This blog is a “Zone of Truth Without Judgement” blog… because today I will be completely honest about some facets of quilting I am not crazy about. You may like these aspects of quilting better than I do. However, consider this blog part confessional, part how-to-fix-what-I-don’t-like information. I hope you use the changes I made as inspiration to alter quilts to suit your taste and your piecing preferences.
Inspiration for this column began with the High Point Quilt Guild’s 2021 Mystery Quilt.
Confession #1 – I hate mystery quilts.
I realize several of my fellow guild members are regular readers of my blog. I am not throwing shade, but after I got really “burned” by a few mystery quilts in my quilting career, I made a promise to myself that A) I wouldn’t begin working on one until all the blocks had been released and I had a chance to read through all the directions or B) if this wasn’t an option, I wouldn’t participate at all. Since the guild wasn’t making us show our completed blocks or block units before receiving the next set of directions, option A was clearly in my path.
Month by month the guild member in charge of this activity faithfully released the block unit directions. I read each set of instructions carefully and after, oh…around month two, I realized something: These blocks were heavily pieced.
Confession #2 – I hate heavily pieced blocks.
Please don’t gasp so loudly. I can hear you all the way in Jamestown, NC. Let me preference this startling statement with a couple of caveats. First, yes, I can piece with the best of them – small blocks, medium-sized blocks, and large blocks. I’ve constructed 6-inch square blocks which contained 48-pieces. So, it’s not that I can’t piece – it’s that I don’t necessarily like to. At least not blocks with lots of parts. My favorite pieced blocks are fairly simple ones, such as Monkey Wrench. If there’s a large number of pieces in a block, I’d much rather use a little extra fabric and paper piece them – which was not an option with this quilt.
Unit after unit was revealed and around the third month, I seriously considered putting the brakes on the entire quilt because….flying geese were involved.
Confession #3 – I hate making flying geese.
There. I said it. I absolutely can’t stand constructing flying geese. And I blame the flying-geese-distain on this quilt:
Yes, this is a beautiful quilt, and is absolutely one of my most favorites. If you can’t tell by looking at it, this is a Judy Neimyer quilt. It’s called Glacier Star, and I had a blast making it. The fabric was such fun and such a departure from any color palate I normally undertake. I loved constructing the center so much I ordered the extensions to make sure the quilt would fit on a bed.
It never occurred to me that between the quilt center and the extensions, I would make fifty-hundred-eleventy-million flying geese. And while these geese turned out perfect because they were paper pieced, once the quilt was completed I knew something with complete certainty: I never, ever wanted to make another flying goose/geese again.
I know, I know. I know all of you are thinking this is impossible because so many quilt blocks contain flying geese. I realize that, too. So I set up a few rules for my flying geese dilemma. First, I would paper piece the geese as much as possible. If you haven’t thought about it before, consider this now: There’s a lot of bias in flying geese. Either you’re cutting a square to expose bias or you’re working with triangles which have exposed bias. This mystery quilt had 60 flying geese and it used the no-waste flying geese method, which was fine except for this fact: No final unit measurements were given. Which brings us to confession number 4.
Confession #4 – I hate quilt patterns which do not give unfinished unit measurements at each step.
This sounds kind of picky, but if I have to make 60 block units of anything – especially flying geese – I need to know what the unit’s unfinished measurements are. If the units are too large, I need to trim them down. If they’re too small, I need to adjust my seam allowances. And since flying geese have all that bias and tend to turn out a little wonky anyway, I would really like to have the option to make them larger and trim them down.
This particular pattern didn’t have this information. Any thoughts of beginning this quilt were quickly looking dubious.
Directions were released each month. I made a list of the units I enjoyed making:
Somewhere in those units, I knew I could make a quilt – just not the 2021 Mystery Quilt. I made up my mind I would only use the block units given in the directions and only make as many as required. I ended up with:
15 nine-patches which were constructed into 15 square-in-a-square blocks
60 quick-corner patches
60 corner post patches
Once the units were made, I did something very uncharacteristic of me: I didn’t make a plan. I didn’t graph out the quilt. I didn’t throw everything into EQ 8 to see how it would pan out. I joined the square-in-a-square blocks to sashing I constructed from opposing quick-corner blocks.
For the horizontal sashing, I used 3 ½-inch strips and added the four-patches for cornerstones.
Which left me with a very small-ish rectangular quilt.
To “calm down” all the piecing and to give the eyes a break, I decided to add a 1 ½-inch finished floater out of the ecru fabric.
Then I added a pieced border.
This pieced border actually used part of one of the blocks in the original quilt (which will be shown later). Between these and some left-over block units, I was pretty satisfied with the look of the quilt. Since this border had a lot of pieced units, I decided to add a four-inch border of solid fabric to round the quilt out. I don’t like sewing on binding to heavily pieced borders (which is what this border is). All those seams add extra bulk and it’s difficult to achieve a smooth binding. Plus, the additional border added some height and width to the quilt.
Here is the finished quilt. It’s a great lap-sized quilt. I will probably tuck this one away and use it as a gift. But I still had tons of leftover units. I had to plan another quilt. I took some leftover four-inch squares and cut those into triangles. I joined the triangles to some leftover four-patches to form square-in-a-square block. Then sewed those together to form a square, and I added a 3-inch border.
At this point, I had a lot of leftover two-patch units. I joined all these together to make additional four-patches and framed the square-in-a-square block with these and added four red cornerstones.
Now the center was taking shape, but it was definitely square. I wanted this quilt to be more rectangular. I knew in order for this to happen I needed to add border to only the top and bottom of the quilt to lengthen the square into a rectangle. I took the corner posts and added them to form a top and bottom piano key boarder.
I looked at my pile of leftover block units and saw I still had a lot to sew. I had 120 2-inch x 3-inch rectangles in my neutral. I sewed these to my four-patch blocks and made enough to border the right and left sides of the center.
However, I was still drowning in four-patch units. After mathing it out, I discovered I had just enough to add one final pieced border to the quilt, and still had four-patches left over.
To cut down on the bulk of a pieced border, I added a 3 ½-inch solid fabric border in the neutral. This assured me the binding would go on easy and it made the smaller quilt match the larger one (as for as the final borders go).
Yet, after all of this I still had a handful of four-patches and small neutral rectangles left. I sewed the rectangles in pairs, which made them the same size as the four-patches. I alternately sewed the blocks together into a quilt square, which I will use as part of the backing for the smaller quilt.
At this point, these were the only units I had left over — a dozen neutral squares made from the rectangles, four corner posts, and two triangles.
I couldn’t think of anything to make out of these, and honestly I was done by then. I tossed these into my circular file.
So now, I have two quilts and one large quilt block.
If I had followed directions, this is the quilt I would have:
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this quilt. It’s really pretty. I just wasn’t into piecing all those large blocks.
After 1,500 words, I’m sure you wonder if this blog has a point, other than I have a few areas of quilting I’m not crazy about and decided to take a creative by-pass with this Mystery Quilt Adventure and took you all along for the ride. Well…yes…I do have a point. Remember the quilt pattern is just your jumping off point. If you make all the block units, they will go together in lots of different ways. I didn’t have to alter any of the original block units in this creative process. I just played with them until I came up with something I liked, then I sewed it all together.
Don’t be afraid to toss the pattern.
Don’t be afraid to change things up.
Don’t be afraid to go with your quilting gut.
There are no quilt police. Just have a good time making your quilts.
Until next week, Make Your Quilt Yours!
Love and Stitches,