Tessellating T

Date made: January through April 2002

Tessellating T

On Super Bowl Sunday 2002, I took a class by a nationally known teacher, Bob Coons. The sample quilt in the store was a colorwash quilt, done in a radiating, concentric diamond layout. It was very striking. Colorwash quilts have always intimidated me, as the color/hue selection is the all-important thing. I decided that this was the opportunity for me to learn about colorwash quilts and do a tessellating pattern (which I have also always admired).

Little did I know that this class was to be one of the most annoying and frustrating classes I was to take. I was utterly disgusted with the class preparation, the class (lack of) instruction and the unprofessional manner of the teacher. Small wonder that this is one teacher that I will never take another class from.

I got the pre-class handout frm the store and read thru the pre-class preparation we were supposed to do: 8 fabrics, each 1.25 yards, cut into a specified number of crosswise 2" strips, then combine one of each of the strips to another strip (in a specific combination), ending up with 8 2-color strip sets. The directions also said to subcut the strip sets but neglected to give us the measurement the subcut was supposed to be. We were also cut a specified number of crosswise 5" strips.

Here was a clue that foreshadowed how annoying the class would be; it was a clue that I ignored.
1) no direction on the selection of fabric, other than it should go from dark to light and then number them dark (1) to light (8).

2) just how was I to subcut the strip set if I don't know how long/wide? Hmmmm.

I had absolutely no assistance when it came to choosing the fabrics for the colorwash. I relied on what (little) knowledge I had of colorwash quilts and as a result, my selection wasn't really that good. Too bad that learning the colorwash fabric selection was one of the reasons I signed up for the class; there was no mention in the pre-class handout that we were up to our own devices for fabric selection; neither did the shop mention this.

Anyway, I got to class and received the in-class handout. Here was nasty surprise #1. The number of strips to cut from the 1.25 yardage fabrics was *different* from the pre-class handout.

Wouldn't have been so bad if the number was less.. but in some cases it was more. This was rather distressing. Now, in my case, I was a little more fortunate than some other students because I had used 5 of the fabrics from my stash and they were all more than 1.25 yards. Of the 3 fabrics I bought to fill in the gaps, I bought 1.5 yards, just because I'm paranoid. Good thing I was. So, for *me*, cutting the extra 5" strips wasn't going to be a problem. Not so for some of the other students, who had bought exactly 1.25 yards of each of the 8 fabrics. I don't think there was enough extra to squeeze out even 1 extra 5" strip. There were several unhappy campers in the class .. and class had just started.

Then the nasty surprise #2 was that the in-class hand-out numbered the fabrics exactly *opposite* from the pre-class handout. Now, this really is no biggie, but it disoriented me, since by that time I had become used to the association in the pre-class handout and all my labeling was incorrect. Yes, I renumbered the labels, but I wasn't too happy about it.

I'm confident enough of my sewing, construction and over-all quilting ability that I don't need a lot of hand-holding during a class. Give me some decent directions and I can more than likely do it on my own. HOWEVER, when I am paying for a class, I doggone want the instructor to TEACH. No matter how well you think you understand the written directions, it always helps to have the teacher go over it with you, if only to confirm that you really did understand it.

This instructor, while I'm sure is a wonderful social companion .. he had many amusing stories to tell in class ... is a really lousy (IMHO) instructor. The disclaimer here is that he apparently has quite a following of students nationally .. obviously they have a different POV than I do. There was an inordinate amount of private chatter and story-telling going on between the instructor and two of the students, who had taken other classes from him. This had a serious effect on the amount of actual instruction that went on.

And to top it off, one of those students was sitting right behind me and she would NOT SHUT UP the entire 7 hour class. She either talked to herself (LOUDLY), talked to the instructor or talked to her companion, who also knew the teacher. When both of those students left the classroom to buy fabric in the adjoining store, there was an audible sigh of relief from the rest of the class.

There are 8 color combination blocks in the quilt. For the 1 day class (7 hours long), we were to make 4 of each of them. The block construction is actually rather simple, based, somewhat on a log cabin block. But, seeing as this was a colorwash quilt, the placement of each of the colors in each of the 8 blocks was very, very important. His written directions and diagrams were less than splendiferous.

However, I managed to make all 32 blocks and arrange them in 2 long rows. The 1st row is arranged in blocks 8->1 + 1->8. The 2nd row simply shifts the blocks one position.

The main quilt visual is of concentric, radiating diamonds going from a dark center to the lightest color and then repeating with the dark color again ... this repeats until you get the size you want. This is a tesselating design (it's based on the letter "T")and there is secondary design where the blocks meet together ... all the tops of the "T"s form a NSEW (north-south-east-west) oriented design. This was NOT obvious from the handout. There was an overall layout chart, but correlating the chart to your own blocks was darn near impossible.

This was why I was absolutely determined to get all 32 blocks made and assembled in class .. so that the instructor could get me started correctly. Heh.. even then, it was somewhat confusing. When I got home to continue sewing the blocks, it took me quite a while to figure out what he *meant* by the secondary design. Turns out that is the basic clue that helps you figure out how each block is to be turned to result in the correct layout .. and he just kinda hand-waved it ("Now make sure you get the secondary design correct.")

Then ... because there was absolutely NO advise on fabric/color selection, once I started seeing the concentric diamonds emerge, I was less than happy about my decisions. It was much, much too late to make another choice, so the quilt is the way it is.

I am unhappy about the way my colors do not "flow" into each other nicely. And the stark contrast between the darkest and the lightest is too *much* of a contrast. For my lightest fabric, instead of plain white, I should have chosen a small all-over design that had faint black and purple "somethings" on it, but even if I had thought if that when I was looking for fabric, chances are such a fabric wouldn't have been available. [pessimistic viewpoint: off]

Although, I think I have thought of a work-around for that .. I think when I quilt this, I will quilt the white fabric in black thread, thereby taking away some of the starkness of the white. (Eventually, I sent the quilt out to be quilted since I was, by then, so SICK SICK SICK of that quilt that I just didn't want to look at it anymore. I told the quilter that I just didn't CARE what quilt pattern she used .. just get the darn thing quilted. She asked if I liked the pantograph that was being used for her current client and since I did, we agreed that she would use it for my quilt also. )

Then, in class, after I had finally sewn together my 2 rows (16 blocks each), the instructor says that when he does this quilt, *he* usually makes it in quarters, then sews the quarters together into halves then the halves together for the final quilt.

Well .. GEEEEZ. Why didn't he say so earlier???? That would have make the fabric handling a WHOLE lot easier. When I got home, I ripped out the center seam between the two rows, so that I had the beginnings of two quarters and worked on each of the 4 quarters in turn. That really was much easier than trying to manipulate rows that were 16 blocks long.

Finally, I finished the top. I must say that I am less than enthusiastic about it, but wanted to get the top done .. mainly because I had all the fabric cut out and didn't want the pieces to get lost or have an unfinished top hanging over my head.

I'll keep this quilt for myself (Lisa, my middle daughter has already said that she likes it), as I'm not particularly pleased with it and hence, don't think it's worthy of giving as a gift. I am very, very grateful that this is the only quilt that I have ever felt this way about and fervently hope that I never have this reaction again.