Strips and Squares

pieced: Jan 2014. quilted: April 2014.

Let's state some facts: I have many unfinished quilting projects. I have lots of tops. I have lots of works in progress. I'm not even going to broach the topic of projects that are waiting in the wings. I *should* be concentrating on those existing projects; to get them finished and checked off my List of Things To Do.

But do I? Of course not.

In January 2014, I got a wild hair up my bonnet: I had a very strong compulsion to use my flannel scrap & donation inventory to make some tops. My flannel inventory ranged from actual yardage that had been given to me to bona fide scraps, leftover from previous projects, both quilting and sewing. This feeling that I needed to make these tops was almost overwhelming and I'm not quite sure why .... upon reflection, I bet it was because I just didn't want to tackle the larger sized tops that were waiting to be quilted. :-)

I perused my collection of patterns to see which patterns would be a good fit for the flannel that I had. I came up with several, of which Strips and Squares was one. This pattern was designed by Natalie Lymer of Cinderberry Stitches. She called it "A Little Folk Tale". It can be found at the Lecien Corporation, Art & Hobby Division's page of free patterns.

Really, though, you don't actually NEED a pattern for this. Any width of noodle that you have and any corresponding sized square with any width of sashing that you want will work for this pattern. The advantage of the pattern, of course, is that the yardage amounts are already worked out for you. As it was with my version, I didn't always have a full width-of-fabric yardage, so my center section of strips is shorter than the pattern calls for. But, honestly, it just doesn't matter.

I arranged my flannel in roughly color order .. kinda/sorta .. mostly. :-) I tried to mix up the placement of the squares but when I was quilting it, I realized some of the squares could have been placed in a better spot. Ah well .. such is life.

The measurements of my quilt are 51" x 63", which isn't any sort of recognized size. It's larger than a baby quilt. It's slightly smaller than an afghan/lap/throw quilt. Definitely smaller than a twin size. But, no matter what size, it'll be cozy.

I knew for this quilt, I wanted it to be drapeable. I hate stiff quilts. To that end, I used Mountain Mist "Soft and Crafy" .. yes, a polyester batting. Even with the quilting that I did on it, once it was washed .. boy, it is SOFT and COZY! :-)

And the quilting ... yes, the quilting. Sometimes, I have a very clear vision of what should be done. But, many times, I employ the "Sit and Stare" method of divining what should be done. So it was with this quilt. Since I had horizontal rows, I knew I wanted a linear design ... as opposed to an all-over (edge to edge) design.

Did I want the SAME design in all the rows? That would make quilting simpler. But it might be boring.

Did I want to vary the designs? That would complicate the quilting but would make the quilt more interesting to do. It would also require me to spend more time coming up with other linear designs.

I have a set of awesomely wonderful books by Darlene Epp. One of these books is for borders and sashings. In that little book, I rediscovered one of my all-time favorite linear designs, "Wrought Iron". It looks fantastically complicated but is actually deceptively simple, once you get your guidelines marked. So, that was one linear design.

Then, I came across a small flower template in my inventory. The template was too large to use in the rows BUT I could use part of it. That was another linear design.

The last one I came up with turned out to be loops & inverted loops. The original design that I liked was too tall for the rows and wouldn't have looked nice if I had squashed it to fit. So, I simplified it to its basic component .. ascendng and descending loops.

So, there it was .. I had 3 different border/sashing quilting designs and 18 rows, which meant 5 repitions of the 3 designs. I was all set. The picture below shows the quilting on the backing (left side of photo) and how it looks on the front (right side of photo). Because I used a white thread, you really can't SEE the quilting due to the thickness of the flannel and because it's a print. So, why do a fancy design like "Wrought Iron"? Specifically because .. its MY quilt. And I can spend as much time as I like on it simply because I *can*. :-)

As for the marking ... I knew I needed to mark evenly spaced segments to do these designs. If I had evenly spaced segments, then the designs would look better than if I had simply done it by eyeball. But marking has its own problems. I know some quilters swear by the blue air-eraseable marker, but I've had problems with it. Unfortunately, I don't quite remember which brand it was and don't want to repeat the experiment.

I have a set of Chacoliner powdered chalk markers. These markers have a little wheel on the bottom that dispenses the chalk. I use the gray on medium and light colored fabrics and the white on dark fabrics. Because I know I am going to be washing the quilt after quilting, using chalk doesn't bother me. It *always* washes out. [caution! beware of the yellow chalk! It is notorious for not coming out!]

EXCEPT .... for the quilting in the rows to look good, I really needed to stitch in the ditch .... in EVERY. SINGLE. SEAMLINE. ::sigh:: I don't mind stitch in the ditch. I don't mind ruler work. But .. dang! ... at some point, it just gets plain, ol' BORING. Boring but necessary to define the rows and the squares and to stablize the quilt so it could be rolled back and forth to get all the quilting done as necessary.

Then there was the columns of squares. What to do in them? I really couldn't pull any of the elements of the row designs out to use in the squares; they weren't suitable. I wanted to reduce the number of starts & stops .. in fact, if I could come up with a continuous line design, that would be delightful. BUT, I didn't want to do an Orange Peel sort of design, as I had just finished a baby quilt where I had used that quilting design.

Throwing caution to the wind, I decided that I would stitch spirals in all those little squares. Without a template. Free-motion. I will admit right here that my eyeballs really, really, really like to see symmetry and evenness in quilting designs and quilt layouts. "Wonky" stuff tends to drive me nuts, just because they are "off". I know this about me, but, I kinda liked the spiral idea. Without a template to use (which would have been SO tedious), I knew that my spirals were going to be very, very, very ... not even. Indeed, they are not. Not even close.

And it doesn't bother me! Bwahahahahahahaaaa! :-)

What I simply loved about making this quilt was remembering all the flannels that I had used in previous projects. I have dancing bananas, arrowheads, an Air Force print, stars, lobsters and penguins. Plaids that I had made a shirt for myself from. Jammies for my kids. Other quilts. When you use your own scraps, you are automatically making a memory quilt. I really like that.

Now as to the backing, generally speaking, I like to use extra-wide fabric so that I don't have any seams on the back. Not having seams in the backing makes my life as a longarm quilter easier.

In my flannel inventory, I did happen to have some rather large chunks of almost-yardage. By seaming the chunks together, I cobbled a big enough backing for the quilt. In fact, I had a nice sized piece of the backing leftover to make my double-fold bias binding. :-)

Because of the seaming I needed to do to create a large enough piece for the backing, I had both horizontal and vertical seams. And due to the orientation that I used to load the quilt (so the rows were parallel to the rails), I had the long vertical seam running lengthwise down the quilt.

This is unfortunate because it is really better for backing seams to be parallel to the rails. With the backing seams running parallel to the rails, you avoid a tight, stressed area. But it was unavoidable with this quilt. Luckily, I was fortunate that the vertical backing seam wasn't unduly obnoxious for me.

Once a label was made and the binding sewn on, into the washing machine it went. I do the laundry thing on all the quilts I make for myself and gifts. Not only will the washing remove any chalk markings I've put on the quilt but it proves to me that the quilting and binding will survive laundry day! (It would be horribly embarassing to me to give a quilt as a gift and have it fall apart when it was washed!). Washing also softens everything up wonderfully.

So, when this quilt came out of the dryer, I was truly amazed at how SOFT and DRAPEABLE it was! My, my, my ... I really like this quilt! I have a suspicion, though, that with a flannel top, polyester batting and a flannel backing, this particular quilt is going to be somewhat heavy and possibly too warm for our California weather. Be that as it may, this quilt is a keeper ... for me! :-)

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