Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Anatomy of a (partial) success

I've always been fascinated with Lone Star quilts, and so naturally, that was one of the first things I attempted when I started quilting. Quilting itself, even the easy stuff, seems so daunting when you first start out, that it's hard to judge at first what things are really way beyond your skill level. The first time I attempted to make the pieced diamond block that comprises a Lone Star, this is what I ended up with:

I had not yet learned that bias edges are evil and will conspire to destroy all your hard work unless you treat them like they are radioactive. All that stuff about pressing versus ironing? Made no sense to me at the time. I GET IT NOW.

So, I have no idea what possessed me to try it again now. I don't even remember making the decision to do it. One minute I'm lounging at the pool, wondering how anyone can burn after 5 minutes with 110 SPF sunscreen (answer: when that someone asks a 9-year-old to put it on her back for her), and the next I'm cutting strips from my mom's old Kaffe Fassett stash.

I looked around at a lot of tutorials online, until I had a sense of what to do. The strip-piecing method makes things pretty easy to start, but then you have to sew those strips together. Many of the tutorials out there will tell you that the way to line things up is to make sure you have a 1/4-inch of overlap at each end when you lay your raw edges together.


Unless you manage to cut and sew with the precision of some sort of machine, this will not work. I know because I attempted it eight million times. I tried inventing my own ways of measuring. I tried begging. No. When you try to line them up based upon measuring your ends, you get this:

And this:

I realize that these do not seem THAT far off, but even that much error can cause issues later, and these were the ones that I did not do over. Many others that I did not photograph were far worse, but I left these because I am still essentially a lazy perfectionist.

No, the only way (that I can see) to line up seams on these strips is to stick a pin through the seam 1/4-inch from the edge of one strip and then put that same pin into the seam of the other strip at the same point, and then pin them together. My strips had two seams to join, so it had to be done twice on each strip. (Maybe I'll do a tutorial someday and show you since I'm like all experty now and stuff.) Once I started doing that, ta da!

Mama likey.

Once I got the bastard all put together it was time for the y-seams. And I thought, "Pfffft. I've done y-seams. No big deal." Well, to be perfectly honest, I've done one y-seam. Just one. But it was perfect! So that means I'm all experty and stuff right?

Yeah, no.

Doing a y-seam in a small block where you are just dealing with three small pieces of fabric is a little different that trying to manipulate something larger and pieced. (I believe the combination of so many bias edges gives it some sort of primitive sentience that allows it to sabotage your efforts to keep it in line.) I had to do the first piece over twice, and it was clearly just luck that it was that few because I did the second piece over eleven times. ELEVEN. Frankly, I'm shocked that there was any material left to sew together after ripping it out so may times, and I would have thought that much ripping and sewing would have turned my bias edges feral and I'd be left with a bleeding stump where my hand had been.

I think a lot of my problem was just being able to see where things were under my needle and presser foot. I had to do a lot of guessing for getting my starting at stopping points in the right place, and it took me a while to figure out how to make that guess more accurate. Even so, if you look closely enough, you can still tell that many of them are a bit off:

 Can't see it? Trust me.  But then some were pretty darn good:

All in all, I consider it a success, mainly because I can't stop looking at it. This was one of those grails for me as a quilter and despite its flaws, it makes me feel pretty darn proud of how far I've come in the last 5 years.

Have you made one? Did it bite back? Or did you subdue it with superior skill and a hazmat suit?

No comments: