Monday, August 29, 2011

Climbing the Walls (Part III, the Conclusion)

...cont'd from Part II.

When I first started stripping, I kept things pretty organized:  first, by size within color...

...then, solely by color.

Once the strips were all cut, I trimmed 36 squares of copy paper to 8.5 x 8.5 inches square, and prepared each for paper piecing the string blocks.  I drew a pencil line across the diagonal of each square, marking additional lines 0.75 inches to either side of the diagonal as shown.


Using just a touch of fabric glue, I temporarily adhered 1.5-inch strips of heavily-faded denim to each of the 36 squares along the diagonal.

Next, I randomly pieced each block using the denim strips cut previously, doing my best to alternate size and maximize contrast between sets of strips as I progressed.  When each paper block had been completely covered with fabric, I turned them face-down, trimmed the excess fabric along the lines of the paper and ripped the paper from the backs to give 36 strip-pieced blocks...

... and a whole mess of these:

I played with the layout for "a while,"  (you know, the way reading War and Peace takes a while?), and eventually landed on this:

Which, according to my husband, gave my father-in-law a serious case of vertigo.  ("If I look at it too long, it's like I'm falling into it").  That's right, Dad.  Try not look directly at the quilt.

After cursing my way through a WHOLE lot of denim meeting up at the corners (can you hear my Kenmore chugging "I THINK I can, I THINK I can?"), I decided I'd had enough, and took an unofficial break from the blue stuff for "a while."

You know, the way black bears pack on 30 pounds of body fat, then nap for a while?

I developed quite a nice little case of ADD during my hibernation.  (Avoiding Denim Disorder).  Pieced a few bee blocks for a friend.  Designed a lap quilt for a swap partner.  Created a messenger bag for the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild's Rip-Rip-Ripping Challenge using bits of transparent shower curtain and a selection of elements from the periodic table.  All the while, the denim quilt lay there, backless, and mocking me.

When I finally managed to focus again, it was time to decide what to do for the backing.  Although Dawn had asked that we skip the batting (the denim itself heavy as it is), she had specifically requested either flannel or fleece for the backing.  She initially considered something whimsical and fun in honor of Jordan, but having already strayed so far from my comfort zone, this was a little more than I could swing:

So, I made the executive (predictably dull) decision to match the fleece on the back with the colors on the front and go with navy blue instead.  I purchased two separate, high-end flannels for the backing, only to wash them both and have them pill like the dickens.  I finally decided to go with fleece instead, which not only provided me with anti-pill options, but also gave me the opportunity to personalize the quilt for her as well.

I purchased anti-pill fleece in both navy and sky from a local fabric store.  I then searched the web for a whimsical font I could steal download for tracing the letters.  I eventually decided on this one from "Art of Graffiti," which I enlarged to 200%:

  I traced the letters of her name onto the dull side of a small sheet of freezer paper.

Using the finished name as a guide, I cut a small swatch of sky blue fleece large enough to span the width and height of the letters and pinned it to the wrong side of the navy blue backing.  I then pressed the freezer paper shiny side down onto right side of the navy blue backing and directly over the spot where the sky blue swatch was located.  

Using a very small stitch length, I trace-stitched along the lines of each of the letters of Dawn's name, essentially sandwiching the navy blue fleece between the freezer paper and the sky blue background swatch.

I carefully removed the freezer paper from the right side of the navy fleece.  In an attempt to give a more finished feel to the wrong side of the backing, I used a soft, flexible interfacing to cover the swatch of sky blue fleece and smoothly pressed it to the wrong side of the navy.

Once all of the paper had been removed and the interfacing pressed to the back, I used sharp embroidery snips to remove the top, navy blue layer of fleece within each letter by trimming along the inner edge of stitches, taking care not to cut through to the sky blue background fabric.  (Because of the small stitch length, and the no-fray properties of fleece, you can trim all the way up to the stitch line without issue.  I have made several personalized blankets like this, and after dozens and dozens of washings, not ONE has come apart along these stitch lines, no matter how closely I trim them).

This left me with Dawn's name in sky blue relief against a navy blue foreground:

At this point, I attempted (poorly, and on several occasions) to stitch the denim top to the backing fabric along the diagonal cross-hatch pattern formed on the front, but quickly decided that this was, in fact, too much for my Kenmore-that-Could (as evidenced by a gritty, grinding sound accompanied by the smell of burning gears).  Instead, I stay-stitched the front to the back in about 15 strategic locations, and bound it all up in navy blue Kona.

This quilt is heavy.  Lay-on-your-chest-during-dental-x-rays heavy.  But, considering it's only meant to protect against sharp little kitten claws (as compared to the 2-3 millirem radiation of, say, your typical bitewing series), I think it should do the trick.

One final note to Miss Dawn, in the event that you happen to read this.  It seemed an appropriate homage to our free-running friend to photograph this quilt in its proper setting before giving it to you last Friday.  Of course, if I happen to get a phone call from the construction crew outside asking me to identify the young man currently hanging from the scaffold, I will deny ever having met him, so I apologize in advance for having planted this idea in the first place.  In the meantime, hope the quilt comes in handy, and serves as a small reminder of my gratitude for your boundless friendship and support these past few years.  If it turns out the quilt isn't quite what you had hoped, I'm happy to replace it with another of your choosing.  I suppose you could up-cycle it yet again by returning it here.  Construction workers love denim, right?



  1. Lynne, you've done it again. I has laughing after reading your opening line and snickered throughout "When I first started stripping,"....HAHAHAHHAHAHA

    Your witty comments are golden. Glad you are done with this quilt.

  2. Wow, wow, wow! What an amazing and creative quilt!

  3. Hysterical! A great quilt with a great story!

  4. Informative, creative, sentimental and hysterically funny... you must blog more often! Love the quilt and I'm definitely trying the personalized name technique.

  5. Hi Lynn - just wanted to stop by and say 'thanks' for the kind words you left on my blog! (I wasn't able to reply because your email is not enabled in your profile.) I really love this quilt - I think I left a comment on Flickr. Gorgeous!

  6. When you glued the strips to the paper, is that all that was holding them together after you ripped the paper off then? Or did you sew each strip together to form the blocks?

  7. Saw your quilt on the modern quilting blog today. I love the contrast in your denim quilt. I did one similarly last summer, but used red corduroy for the center lines. I also used the freezer paper for the blocks so I could iron the denim strips to it and have them stay flat while I sewed on the next strip. My squares were 12" so it went a bit faster! Here's a link to what mine looked like.

    1. Great minds think alike, Emily! :)

      If I had it to do over again, I think I'd do 12-inch blocks, too. As it is, all I had was printer paper, so I went with what I had. The freezer paper touch was genius! That's definitely going in the toolbox for next time.

      Thanks for your message, and hope your machine has recovered nicely! ;)

  8. That's amazing- I can't imagine how you could get it so neat whilst working with such a difficult fabric!!