quilting because it gives me more control over the stitches and more accurate stitch results.  But the problem with hand quilting is that it takes a lot of time.

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Putting on the binding…close to being done.

So I have been waking up at 6 a.m. most mornings for the last 30 days hand quilting for an hour before everyone else gets out of bed.  (Yes, I’ve easily spent over 30 hours hand-quilting this.) At first, I wasn’t enjoying it.  I admit it.  It felt like another of my long list of things to do.  I even put myself in a routine just to get through it and get everything done.  But towards the end, something changed.  The peacefulness I felt in just having a little time to myself to think while I hand quilted made a difference in my day.  Now that I’m done, I’m even considering making another quilt.

The lesson for me in finishing this quilt was that when I put my mind to it, I finally started to get somewhere.  Making a quilt is a big project requiring a plan, time, and effort.  But the thought of having created a piece of art that my son will be able to wrap himself in for years to come makes me happy.  And now he will have his own quilt like everyone else.

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The Explorer’s birthday is this week, and guess what he is getting as one of his gifts?