Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Quilter's High

The one (and only) consistent theme to my 'crafting' is that I always start projects with a particular person in mind.  My finished projects almost always get completed solely because I am making it for someone in particular, and my big fat mouth already told a bunch of people I was making it.  It's too late to back out by then!

I had been wanting to take up quilting, and re-teach myself how to sew for a while.  I even had a coworker lug my sewing machine back from Ontario with her on a road trip she took in the fall.  But, just like it had at home, it sat in a closet collecting dust for months.  Until we found out a friend and his girlfriend were expecting a baby this summer!  I love homemade gifts, and always love being able to give them. So I figured it was the perfect opportunity to finally get into quilting.  Baby quilts are small, which would be a good beginner project, and at the time, I had months to figure it out and make it happen.  Plus I had pinterest to help me find patterns and instructions.

The pattern I ended up picking was this one to the left.   You'll notice it's much prettier than my quilt.  You'll also notice that my quilt doesn't even follow that pattern really other than the chevron.  I ended up accidentally following my sister's advice on this project: cut once, measure once, redesign.  I had a couple of "oh shoot" moments (that sounded much more colourful in real life) that resulted in redesigns but I was able to troubleshoot enough to figure it out eventually, which is more than I can say for a few of my unfinished knitting projects!  The pattern calls for the fabric to be in 'fat quarters', so thats what I looked for when ordering fabric.  Confession: I had to google a fat quarter - I had never even heard the term.

About half of the fabric I bought
My second favorite part of the whole project was shopping for fabric!  It probably took me a week to pick fabric and order it.  There are soo many online fabric stores.  One of the challenges living in NWT is that almost everything you buy needs to be purchased online, and shipping can definitely set you back some moolah. I ended up stumbling on a family run, Canadian site that has a wide variety of organic fabrics too.  Needless to say, it was impossible to choose just one quilt worth of fabric! The colours! The patterns! And free shipping on orders over 100$!  It's called Fabric Spot.  I highly recommend it and will definitely be ordering from them again!

Once the fabric arrived, I was pretty eager to get sewing.  I had some scraps of old fabric in my sewing kit that I practiced on to make sure I remembered what I was doing before ruining any of my pretty new fabric.  Once the fabric came, it was just as hard to pick the fat quarters I would use as it was to pick out the ones I bought.  Meanwhile, they found out they were having a little boy so that narrowed down my choices.  I also had to purchase a rotary cuter, a ruler and a cutting mat.  Confession: I should have done my research!  I bought cheap stuff at Walmart during a trip to YK and am already planning on buying a new, bigger and better mat and ruler for my next project.  The joys of learning as you go!

Final Fabric Choices...Ready to Cut!

You'd think something as simple as cutting fabric would be a no-brainer, but I quickly learned that it's a) very time consuming, b) important to get all your pieces square and c) hard to get pieces square!  I also learned that I need an ironing board.  I ironed on the kitchen table and have a whole new appreciation for good quality irons and ironing boards-my iron is a cheap Walmart purchase. Confession: I've only ever used the iron for quilting, and in the 19 months since I've lived here have not ironed a single piece of clothing. I also have a whole new appreciation for rooms devoted to nothing but sewing that some hard core people have in their homes. It would be soo much easier not to have to set up and pack up every time you wanted to work on your project!

It took me one full weekend to cut the fabric and sew the blocks together to create the quilt top.  Once it was all sewed together, it was very obvious my sewing skills were in as rough shape as my fabric cutting skills.  It was definitely not perfectly rectangular, and my chevron (chevrons?) zig zags didn't always end up perfectly matched up. Oops.   Then I packed all my sewing stuff and quilting stuff away for a few months until I had the chance to buy backing fabric and batting. Oh and learn how to quilt / bind the thing.

The actual quilting and binding was the part that made me most nervous.  When sewing the blocks together, it was easy to seam rip and fix things.  A mistake made at the quilting / binding stage meant either ruining to whole thing or a long slow process to fix it - in my mind anyways. I ended up hard core googling quilting and binding instructions, and man am I glad I did!  I found this awesome website that had a "Quilting 101" tutorial series that I pretty much used as my bible from this point on.  I just wish I had found it sooner!  For anyone interested in learning to quilt...check it out...seriously!

It took one more full day to quilt and bind.  I probably could have finished sooner if I hadn't had a trusty side-kick who was enjoying the quilt before it was finished.  I was originally planning on using the backing as the binding, which was a suggestion made by the lady at the quilting store in Yellowknife where I bought the backing. (If you're in Yellowknife, and a quilter, check out The Quilter's Getaway.  The lady there was super nice and very helpful!) But of course I wasn't thinking when I pinned and quilted it all together before I realized that I pinned the quilt top and batting on crooked and didn't have enough backing fabric on one side to bind with it.  *face palm*  I ended up using fabric from the stash I bought to bind it, but I needed more than 1 fat quarter of fabric to bind the whole thing and didn't have more than 1 fat quarter the same colour.  I ended up using alternating green and blue to bind it and I think it actually looks kind of cute.  I ended up messing up the corners of the binding and having to go back with a needle and thread and patch them up by hand.  I wasn't about to rip it all out and start over.

My absolute favorite part of the quilting process was being finished!  I LOVE that I now have a fully finished, functional and cute quilt as an end product of all the work.  It's nice to hold a finished product in your hands and have something to show off to everyone you know.  I want to add a little personal touch just for baby when he arrives in August (once he has a name etc), but for now it's finished.  I'm already looking at patterns for the next project I want to tackle!  I just need to find the time!  I'm thinking quilting might be a tough hobby to take on in addition to working full time and going to grad school full time.  We shall see though!

For any of you runners out there, imagine a 'runner's high' times a million, because 'quilter's high' comes right back to you every time you look at your finished quilt.  I think I'm officially a total dork!

Finished Quilt!

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