Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Log Cabin Quilt

The weather has been pretty gloomy here today in Philadelphia. It's cold, the sky is overcast, and there has been on-and-off rain. So, I figured today was the perfect day to share the quilt I finally finished for Lauren about a month ago.
Way back in the Summer of 2010 I believe, I started sewing a log cabin quilt top. I was really into cute tiny floral fabric at the time, so that was the starting point for this quilt. Lauren had a bunch of different florals and she let me use whatever fabric she owned since I was letting her store her craft stuff at my house. I really wanted to use the floral fabrics in all of their fun, pretty colors, but I also didn't want to take away so many hoarded fabrics from Lauren, so I decided to make the quilt for Lauren. I still got to play with the fabric, but she still got to keep the fabric in a way. Lauren also wanted to make a quilt, so we just decided to sew quilts for each other.

Prior to this quilt, I've had a little bit of experience in the quilting realm. In 2008 I sewed my first quilt top from a pattern in a random quilting book I found in my mom's crafting stuff. I tried basting the quilt top to the batting and backing, but it was too frustrating and I gave up. A year later in 2009 I actually completed a mini quilt, also for Lauren. I knew that if I wanted to finish it, I needed to start smaller to make the project seem more doable. Even though the quilting isn't even close to perfect, and the seams and binding are starting to come apart six years later, I'm just proud of myself for finishing it.
My sewing skills have improved a lot since then. I figured that it'd be a challenge, but that sewing a full size quilt from start to finish was a realistic goal for me. I knew that the quilting step would be the hardest hurdle to overcome, but I'd cross that bridge when I got to that point. It probably took me about the entire summer to completely finish the quilt top. I'm a pretty patient person when it comes to menial tasks, and so I actually really enjoyed cutting the fabric out to the precise measurements. I kept seven separate zip-loc bags, each holding a different size cut fabric piece for the log cabin squares. When all of the pieces were cut out and it was time to actually assemble the squares, I literally picked a piece of each size randomly for each square, so long as there weren't two of the same fabrics per one log cabin. As weird as it may seem, this was probably my favorite part of the entire process. I love the randomization of it and how many different squares I could create.
For the quilt back, I decided to go with the solid gray fabric that I used on the front to break up the log cabin squares. Due to the huge size of the quilt, I would've had to use several separate pieces of fabric just to create a back large enough. I figured that since I already needed to macgyver the back, mind as well make it into a larger puzzle. I used some leftover floral fabric to make one two horizontal rows (one not going fully across), intercepted by one vertical column.
Then it was time for the actual quilting, the step I had been dreading from the start. I had enough trouble quilting the mini quilt on my machine, and I knew there was no way I'd be able to quilt a full size quilt without a longer arm. Thank goodness Lauren's aunt Natalie is much more talented than me when it comes to sewing. She has made probably dozens of quilts before and has even taken several classes at a local quilt shop and learned to use their huge quilting machine. Because she mastered those classes, she was able to rent the machine by the hour for personal use. I'm so grateful to Lauren's aunt for this. While Lauren and I tagged along, we weren't allowed to actually use the machine since we weren't "certified", but we were still able to choose the quilting design (we both chose for Natalie to freehand random swirls), and best of all we got to admire the entire process. I was and still am in awe of her talent. I finished the quilt top towards the end of the Summer of 2010, but didn't have the quilting done until December of 2012. Talk about a work in progress! I'm the queen of leaving projects in limbo.
Then the quilt sat quilted without binding for a very long time. Again daunted by the next and final step, I hesitated starting the hand stitching. Machine sewing the binding onto the quilt was an easy, non-stressful task. I did that shortly after having the quilt quilted. But because I wanted this quilt to look as perfect and finished as possible, I knew that I needed to hand sew the back side of the binding on. This last task wasn't started until April of 2015. I don't have a lot of practice with impeccable hand stitching, but after watching Lauren bind my quilt, I quickly picked up the technique. It took a few tries, but I managed to finish binding the entire quilt in less than a week. I really don't know what I was so afraid of. Binding is now one of my favorite things to do while watching TV. I want to make more quilts just so I can hand sew the binding now. After securing the binding, I promptly tossed the quilt in the washer and dryer, soaking up all of its wrinkled squishy-ness.

Even though it took me five years to complete just one quilt, I learned so much in the process. I need someone to sit down with me and walk me through the steps to fully comprehend how to do something. Luckily my best friend is the opposite and can teach herself by watching online videos and reading tutorials, then she repeats the steps to me so that I learn how to do something new. It's also really important and rewarding to do something the correct way the first time around. The first quilt I made for Lauren, while I did put a lot of effort into it, I didn't do any research. I neglected to iron all of the seams which has caused parts of the quilt to begin to tear. I used clear plastic thread for the entire quilt which is now starting to break, also causing the seams to rip; the ends of the thread are also really pokey. I didn't baste the quilt properly and the backside is super wonky because of that. I quickly machine stitched the entire binding on and didn't attempt the corners correctly. Basically my first finished quilt isn't nearly as good looking as this last one. Luckily Lauren still likes it, but I know she appreciates the time and research this latest log cabin quilt received. Five years is still an awfully long time and I hope to finish my next quilt in a fraction of that time. I can't wait to get started cutting out and piecing all of the little bits of fabric, but this next quilt won't be happening for a while!