Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hammertime (aka The Quilt Formerly Known as 'Sheen')

In January of this year, our St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild kicked off its Robert Kaufman Solids Only Challenge.  Using a Kona Charm Pack in the Classics palette and only one or two additional solid fabrics, we were to design and complete a quilt with an outer perimeter between 120 and 180 inches to present in time for our June 11th meeting.  Having only joined the guild this past April, I got off to a late start, and (will gladly use that as the reason I ) was still hand-sewing my binding on at 5:15 Saturday morning.  Needless to say, one accidental nap later, and I was sprinting out the door, thirty-minutes late.  A rather inauspicious start for the girl who gets turned around the minute she crosses the Mississippi River on her way to our meetings each month to begin with.

Stupid TomTom...

At any rate, the ladies definitely came through, with 44 of our members presenting their quilts to a captive audience.  A few of the photos are up on our STLMQG Flickr page, and I hope we see many more to come.

The inspiration for this quilt was originally the sheen that you see on the back of a compact disk. Each 2.5-inch block was my less-precise version of the Endless Chain pattern available on the Quilter's Cache website, but down-sized to fit our challenge requirements.  Of course, down-sizing meant that the "spoke" corner of each block had nine layers of fabric stacked up at one point.  Once you join FOUR of those points together, that's 9...  18...  27...  A veritable BUTTload of fabric coming together at one seam.  
Photo courtesy of http://www.123rf.com/.

Thankfully for me, May brought a welcome 12-hour quilting retreat sponsored by my local quilt shop, the Quilted Garden, at St. John's United Methodist Church in Edwardsville.  As I fussed and repositioned my 144 tiny squares on the design wall, each of the lovely, God-fearing ladies around me would stop by my table, encourage my efforts, and wish me the best.  Which was all fine and good until I started sewing those mega seams together, and the under-my-breath bleeps started flying.  I was literally standing on my tip-toes, leaning with all of my might on the center of each block, willing the iron (which was steaming up a three-foot radius around me at this point) to smoosh those corners into place when a soft-spoken woman with fluffy white hair tapped me lightly on the shoulder and said, "Here, Honey.  Try this."    

Apparently, when God closes a door, he opens a tool box.

Between this divine intervention, and the spiraling, meteoric downfall of this guy, it was decided a name change was in order.  So, at last, I present to you, Sheen "Hammertime."

More information on the process behind making this quilt can be found on the WIPs tab of this blog.

Thanks for visiting!

WIP: Robert Kaufman Solids Only Challenge - "Sheen"

Photo courtesy of www.123rf.com
The idea for this quilt started with the sheen you see on the backside of a compact disk, and the Endless Chain block I spotted on the Quilter's Cache website.  The charm pack seemed to heavily favor the blue-teal-aqua-turquoise family to me, so the picture above seemed a good initial fit.

The original design called for a 6-inch, paper-pieced block, which I tinkered with until I'd worked out a 2.5-inch prototype using a few Moda prints and some old muslin (read:  thin fabric) I had laying around.  The prototype below shows four of the 2.5-inch blocks joined together, and my overall "plan" for the quilt as mapped out in PowerPoint (poor man's version of EQ).

The Challenge Rules stated that we had to use at least 21 of the 41 blocks provided in the charm pack.  From each of the 39 charm squares I chose to include in the quilt top, I cut seven 1x3-inch strips, which comes to 21 out of 25 square inches possible per charm, or 84% of 39 blocks for a total of 32.76 blocks used.  (Yes, I know...  Geeks 'R Us).

At this point, it was time to start cutting paper:  One hundred and forty-four (144) 2.5-inch squares, to be exact.  I used regular copy paper (spoiler:  BAD idea), and kept them organized in groups of twelve, because...  Frankly...  It just felt less oppressive that way.

Next came the 2.5-inch fabric squares.  Again, 144.  Each of the fabric squares was then individually cut into a kite shape, and temporarily attached to a paper square using fabric glue.

Once all of the kites had been adhered to the squares, I began sewing the colored strips onto the right-hand side of each kite (288 total:  273 from the charm pack, plus another 15 grey I added as one of my two additional colors) .  I had divided the colored strips into two piles, darks and brights.  I sewed and pressed the darks to the right, then sewed and pressed the brights to the left in an attempt to create the illusion of a less-disordered pattern overall.

Once the colored strips had been added, I sewed and pressed fabric strips (1.5x2.5-inches each, 288 total) to the outside edges of each of the colored strips to make these:

I turned each block face-down on the cutting mat and trimmed it to 2.5-inches square, to make this nifty stash of blocks...

From which I STILL needed to remove the paper.

And, there was evening...

And there was morning...

The seventh day.

After a few days' rest, I took my pile of happy little squares (aren't they pretty?) to a 12-hour quilt retreat sponsored by my local quilt shop where I sewed, steamed, and literally hammered my blocks into shape.

At this point, I was wanting to sandwich it, quilt it and bind it in a happy little rainbow print, but my outer dimensions were too small (24x24...  Fourteen years of college, right down the drain...), so I opted to put it on a stark field of white instead.

I had hoped to center a CD on each block and trace around it for quilting purposes, but at this point, the deadline loomed less than 12 hours away, so I opted to skip my first attempts at quilting circles and went with a straight-line diagonal pattern instead, with a few double-lines thrown in for good "homage-to-Film-in-the-Fridge" measure.  I marked my quilting lines with "disappearing" ink and a four-foot aluminum straight-edge my father-in-law bought me for Christmas (because I was always borrowing his).

I put the last (poorly-executed) hand stitch into the back of the binding at 5:15 AM, and promptly fell asleep.  Got up at 7:00, took a quick shower, and headed over the river (late) to the STLMQG's big reveal.  I was originally pretty upset with the quilt.  The center was a crumpled mess from all of the lumpy seams jutting out everywhere, and the stark contrast of the smooth, unwashed, all-white border only served to emphasize this (along with the scatter of pockmarks remaining from the barrage of safety pins left in the fabric up until just a few hours before).  But, once I got it home and washed it, it wasn't so bad.

All in all, it was a fun challenge.  I still need to break my procrastination curse.  And learn how to turn a proper binding.  (Seriously...  Will SOMEONE show me this stitch in person?!?)  And, the next time I make one of these (and, yes, there WILL be a next time), I'll scale the block back up, extend the pattern all the way to the edge of the quilt, and definitely bring "the hammer."  But, for now at least, I can say for certain, that it's definitely going to be a while.