Sunday, October 27, 2013


I'm on a downward spiral into the dark abyss of craft addiction. Soon I'm going to wake up, gasping for air amongst a pile of mod-podged bird houses and baby flower headbands with an overdrawn bank account and no memory of the preceding week.

It all started by sewing practical household stuff like pillows and curtains. Then I launched into making my own clothes (as you know), which has been fulfilling and challenging, so I was content with investing my time in that alone for a couple years. But then I got it in my brain recently that I should try making a quilt, just because. Then I decided I wanted to knit more stuff, too, so I signed up for knitting classes and am currently knitting my first hat with grand visions of cabled sweaters in my future. What I'm saying is that I WANT ALL THE HOBBIES. 

So here I present the quilty step of my creation obsession. I partially blame fellow blogger Ashley, who made some cool and simple chevron quilts recently (here and here) and sent me a link to Crafty Blossom's blog. Then Tasia of Sewaholic fame wrote an epic post about her first quilt, and she made it seem doable and fun. Then I started getting Pinteresty with quilt inspiration. Once that happens, you really can't stop me. I purchased a quilt pattern that night and planned my trip to JoAnn for the next day.

I wanted a simple quilt with geometric shapes and solid colors, so I was immediately drawn to the Concerto pattern by Aria Lane, pictured above on the left. The asymmetry is modern and interesting and you can combine bright or neutral colors. For the fabric I went with the recommended Kona cotton solids by Robert Kaufman. I didn't want to risk buying cheaper fabric in case it were terribly off-grain or too loosely-woven to make a nice quilt. It felt strange to be on the other side of the fabric store than usual. The double knits and flannel shirtings were whispering harsh words about me behind my back. It took all the self control I had to resist shutting them up by buying them all.

The pattern suggested a couple different color schemes, and this one happened to match our living room decor (and my blog) pretty well so it seemed meant to be. In the Kona colors, I chose White, Navy, Curry and Ash to make the throw-size version (64" x 78"). The pattern gives you instructions for making a wall, crib, throw, twin, queen or king size quilt. I'm having heart palpitations just thinking of the time, space and insanity needed to make a king size quilt.

Making a quilt -- or this type of quilt -- didn't require learning a whole host of new construction techniques for me as an apparel sewer. Since I already own a rotary cutter and walking foot, the only new "tools" I invested in were some rulers to help the cutting process: a 6" x 6" clear one and a long 2.5"-wide one for the binding. This pattern is just a bunch of squares and half-squares (i.e. isosceles triangles) and I chose to do straight line quilting, so I didn't encounter anything technically difficult. I still was expecting the pattern to include some tips about quilting techniques in general, but it didn't really. It tells you what to cut and when to do things, but it doesn't specifically tell you how. I consulted blogs for more info about how to baste and bind a quilt.

What was newest for me was how every step of the creation process takes SO.LONG. When you cut, you cut forever. When you stitch the squares and then stitch the rows, you stitch forever. When you sew the binding to the edges, you press and turn and stitch forever. With apparel sewing, the longest you're at your machine for one sit-down is, what, 10 minutes?, before you need to press something or pin another seam or unpick your horrible buttonholes. With quilting, you can be at your machine for one sit-down for DECADES. And your back muscles groan at the struggle, and your bones begin to creak and your hunchback sprouts. It doesn't help that I decided to baste, quilt and bind the whole thing in one Saturday. On Sunday I learned that it's possible to wake up sore from sewing.

I also had to adjust to the awkwardness of shoving a huge beast of triple-layered fabric through my sewing machine. When you're in the middle of sewing a rectangle that is taller than you are, and have no edges to hold onto, sewing even stitches becomes difficult. I started out using my edge-stitching foot, but my stitches were so uneven and strained due to my inability to hold and guide the fabric properly, and my machine's feed dogs struggled to pick up the slack. I switched to my walking foot and found a way to roll the sides of the quilt into burritos so I could grip them to steer (like you see in Step 5 here, but without the clips). This helped with the quilting, and then from there I just had to emotionally adjust to the boredom of sewing rows of stitches for what felt like the rest of my life. I can't imagine if I actually followed the pattern's suggestion for quilting with a "very dense organic crosshatch." While it looks pretty cool, I'm not sure I nor my machine could handle it. I also did not want to have to burn through 5 spools of thread and 18 bobbins or whatever in order to make it work. Yea, making a quilt takes a LOT of thread.

I unfortunately don't have a bottomless wallet, so I cheated for the quilt backing. I bought a $4.99 twin-size gray sheet from a big box store, which is ironic considering I wanted a higher quality Kona cotton quilt top. Eep. The binding, too, is dark navy twill leftover from some unblogged Jedediah shorts I made Corey this summer. It doesn't perfectly match the navy squares in the quilt itself, but I was really avoiding having to buy any more yardage.

Despite my complaining, finishing my first quilt feels like a grand victory. I've already forgotten the tedium of it and want to start a new one all over again. This one has been well-loved and heavily used in the past week, so I'm glad I made it. It's the perfect size for one or two to snuggle. And I know I look sickeningly smug when I plop on the couch wearing a handmade outfit, wrapped in a handmade quilt, knitting a handmade hat. CRAFTY HIGHS. 

Do you ever cross over between sewing apparel and quilts? What do you like about one versus the other? And how many hobbies are too many?!