Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Barnraising Quilt

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I had the flu for Christmas, but it hasn’t stopped me for a second! This quilt is probably completely infested with germs because I coughed constantly while making it, and then again today while photographing it. Yuck! It’s in the laundry right now, as I am typing.
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Despite all my hacking and my low-grade fever, I managed to put together this lovely thing, a variation on the traditional log cabin design called “Barnraising.” I love, love, LOVE the play of lights and darks together. This quilt didn’t really come to life for me until the whole top was pieced—I kept looking at the individual rows and thinking, “Will it show up? I don’t think it’s going to show up…” It just didn’t look like anything, and I was convinced the value contrasts weren’t going to be strong enough.
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It did show up, though, and I am so happy with it. I don’t have a design wall, so I never really see a quilt for the first time until the whole thing is pieced, and even then sometimes I can’t tell what it really looks like until I photograph it.
This is the big moment—when I lay it out to be basted, and I have to stand on the couch and hold the camera over my head to get the whole thing in the frame (mostly I fail at this) and then I look to see. Yes! The contrast is there, and it worked.
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One thing I learned with Barnraising is that I absolutely must use a walking foot to machine quilt. People, if any doubt lingers in your mind, let it be dispelled now. You need a walking foot, and I know this now because I have a fever forgot to change the foot and machine stitched five rows of quilting with my regular presser foot, and the mess of bunching and puckering was incredible. I threw a mini tantrum and considered abandoning the quilt to the Trunk of Forgotten Projects, when my husband said, “Even with your walking foot, that’s happening?”
Well, that could be it…
So I changed the presser foot, spent forty minutes picking out the bad rows and swearing a little, and after that, it was smooth sailing. Of course. I think you can get a walking foot for your machine fairly inexpensively, unless you have a Bernina, which means you’re already used to shelling out a lot of money for things like presser feet.
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Another lesson learned is that basting from the middle and working towards the edges will, in fact, pay off in the end. (This isn’t my first rodeo, I don’t know why I’m just getting around to figuring these things out.) This top has no puckers, and no bunched up bits. Yay!
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I have a personal rule against using triangles because I am completely lazy and I hate to worry about the points, but I was lulled by the simplicity of this design, and by it’s mostly patchworky-ness, and I didn’t realize it would add about eighty jillion years to the design process, which for me is usually about zero seconds. In order to be sure pattern would work, I had to lay the whole thing out, piece by piece, row by row, on the floor, which because there is a big dog living here and also because the house is pretty small, I did six rows at a time, carefully labeling and tagging and pinning and marking as I went. Then I pieced the whole thing on Christmas Eve (coughing and sneezing and letting my tea get cold over and over again) in one long marathon because I was so afraid if I walked away, my piles would get messed up and the pattern would be ruined.
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This morning, we took it outside to photograph it. I brought my assistant with me, and he helped try to figure out ways to attach the quilt to the barn, but throwing the quilt up onto the roof wasn’t really giving me the effect I wanted.
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It does look beautiful up close, doesn’t it? This quilt measures 84” x 84”, and is 24 rows and columns of 3 1/2” squares, or squares made up of two triangles. I used some of my leftover Hope Valley fabrics from Denyse Schmidt, and a big hodgepodge of whatever else I had in the cupboard.
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My grandma is 93 years old now, and is semi-retired, but she has made a lot of quilts, and her triangle points have always been perfect. I think she’d be proud of this one.