Seventy-Odd Steps to a Totally Awesome Quilt
Sometimes quilts don’t proceed exactly the way you’ve planned, right? Whether it’s because life intervenes or because things just, ahem, go less than smoothly, the process sometimes has twists and turns. I had that experience with my first “proper” quilt, the Post-and-Rail Fence Quilt, and I learned a few things. So, here now, dear readers, are my patented, guaranteed-success steps for making an awesome quilt in seventy or so simple steps:
( 1 ) While working your way through junior college by clerking at a local fabric shop, make 42 misguided and misshapen rail fence blocks from mystery fabrics, including some leftover scraps from when you made your dearly beloved official Gunne Sax skirt with an official Gunne Sax pattern.
( 2 ) When in college, realize you have no time for quilting and give away all 42 blocks plus all quilting materials and supplies to friend of mother.
( 3 ) Seventeen years later, decide to take up quilting again and purchase 58 plaid shirts at local thrift shop. Store in basement.
( 4 ) A year after that, really decide to take up quilting again and track down lady with rail fence blocks. Get them back. Store in basement.
( 5 ) A year after that, really really decide to take up quilting again. Start putting the blocks together.
( 6 ) A few days later, realizing that something needs to cut the '80's calicoes, start cutting up thrifted shirts in a blind frenzy. Add to blocks.
( 7 ) Lacking any design space, thumbtack random flannel to front of bookcase, rendering all books unuseable for the next three months.
( 8 ) Go fabric shopping in the dead of winter. Fall in love with a Kaffe Fasset and decide that must be the backing for the quilt. Buy exactly 18" too little fabric.
( 9 ) Go back to fabric store, still in the dead of winter. While buying an additional 3 yards of Kaffe Fasset to compensate for the 18" shortage, decide to add some other bright colors to cheer the quilt up. Add to ever-growing pile of miss-matched blocks.
( 10 ) When quilt is exactly too big to be a lap quilt and too small to be a bed quilt, decide you can't piece another &(*%$%$(@!! rail fence block if your life depended on it and declare the quilt finished. Finito. Done. Forever.
( 11 ) Decide to machine quilt on home machine. Waste 5 2/3 hours on Internet looking for good advice on how to prep a quilt for home machine quilting. Realize equipment is needed.
( 12 ) Go to fabric store. Buy five dozen celebrity-branded special basting safety pins, size 2.
( 13 ) Move heaven, earth and all the furniture in your studio to lay the backing, batting and top out on the floor to try and pin the quilt together. Crawl around on the floor for four hours pinning quilt together with pins about 10" apart. Fold quilt up and restore studio to natural state.
( 14 ) Ignore quilt for holidays.
( 15 ) Make New Year's Resolution to finish quilt. Unfold quilt. Look skeptically at pins, which are about 10" apart.
( 16 ) Waste 3 7/8 hours on Internet trying to find more information about pin basting.
( 17 ) Go to fabric store. Find and buy book on machine quilting.
( 18 ) Come home. Read book. Realize that current pinning strategy is completely inadequate and will result in horrible quilt disaster.
( 19 ) Go to fabric store. Waste 3/4 of an hour trying to decide if you want to pay a premium for bent basting pins or will be happy with regular. Buy 500 regular brass safety pins, size 0. On clearance.
( 20 ) Spend 14 1/2 hours over two days unpinning and re-pinning 1/10 of the quilt. Stop due to extreme muscle fatigue and a completely wrecked manicure.
( 21 ) Waste 1 1/3 hours on Internet looking for advice on pinning.
( 22 ) Go to fabric store. Ask for Kwik Klip. Endure arched eyebrows and disbelief from teenage clerk. Leave empty handed.
( 23 ) Repeat.
( 24 ) Repeat.
( 25 ) Make the long trek to the big store across town. Buy Kwik Klip.
( 26 ) Spend 27 2/3 hours over next week unpinning and re-pinning 9/10 of quilt. Decide you will wing it on the last 1/10 because if you ever touch another safety pin you will take a life.
( 27 ) Contemplate shoving the seemingly 50 yards of fabric through your tiny home machine for quilting. Decide to work on it next week when you've had time to regroup.
( 28 ) Shove quilt in corner. Ignore it's reproachful looks.
( 29 ) Two weeks later, tired of looking at sad, unfinished quilt, shove it in project box under work table.
( 30 ) Three months later, in a post-fabric-splurge euphoria, sign up for a long-arm quilting session. Prepay fee. Mark the calendar with the long arm class, two weeks out, with four asterisks and a note about the 24-hour cancellation policy.
( 31 ) Twelve hours before long arm session, remember that you have to have a quilt top to sew for the class project.
( 32 ) Spend 14 1/2 minutes deciding whether or not to eat the session fee.
( 33 ) Spend 37 1/8 minutes speed piecing a new quilt you're more excited about. Give this up at 10:00 p.m. as futile.
( 34 ) Remember the rail fence top, still pinned and folded in the project box. Get it out. Unpin it and fold.
( 35 ) Watch prerecorded season finale of Dancing With The Stars.
( 36 ) At 11:00 p.m., go back to studio. Look again at quit top. Realize that it's exactly too big to be a lap quilt and too small to be a twin. Decide you really want a twin-size quilt.
( 37 ) Take top up to bedroom to measure. Wake up toddler who only wants Hubby to go back to sleep. Alienate Hubby.
( 38 ) Return to studio. Decide to insert large swaths of fabric to make quilt magically be twin-sized.
( 39 ) Cut quilt top into strips, forever ruining any chance of an easy solution to the impending long arm session.
( 40 ) Realize that you don't have enough of the the fabric you were intending to insert. Reconfigure plan to include multiple fabrics.
( 41 ) Get halfway done and fall asleep at sewing machine at 1:30 a.m. Decide to get up early and finish before the 9:30 a.m. session.
( 42 ) Wake up at 8:35 a.m.. Slap the rest of the pieces together without regard for straight seams, even sewing or frankly, anything approaching craftsmanship at all.
( 43 ) Realize the backing also has to be extended. Eyeball and rip a swath of fabric to insert in the back.
( 44 ) Realize this fabric is polyester when it melts instantly into brand-new iron.
( 45 ) Grab the only piece fabric even remotely in the same color family with enough yardage left on the shelf, a home dec fabric. Eyeball, rip and insert into backing.
( 46 ) Press with old iron.
( 47 ) Race out of the house at 9:35 a.m.
( 48 ) Stumble into long arm session to find that quilt shop owner is sick and wouldn't have known if you missed it anyway.
( 49 ) Try not to cry when shop attendant informs you that store policy requires that first-time long-armers must have a throw or smaller sized quilt.
( 50 ) Look so pitiful that shop attendant gives in and agrees to let you quilt your twin-sized quilt for your first-time long-arm project, against her better judgement.
( 51 ) In a stunning display of bullheadedness, spend two hours loading quilt top into machine and one hour waiting for technician to fix bobbin case.
( 52 ) Quilt. For three hours. Realize that body is starting to hurt from the unaccustomed position and use.
( 53 ) Quilt. For three more hours. Have major muscle cramps and back spasms. Realize that quilting a twin-sized quilt the first time on a long-arm was really stupid.
( 54 ) Hobble home in extreme pain but victorious for having gotten the quilt quilted already.
( 55 ) Experience a dismal sinking feeling as you realize that the quilt still is NOT FINISHED already.
( 56 ) Put quilt in corner. Ignore for several months.
( 57 ) Finally get over the memory of the painful quilting session and decide to bind the quilt.
( 58 ) Spend 2 3/5 hours on the Internet trying to learn how to properly bind a quilt.
( 59 ) Remove all furniture from living room so quilt can be laid flat and trimmed square.
( 60 ) Bruise knees crawling around the living room floor.
( 61 ) Machine-attach binding to front of quilt.
( 62 ) Spend 1 5/8 hours on the Internet trying to understand how to do the hand sewing to bind the back of the quilt.
( 63 ) Gird loins. Start hand-sewing the binding.
( 64 ) Give up after 20 minutes with extreme hand cramps.
( 65 ) Put up blog post complaining about the pain from hand sewing.
( 66 ) Have lovely reader comment and say that I need to use something to help grip the needle to reduce stress and pain. Have a “duh” moment.
( 67 ) Spend 38 minutes going to office supply store across town, buying rubber fingertips for collating paper, and returning.
( 68 ) Exhausted by this effort, put quilt back in corner and ignore for another few months.
( 69 ) Decide to move to a smaller town. Pack quilt in box.
( 70 ) Spend several months fixing up old house while commuting from new house to try and get the house on the market before it crashes.
( 71 ) Spend several months getting new house settled to the point where you feel comfortable taking time to sew again.
( 72 ) Realize that your son’s birthday is coming up in the fall. Decide to get quilt finished so you can give it to him for his birthday.
( 73 ) Spend 52 minutes trying to find the quilt.
( 74 ) Spend another 23 minutes trying to find the hand-quilting supplies.
( 75 ) Bind quilt.
( 76 ) Wash and dry quilt for maximum crinkly goodness.
( 77 ) Pack quilt up to wait for the birthday and then pray that you don’t forget to give it to him!!
( 78 ) Be really, really lucky and remember to give the quilt to your son for his birthday, whom you expect to be completely non-plussed. Be completely stunned when it turns out that he’s actually really excited and feels very special that his mommy made him a blankie.
( 79 ) Cry. Decide that it’s worth it. It really is.
Updated : Over 10 years later, my son is a teenager, and while this particular quilt is not on his bed and does not fit his bed, he will not part with it. It is safely stored in his room, kept close. I never expected my truck- and train-loving little boy to care this much about a silly quilt, but care he does. I’m so glad I stuck with it and didn’t give up.