Houston Quilt Show

a class project: Arrowhead Star


size: 54x54

class taken: November 2004
quilting finished: October 2008

The last time I was able to attend the Houston International Quilt Show was in 2004. Another forum member, DoroTeddy, was also going to be there, so we signed up for a class together. Fortunately, the sewing machine were provided (!), so all we needed to bring was the fabrics from the supply list and our own sewing supplies.

Since we knew what the class project looked like, we were able to audition color choices for the layout using Electric quilt. Doro & I emailed each other furiously before meeting each other in Houston so that she could see her fabric choices in EQ also.

I don't remember who taught the class but I can say it was enjoyable ... more so because I had Doro there for company. Generallly speaking, I don't take quilt classes unless it's a technique that I want to learn or it's a layout that isn't available anywhere else. I do know I probably would not have signed up for the class except that Doro asked me. :-)

I don't even remember if we were able to complete the top in class, but it was either there or at home, because the top did get done in 2004. And there it languished in my UFO pile ... waiting for batting, backing, quilting and binding. (I have a lot of tops in this condition, I'm afraid to say.)

It isn't a particularly large quilt, being 54"x54", but because it wasn't something that had inspired me to work on in the first place, I wasn't in any big hurry to quilt it. I also had no idea for quilting motifs nor did I feel any urgency to get it finished. Like a popular wine commercial, I let my quilt tops "age" .... I will quilt no top before its time. :-)

Let us now fast-forward to 2008 (yes, 4 years later). I have accumulated quite a pile of UFOs and have been feeling somewhat anxious about that pile. I have a LOT of quilts I want to make ... and even have the fabric for them ... but what good is making the top if it never gets quilted? And I really do have too many tops to feasibly send them out for quilting. So, I firmly tamped down my desire to start another new project (that New Project Happy is quite a forceful draw!) and began in earnest to whittle the UFO pile.

I became better acquainted with Tin Lizzie (my longarm quilting machine) after a long hiatus and this top became the 4th one to be (mostly) quilted with Lizzie.

The important lessons I learned from this quilt:

This quilt has a nice plain fabric border around the outer perimeter. *Perfect* for a nice swag design. I even had an adjustable template that allowed me to mark the proper swags for the size of the border. The inner, narrow border seemed appropriate for a cable design. And I wasn't sure what I wanted in the complex 9-patch center medallion.

I started on the swags. It didn't LOOK too complex ... just do some curvy lines. Right? Wrong. So very, very wrong. For one thing, you can NOT NOT NOT (well, I can't) control a longarm machine to make nicely formed swag curves free motion. And just to make things a LITTLE more challenging, there was a lovely fleur-de-li between each swag. Geez, Louise .. talk about a glutton for punishment! Well, who knew in the planning stage that I couldn't do that? :-)

I very quickly was disabused of any glimmer of hope that the swags were going to be done on Lizzie. They looked like I was drunk or a 3 year old had drawn them. And the fleur-de-lis were pathetic. Poor things. Using contrasting thread on solid fabric REALLY showed up my inadequacies. :-) When I finished the top border, I knew they couldn't stay, but I wasn't in a good mood to remove them at that time. It was after I had finished doing the swags that I ran across a quilting web site video that showed how to do swags using template rulers. AH HA!! The Light Bulb Moment (tm). You get those beautifully spaced and nicely curved lines by using templates! You don't go as quickly as free motion, but you DO get lovely designs. Unfortunately, I don't have swag templates. It is now on my Wish List. :-)

So, let's move on the the simple cable motif! It *was* simple ... just a very easy design with two interwined cables. Except, in order to look good, each line that defined the cable edges need to be PARALLEL to each other. As with the swag curves, it was impossible for me to quilt each of the cable lines accurately. While it is true that a print fabric will tend to hide quilting designs (which is why you really don't want to do truly intricate quilting designs on a print), the contrast thread I was using (and didn't feel like changing) made all the mistakes very visible. When I finished the inner top border, I knew THEY couldn't stay either. How much you wanna bet there are templates for cables, too? :-) [later update: yup, there are cable templates!]

I didn't dare try to do anything to the center medallion 9-patch.

So, it became a semi-TOAD (totally trashed, abandoned in disgust). I went off to indulge myself in a New Project Happy. :-)

When I returned to Lizzie, I spent quite a bit of Quality Time with Jack (the ripper) and removed every, single, doggoned stitch from the dismal swag and equally dismal cable.

As I studied the quilt, I realized that I really DID like the swag design and wanted to keep it. My good buddy, Ami Krenzel (SewingUpAStorm on About.com's Quilting Forum) mentioned that even Sharon Schambers has said that she will use her home machine for quilting stuff on the same top that she has done longarm designs on. That really made me feel a whole lot better cuz I knew that I could do a credible job on the swags with my home machine.

The cables, however, needed to be replaced. Yes, I could have done the cables on my home machine also, but the entire point of these quilts is to get me practice on Lizzie before I attempt the bigger quilts! So, I substituted a leaf-on-a-vine motif that I've used before. It turned out "reasonable" ... not as nice as I've done on my home machine, but I keep reminding myself that this is a *different* skill set and what I can do nicely on my home machine isn't necessarily translatable to Lizzie.

The center medallion is a 9-patch of 2 complex blocks. I know that stitch-in-the-ditch needs to be done with a straight-edge template .. and I actually have one! Yet, the center medallion blocks didn't have all the same fabric, which meant that, on some blocks, the stitch-in-the-ditch was going to be a contrasting thread. My ruler work isn't THAT good, even for just straight lines ... so no stitch-in-the-ditch. After pondering a while, I devised two concentric ovals for each of the blocks in the 9-patches. It seemed to complement the hard, angular geometric lines. I did these free motion and while they aren't "perfect/perfect" .. because I wasn't using templates ... they aren't half-bad either. In the end, I am not-displeased with lthe effectl.

The binding got made and sewn on ... I even got the label made! I like to enclose 2 sides of the label with the binding .. it just makes it a little bit more difficult and annoying if anyone wanted to remove the label for any reason.

So, this top is now a quilt and I can cross it off my UFO list (which is now down to 47 items, which does NOT include the tops I made subsequent to creating the UFO list [sigh]).

I am very pleased that this quilt is done BUT, just as a matter of preference, I'm not enchanted with (small) square quilts because you really can't DO anything with them. I don't need any more wall-hangings. I don't use quilt tops (or quilts) as table toppers. A lot of square quilts are too small to be used as throws, although at 54"x54", this one could be used by a child or vertically-challenged adult. :-) This one will be folded up and put into my quilt sarcaphogus (which is a gorgeous glass-sided and leaded glass top storage chest). :-)

Update:
In late summer of 2012, there were some truly horrific wild fires across the western states. One of my quilting buddies was only 30 miles away from the wildfire in Washington state. Many, many homes were utterly destroyed, although, thankfully, no lives were lost. Still, I can't imagine the devastation of losing not only the contents of your home but the building itself.

My friend is one of the coordinators to make comfort quilts for the families involved. She has asked for 12" (finished) quilt blocks, either orphans that one might have laying about or a specific house block for which the pattern was provided. While I didn't make any blocks for the effort, I did dig around my quilt stash and came up with 8 quilts that I had made over the years but wasn't particularly emotionally attached to.

These weren't shoddy quilts .. they had been carefully made, quilted and bound ... but they might have been experiments or a class or turned out to be a size that wasn't terribly useful *to me*. But they all were perfectly good, useable quilts, especially for kids.

This quilt, Houston 2004 class quilt, is one of the quilts that I sent to help with the Taylor Bridge fire effort.