georgejas.com / crafts / Atlantic Impressions quilt

Atlantic Impressions quilt

Started: November 9, 2008

Finished: December 18, 2008

Size: 80" x 97"

For: my Mom

Style: Bargello

Most of the pictures were taken on my blackberry, so the colors are a bit weird. Blues seem to turn out okay, but the sand colors got a little yellow-green.

Some stats

66 horizontal rows, 67 vertical strips = approx 4,422 squares. Luckily I could cheat and didn't have to cut out each and every square and then sew each and every one back together.

Distance of fabric passed through the sewing machine (= thread used), approximately three miles (15,840'). Distance sewn by hand (just the binding) = 32'.

Yards of fabric needed for the quilt:

Cost of supplies:

A book on the bargello style of quilting, for some inspiration and guidance
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Some of my pictures, and pictures off the web for more inspiration
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I cut out bits of graph paper to design a smooth-ish curve to represent an ocean wave coming up on the sand... This surprisingly took a couple of days, since I also had to turn it into an image on the computer.
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My cheat sheet. Includes: offset of each strip from "ground zero", whether strip next to it is shifted "up" or "down", how wide the strip should be when finished, how wide when cut, a check mark once that piece was cut, if i found out later i MISSED it this was invaluable in tracking down which one.
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Next step, buy, wash, and iron fabric. Batting just gets run through the dryer to get the kinks out.
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A fabric cheat sheet, since I could not get all of the fabric at the same store.
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Lay out fabric to take pictures of with the tape measure, so I can scale the fabric patterns correctly when mocking up the quilt on the computer.
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I chose a "flannel" print with lots of different color/width lines. This was really helpful when trying to line up the strips later. What was not helpful is the "flannel" I got was just normal fabric, so I had to go back and buy separate batting later... not part of the original plan. It also shrunk a lot, so I had to frankenstein some pieces together to get a piece the final size of the quilt. When putting this together, I also had to be careful to line up the stripes on the different pieces.
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I put together the backing next. Lots and lots of ironing.
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I only have one picture here, but I spent a couple days turning each big piece of fabric into 2" wide strips. Total number of strips needed was about 200. (Not counting borders and binding.)
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First layout to get an idea of what the colors would look like, and to get the order right.
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Next I chunked the 2" strips into color run sets. First I sew two strips together, iron the seam, lay them out again. If I ever make one of these again, I'll definitely do color runs of eight, or some other power of two - it makes the production line go faster, and ironing is less awkward, since all of the pieces get ironed the same number of times before being sewn together.
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Here's what I really needed the cheat sheet for - cutting the color runs into skinny strips. On the chair are four piles of 67 strips each, of all the different widths needed, in order.
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Next I took over the basement, to lay out all these little strips and make sure I had them all before I started cleaning up the upstairs. Turns out this was a great idea... I found out I was missing three of them! Luckily I had enough scraps to remake those strips.
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Next I had to turn all of those short skinny strips into quilt-length strips. I set up the sewing machine at counter height so that I could grab two strips, walk over to the sewing machine, and stich them together without having to stop and sit down. Working off the floor about killed my knees, so I used the ping pong table as much as I could. However, you can see that only half of the quilt fit on the ping pong table at a time, and the rest had to lie on the floor around the table. Used the speed piecing technique to help keep the strips in order.
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Get the pieces laid out on the floor in order one last time. This pictures is from 11/29/2008, so 20 days to get this far since idea conception, working an average of three hours a day.
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Next I carried these strips upstairs a couple at a time to preserve the order, starting in the middle. Getting the middle strip just right took much longer than the rest - but it was worth it. I pinned it down, and machine basted down both sides.
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To add the following strips, line up the new strip, pin it down (minimum one pin every other square), and while lining it up with the previous strip, you also have to line it up with the gridlines on the flannel to keep the overall quilt even. After about 20 strips, I got the timing down so that I could layout, pin, sew, and iron one strip in twenty minutes. Completed one entire side before starting the other half, otherwise I might have started bringing up the wrong strips from the basement. Finished sewing the strips down on 12/7/2008, day 28.
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Make a quilt sandwich. Put the backing right side down, add batting, cover with quilt top. Pin together with safety pins. I scratched my thumb raw after a few dozen safety pins, and found that athletic tape is awesome for protecting my finger pads during pinning - during those times you don't quite need a thimble, or where a thimble would be too awkward.
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Basting is finished... start quilting. I had to bring over another work table to support the weight of the quilt - it's its full weight now with all the layers - about 12 pounds. Manipulating that through a machine that is JUST BARELY big enough to machine quilt something this size, and forcing it to quilt in round curves definitely put some muscle on my shoulders.
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Finished quilting 12/12/2008, day 33. Ideally I would have quilted with less space between the quilting lines, but I was not going to miss my Christmas deadline, so I skimped a little. It was not accidental that the quilting design of this quilt left the loose ends hanging off the sides of the quilt, so I did not have to tie in any ends, which gets REALLY expensive time-wise.
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Time to add the borders on, similar to how the strips were added to the quilt. Sew them down, iron them open, pin them down again. I found that the top layer that you're sewing on should NOT be pinned down, since it will stretch now that the rest of the blanket has been quilted and is squishy. For the test segment that I had pinned down, I ended up with a couple bubbles/wrinkles in the border. This is the first time I did multi-borders around the edges, and I think it turned out pretty snappy, especially on a quilt this loud - it helps calm the eye down on its way off of the quilt. I also learned when you're ironing the borders out, you can just iron on the floor. Not sure I'd use the steam iron on brand new carpet, but ours is already well-used.
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This is the new iron with USB adaptor for Quilt Band 2.
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Next-to-last is the binding. I used 2 1/8 inch strips, about 10 of them, sewn end-to-end on a diagonal. Since I made the binding early on, I wrap it around cardboard to keep it from getting wrinkled, and so it is manageable when you're finally sewing it onto the quilt. Iron the long strip in half, and wind it back around the cardboard.
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After the binding has been sewn onto the front of the quilt, we are DONE with the ugly extra flannel fabric, and can cut it away. Kind of like watching a scab fall off.
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Hand sewing the binding onto the back of the quilt is oddly one of my favorite parts of quilting. Probably because the end is in sight. It takes about 10 hours - but during that time the hobbits got ALL THE WAY to Mordor and back, again, and I get to sit around on the couch in winter with a warm blanket on my lap. Again, note the athletic tape, this time protecting the cuticle of my left thumb, which I love to stab when I'm sewing binding on. The picture on the left is the best one I have of what the colors actually look like. They're luckily not nearly as vibrant as show up in the rest of the pictures.
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All that remains is to make and sew on a label. I typed it up on the computer, printed it out, stuck it under a piece of fabric and traced it (used a light under glass to help me see it). I framed it with some extra binding strips, and blind stitched it on to the back of the quilt.
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Showing off the corners and the tiny strips - the smallest was 1/4". And here's a picture of my very very patient and understanding saint, er, boyfriend, holding up the finished quilt so I could take its picture. Also a shot of it draped on a queen-sized bed to get a better idea of the size. It was designed to fit handily on a double or twin, but it turned out big enough it could probably also be used on a queen size bed, if you're alone, or very friendly.
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Construction zone.
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