Sunday, May 31, 2015

Single Wedding Ring Quilt

Somewhere I read that quilting is a 6 billion dollar per year business only 3 billion behind major league football.  I don’t know if this is true.  If so, maybe I should find a way to cash in.  Let me tell you, though, it isn’t going to be in piecing.

A long time friend is getting married.  I promised to make a   Single Wedding Ring Quilt . I saw it in a library book Quilting Makes the Quilt by Lee Cleland.  Check the book out, sometime.  It is an amazing feat, in and of itself.  The author made twelve  different quilts and quilted each of them five different ways. Holy shit.  That means that she made five of each quilt pattern.

 The design calls for twenty pieced blocks.  Each block is made with 16 HST (half square triangles) and nine  2.5 inch squares.  I am sure that the block has a name.  I don’t know.   
I read the directions “Cut twelve strips 2 7/8” by 42”   Cut these strips into a total of 160 squares, 2 7/8 by 2 7/8.  Cut once diagonally to make 320 half-square triangles.”

 Instead I followed the directions in my All-in-One Quilter’s Reference Tool    Betsy ordered two of them one night when she was drinking wine and shopping.  It is a useful reference.  There, I learned to cut 6 inch squares out of each color and place the  right sides together. Draw  diagonal lines, and sew  1/4 inch seam on each side of the center diagonal lines, Next ,  cut the square  in half both ways and on each diagonal line.

I forgot to read “Trim to size.” 

I put the first block together.  The pieced squares were larger than the plain ones. (see above) I stretched and sewed and the block came out very wonky.

I changed machines.  I paid careful attention to my seam allowance.  The second one was less wonky but still not acceptable.  I changed feet, better but I had to cut down the finished squares.  Something was wrong.  (Yes, Lizzy, you did not read the directions)

Then I remembered reading about the Magic Eight.  I made my squares five and three quarter inches.  Much better.

In hindsight, as I write this, I think I will go back to using 6 inch squares at the start and trim them.  I know it is more cutting, and likely will end up making as many cuts as if I had cut 160 squares, but I think the accuracy will improve making the end result much more precise.

I was very careful. I made one block at a time.  In truth,  I sewed four Magic 8 blocks and then cut two for the 16 HSTs.  Then I would construct the block.  The QRT recommended keeping the straight grain all the way around the outside edge of the block whenever possible.  Indeed.  I was fastidious about this  I discovered that if you positioned the 5 3/4 inch squares so that the straight grain went one way in one block, and the opposite way in the other block, your HST would have straight grain on opposite edges and I was able to keep the straight grain on the outside on all of the blocks.

Ninety minutes per block, start to finish.  Honest.  Despite my best efforts, I had some pretty wonky blocks.  I sorted through them and used the best for the center of the quilt, where matching seams is so critical.

I laid out the whole quilt top, sans borders, on my two six foot tables in the loft.  There is barely room to circumnavigate the tables so I won't keep them set up this way.  I like having all this room, though.

By Five Thirty PM I had all the strips pieced.   Before I went in for supper, I so wanted to get the two middle strips (and the longest) sewn together  I thought that by starting in the middle and working out to the edges I would get the best result.  Failure.  I had to rip the whole seam out.  It took about fifteen minutes.  Then I carefully pinned the seam and sewed it up.  I figured it would be best to match the dark colors and if the exact center is off it won't show as much since it is the light color.

I might make this quilt again.  I would like to get it right in the middle.  Before I do, though, I think I will get some advice from real quilters.  There must be a way to get these seams to match up and I think it has to do with the grain. 


  1. Precision piecing is a definitely an art. I like to make HST with the easy angle ruler. You cut the pieces from strips and don't fool with crazy sizes. The ends of the triangles are nipped off which makes piecing much easier. I made all the HST for the ill fated Bonnie Hunter Grand Illusion this way and they were precise.
    Other helps are no steam, but starch. I use the liquid starch, dilute with water in a spray bottle. Make fabric stay put. Also, I use a thin thread so the thread does not bulk up the seam. I used to use Aurifil, but have been using YLI Prime Piecing Glazed which is thin and glides through the fabric. To trim, I have been eyeing the Block Lock Ruler. I saw the demo in Paducah, but did not pull the trigger. Rats.
    Love your fabric. You know, after it is quilted, only the quilt police will examine the meeting points. I think it is pretty neat.

    1. I did trim all of those points. I did use starch but did use steam. Next time, no steam. I like the idea of thinner thread. But cotton with cotton or is poly ok?

    2. It does not matter cotton or poly. I listened to the Superior DVD and learned a lot. You can have mine. I like So Fine if poly, Prime Piecing, Bottom Line, and Aurifil 50. Steam does distort, especially bias edges.

    3. I think precision comes with practice too.Very nice quilt! Do you have a place for a design wall? Mine is pink insulation covered with a cheap flannel sheet. Small blocks stick but big pieces need a pin or two.

  2. Poly thread is fine. I use it a lot because it is thin and strong. Not linty, either. I am also a big fan of using the Easy Angle ruler for HSTs. Bonnie Hunter has a good tutorial on her blog: I have taught myself to do them accurately by measuring, cutting, and sewing carefully. I am no fan of the " make it bigger and cut it down to the correct size" method. Measuring and cutting everything twice? Life is too short. And that is one lovely quilt top you have there. Quilting will only make it more so.

  3. I love your quilt and am amazed at the speed you put it together. Loads of the prized old vintage quilts have things going on. That you are rocking these quilts and have that wonderful long arm makes me delirious with day dreaming here. Meant to congratulate you on your son's wonderful achievement in the advanced Harvard degree when I read that post. That is a beyond fantastic achievement and know you are so very proud of him.

  4. As a clothes sewist (looks better than sewer), I have had my issues with quilting cottons. They are not always printed on grain, sometimes comically off. Waaaay off (an inch off over 18"). Stuff I will never use because I don't want to fight the results. Which makes me wonder about you quilting people.
    If you aren't preshrinking your fabrics, steaming them will do the job. And if you aren't cutting on grain, that steaming can pull them into grain. This could be a problem, probably bigger than the thread but it all adds up. And dayum, there are a lot of points there. Hypnotically so.
    And frankly, I can LOOK FOR the parts where it doesn't match absofriggingly perfectly, but I can't SEE them. I see a really wonderful thing o beauty. The overall effect is stunning. What a swell pal you are!

    1. I have to say, the grain is pretty easy to see on these fabrics. Don't forget, too, that cutting probably should be on grain as well. I noticed that mine wasn't so perfect but as Linda said, only the quilting police care.

  5. Nice quilt. I use Triangulations, and paper piece all my triangles. Perfect sized HST's every time, with no trimming. It also doesn't mess with the bias, since the fabric is stitched to paper. I just set my stitch length small, and the paper tears out easily, without distorting the HST's. I designed a quilt this morning, and figured out how many Triangulations papers to print out. My seams all match up that way. You can also use a BlocLoc ruler to trim your HST's perfectly, but, the ruler is expensive (yes, I have one).