Vertical Diamonds

October 2012 - September 2013 - October 2016 - April 2021

In a departure from my usual page, this one will document two separate but connected projects. You'll see why as you read on.

A VERY long time ago, in my stash, I had acquired some vintage-y brown fabric and red fabric. I needed a mindless hand sewing project, so I started making 4-patches. They were an odd size, being 7" finished, but I suspect that was the best square I could get from the fabric that I had. I hand-stitched a lot of these brown-and-red 4-patches. Eventually, I needed to actually use them in a project.

First Milestone: October 2012 - my hand-stitched top is done

Over the years, I made a number of quilts that featured these brown-and-red blocks. This quilt was the most ambitious, in a way. Not so much in terms of layout .. because it's not impressive in anyway on that subject ... but the entire quilt top was hand-stitched. Every single stinkin' block and sashing and border. (disclaimer: I did machine stitch the first attachment of the binding to the quilt edge but the final stitching of the binding was also hand done. Go me! :-) ) What I don't remember (because I didn't write it down) is how long I worked on the top. I just don't have a starting date but I can assume it was a considerable number of months.

Since the entire top was hand-stitched, I wanted to "honor" that effort by having it hand quilted. The major stumbling block is that I DO NOT HAND QUILT. However, I do have a quilting buddy who does. I contacted her with a suggestion that we trade skills: if she would hand quilt this top, I would piece something (anything!) for her. It turned out to be a Good Deal.

I don't remember exactly when or how I first met Donna Morris of Clayton, CA. She owned a quilt shop in Clayton and I ended up teaching some classes and making some class samples for her. We kept up contact with each other even after she closed her shop. Donna likes to hand quilt but doesn't like to piece tops. She likes to hand quilt to the degree that she will buy panels just to hand quilt them. I, on the other hand, adore piecing of any sort. I've done a few SMALL hand quilted projects and decided that I just don't have the patience for hand quilting. :-) (Rather ironic, as I do have infinite patience for many other crafts and projects that are long term ... but *not* hand quilting!)

It turned out that Donna had been sitting on an opened and partially started a combination Irish Chain & Trip Around the World top, which was called "Trip to Ireland". She was stalled on this work-in-progress because she simply doesn't care for piecing. We came to an agreement: I would finish the piecing of her Irish Chain combo top and she would do the hand quilting on my Vertical Diamonds. DONE!

I was very, very emphatic and explicit: she could do whatever she wanted with the quilting. There was no deadline: she could literally take as long as she wanted. My rationale was that since I wanted it hand quilted but wasn't going to do it myself, the top was destined to sit *forever*, so for however long she took it would certainly be sooner than if it was left in my possesion. In exchange, she said that she would appreciate it if I wouldn't finish her top "too soon". (more on that in a bit!)

Second Milestone: September 2013 - Trip to Ireland

With that as a background, I'm now switching to Donna's Trip to Ireland top.

In May 2013, she gave me (3) gallon ziploc bags of supplies, including all the strips she had already cut, the remaining fabric, and the pattern directions ... everything. Because there was no time deadline for her to hand-quilt my Vertical Diamonds, she asked that I not start on Trip to Ireland "too soon" because she didn't want to be under "pressure" to finish the hand-quilting. So, I sat on it for a couple of months.

Donna would sporadically send me photos of her progress-to-date. After the second one, I realized that even if she took YEARS to do the hand-quilting, if *I* waited until she was almost done, I might very well forget not only where I put her project but that I was supposed to do anything at all! So, without telling her that I was starting, I did. Yeah, my bad for being sneaky. :-)

Beginning in August 2013, I read the directions for the quilt, separated & identifed the fabric colors and started to sew the strip sets together. The Chain blocks need 11 strips per block, strip sets of various configuration. However, I misread the directions on which direction to press the seam allowances ... I was a little ahead of myself in the text. (This comes from "I've done this before; I know how to do this". Oops).

I ended up pressing the seam allowances totally incorrectly. Sigh. I must admit, it seemed a bit weird to me, but who was I to question the directions? You need to assume the author knows what she is talking about. (Aside: most of the time this is true but there HAVE been occasions where the person writing the insructions didn't know a seam allowance from a hole in the wall.) It turns out that the author really DID; it was the reader (i.e. *me*) who was a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

When I was constructing the first Chain block, half of the seam allowances were simply not nesting properly and I needed to fuss with them to get them in the correct orientation. I figured I must have misread something ... sure enough, what I had also missed was the SMALL arrows next to the strip set graphics that showed which direction the seam allowances were to be pressed. I blame my glasses that needed to be cleaned. :-)

Fortunately, I had NOT cut the strips sets into subsets and they were still big pieces. The correction was simple, if tedious: the seam allowances needed to be re-pressed correctly. I spent some Quality Time with my iron.

By the end of September 2013, the top had been completely finished. Each block is made up of 10 strips. Each strip has 10 squares, so that each block has 100 squares. The entire Irish Chain and Trip around the World block portion of the quilt is made up of 25 blocks (5 rows of 5 blocks each) for a grand total of 2500 squares. Not every intersection meets *exactly* but, by golly, most of them do! Besides, once it is laundered, no one is going to notice. :-)

I pressed the completed top flat and admired all of my FLAT intersections. Boy, it's the small things in life that give one pleasure. :-) I wanted to minimize the wrinkles in the completed top so I rolled it instead of folding it. All of Donna's materials, supplies, leftover fabrics, and the completed top were packed away in a ginormous storage bag. I *HOPED* I would remember where the darned thing was stored when Donna eventually finished the hand-quilting on my quilt. Spoiler: I remembered! :-)

I was very, very pleased and happy that my part of the bargain was done. Now, there was no pressure *on me*. However, in the spirit of our original agreement, I didn't tell Donna that I was done. She could proceed at her own pace. Whenever she got done was just dandy with me!

Third Milestone: October 2016 - Hand-quilting on Vertical Diamond completed

Quite honestly, I was expecting the traditional 1/4" quilting around the blocks and seam lines. Since I don't hand-quilt, my expectations were very limited. But Donna, being the master hand quilter, had a MUCH different vision.

Over many months, Donna would sent me progress photos. It was exciting to see them! When she finished, she went the extra step and created a PDF of her hand-quilting process and explained why she did what she did. She said that she allows the quilt to speak to her and tell her how it needs to be quilted. Vertical Diamonds said that it was to have a garden theme.

there was a lattice for the vines to climb
flowers grew in a row
garden critters crawled amongst the flowers
mulch was placed around the flower beds. The fabric has swirly lines
on it and Donna just followed the swirls.
tidy, even rows of seeds were planted
of course, the seeds get watered
in Autumn, the leaves would fall
birds visit the garden

When I received the finished quilted top, I was completely overwhelmed. This quilting was much, MUCH more than I had ever expected or even anticipated. Donna's quilting is exquisite .. she manages 14 stitches per inch!! Some of the quilting was done in contrasting thread so it could be seen. She used the softest muslin I've ever handled for the backing. The quilting, as seen from the back, is simply superb. I was astounded ... just open-mouthed in appreciation. I'm afraid I was gushing like a fan girl. :-)

I will admit to feeling twinges of guilt at this point. The machine stitching to sew Trip to Ireland didn't take me any time at all in comparison. I definitely got the better end of this deal. I do remember Donna saying that this quilt was a learning experience for her because she wouldn't do any more hand-quilting for hire/barter! Boy, I count myself sooooo fortunate to have been that Learning Experience rather than coming after it!

I didn't ask Donna what kind of batting she used but it seemed to be some polyester mix .. which is *perfectly* fine with me. But her batting was completely soft and supple. When I do my machine quilting .. which is NOT dense at all ... my quilts are NEVER as drape-y as this one. This quilt .. MY quilt!! ... is so soft and so cuddle-y ... it drapes wonderfully! I am KEEPING this quilt for myself! :-) I can't wait to put it on my bed!

Last Milestone: April 2021 - the top is finally labeled and bound

In recent years, when I finish a top, I immediately make enough bias binding for it. This ensures that when the top is quilted, it can be bound immediately. If I defer making the binding, I run the risk of using any leftover fabric for other projects. The tops, with the binding pinned to it, are hung in a closet to await being quilted.

And so it was with Vertical Diamonds: I had already made the double-fold, bias binding, although I had *also* kept any and all leftover fabrics in the project bag, "just in case" I needed it for something.

But just because the binding had been made and ALL I NEEDED TO DO was to sew it on, I procrastinated. I will state here for all to know: I am Very Good at procrastinating. I knew it wouldn't take long to do but I simply didn't do it. Until April 2021. I think I just got tired of seeing sitting out, nagging at me.

99.9% of the time, I completely machine sew bind on. I sew it to the back, flip it to the front, then top-stitch it down. Since virtually all of my quilts are machine quilted, the machine stitching on top of the binding doesn't look out of place. And, even if I do say so myself (and I do!), I'm pretty doggone good at it. Even a king-sized quilt doesn't take me too long.

BUT ... since this was hand-pieced and hand-quilted, I wanted to hand stitch the binding on. I did "cheat" just once: I machine stitched the binding to the wrong side of the quilt. It didn't take any time at all. Then, I flipped the binding over to the front and began to stitch it down. MANY MOVIES and several days later, my binding was done. :-)

I even made the label for it. I'm very pleased. The finished quilt turned out to be 84" x 96", which is between a double/full and a queen. I probably ought to try to be more standardized with my sizes. :-)

THANK YOU, Donna Morris, for expertly and exquisitely hand-quilting this top for me. You did such a superb job and I simply love it. :-)

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