Inspired by the gorgeous quilts that I’ve seen popping up in the sewing blogosphere lately, I decided to dust off my first and only completed quilt and document it for posterity. This quilt is one of my most cherished possessions, next to some very meaningful gifts from my best friend and, of course, my sewing machine. It holds such a special place in my heart that it rarely ever sees the light of day! I’m intensely afraid of damaging it, and I give it the white glove treatment on the rare occasions that it comes out of storage.
Today I’ll share with you the story of this quilt and of the person that I was when I made it. I hope you enjoy reading about this part of my life and my crafty journey. : )
I made this quilt while working on my master’s degree and living in a very cold and lonely part of the country. I would spend my evenings and weekends huddled in my apartment, surrounded by forest and deer, listening to the snow fall, and working on this quilt. It took me a year and a half to make it, and I barely worked on any other craft projects in between. The quilt is made 100% by hand, pieced and quilted with my own two hands, long before I ever had a sewing machine or even an iron. I know! And what’s even more surprising is that I didn’t show it to anyone or tell anyone that I was working on it during the entire year and a half, only to reveal it to my boyfriend a few months after I completed it.
I learned to quilt by watching PBS shows as a tween/teenager, and although I loved it, I was always embarrassed to have such an “old lady” hobby. My crafty adventures were a secret from everyone except my immediate family for many years, including while working on this quilt. I don’t know why I was so afraid to let people see this side of me! Anyway, this quilt represents a very sheltered time in my life and was a completely solitary project of my young adulthood. Thankfully I eventually came out of my shell. : )
The color scheme was inspired by this peachy Hawaiian-themed fabric, featuring pineapples, guitars, flowers, and the occasional “Aloha.” How whimsical! I loved it. I picked up a bunch of warm-colored quilting cottons to match, most likely cotton/poly blends since they came from the discount fabric store and were probably under $2/yard.
The fabric for the sashing and border came from a quilt shop near the university and are 100% cotton batik. I fondly remember strolling through that little shop while my laundry was drying in the laundromat next door. I actually used to look forward to doing my laundry just so that I could hang out in the quilt shop. : ) Their annual quilt show was one of my favorite days of the year.
The pattern is called Mariner’s Compass, and I got it out of a magazine of quilt block patterns. A quick internet search leads me to 50 Best Blocks, 2002, published by Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (on Amazon here). I probably still have the hard copy buried somewhere! Since my quilt was Hawaiian-themed, I called my quilt “Mariner’s Compass to Hawaii.”
I made 12 of these blocks (each measuring 12 inches square) and pieced them with orange sashing in between. I’ve always loved orange, apparently.
I still can’t believe that I put all these little pieces together by hand. Clearly the younger me was much more ambitious and hardcore than the older me! I would never attempt such a huge project like this anymore. I must have been crazy. : )
And get a load of these corner blocks! They measure 2 inches square and consist of 8 teeny tiny triangles arranged in a pinwheel. Wowza!! My younger self must have been so proud! I remember contemplating doing the entire border of the quilt in these little pinwheels and eventually talking myself out of it. Perhaps I wasn’t that crazy after all, haha.
The point-matching on this quilt is also pretty ridiculous, no doubt due to the ease of manipulating the pieces by hand (as opposed to putting them through the sewing machine and hoping for the best) and my aforementioned youth-induced insanity. Not all of the points are as good as this one, but some of them are quite remarkable. And all the pressing was by hand since I didn’t own an iron! I can’t even imagine how I pulled this off.
For the quilting, I made cardboard templates of stars in 3 different sizes and traced them all over the quilt in a random pattern. Sometimes I’d quilt the smallest star inside the largest one for an echo effect. I used hand-quilting thread, which is pretty thick and sturdy, and I used a plain old pencil to mark the stars… erasing them when I was finished. Oh the humanity!
The hand quilting took forever. Year-and-a-half forever. It was an epic undertaking that somehow I managed to complete over many, many cold and quiet nights in my woodland apartment. I had practiced my stitching on a few scraps before starting on the quilt to make sure my stitches were smooth and even. Looking back now, I think I did a pretty nice job.
Oh, and I had used a big hand quilting hoop (essentially a 12 inch diameter embroidery hoop) to hold everything in place while quilting. It worked pretty well.
I remember having a difficult time settling on a fabric for the backing, and I finally chose this yellow-cream colored cotton print featuring some kind of wheat or grain. I’m still not crazy about it, but I was a broke grad student and the price was right at the time.
The binding is made from the same orange batik as the sashing. I pieced the binding strips on the bias to spread out the bulk when it was folded over the edge of the quilt. Man, I thought of everything!
I’m intensely proud of this project and will treasure it forever, as it represents a very fragile time in my life and an absolute mountain of hard work. The person who made this was much more patient, ambitious, and stubborn than the person writing this blog post, and I can’t decide if I’m happy or sad about that. Regardless, it’s a handcrafted time capsule and will always be viewed with nostalgia and warmth.
Maybe one day I’ll have the courage to actually use it on my bed. : )