Big quiltin’

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Big quiltin’

Without an A/C…

I recently picked up the Botany Quilt Kit by Lauren & Jessi Jung for Moda Fabrics from Hancock’s of Paducah, and I’m so excited about it! This is a very special purchase for me, a point of starting over, and the (entire, wordy) background story is in the extended entry. But up here, just the pretty pictures and the squeeee!

The kit comes with 2 jelly rolls. This is new to me since I’ve never purchased jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs, or any other pre-cut fabric packs before.

They are so cute! I bet I won’t feel that way once I unwrap the roll and have a gazillion strips of fabric all over everything.

There are also some bigger pieces of fabric for “fussy cutting” (a technical term) the centers of the blocks. But I don’t think I’ll use those flowers for the centers of my blocks: I think I’ll like the blocks better if the centers are a smaller print. So, I’ll fussy cut around the flowers instead!

And the whole kit came in this (collapsible!) canvas basket, complete with care labels that you can sew onto the completed quilt.

The bottom one says, “Made by hand, stitched with love.” The top one says, “Wash me with mild detergent and don’t agitate me. Air dry.” Hmmm, I’m not sure how I feel about the air dry bit.

The only downer about this kit is that I think I’m going to have to change the assembly from what’s given in the pattern. As written, the directions have you piece the outer bits of each square first (with diagonal seams), and then set in the center square. This seems excessive considering you can achieve practically the same look with a basic half a log-cabin square (or whatever it’s called). Right?!? I’m a little bummed about that considering I was specifically looking for a quilt kit with precise instructions to follow (more about that in the extended entry), but I hope I can manage on my own ;).

Well, there’s one other thing that’s making me supremely upset: although I got this kit several weeks ago, and have been feeling very enthusiastic about giving it a try, the weather has not been on my side. My sewing machine is in an area of the apartment that’s not air-conditioned, and we have had unbearable heat for weeks now. Just the thought of using a hot iron to press all those seams makes me cringe! Yuck! I’m hoping the heat subsides some time soon, so I can get moving on this quilt!

Although I’m generally a friend of the sewing machine (a world which caters to much taller women than I will do that), and have even finished fairly complicated garments in the past, quilting has so far eluded me. I made some basic coasters once, and then tried to piece together a quilt top on another occasion… “tried” being the operative word.

In retrospect, I think my “issue” with not finishing the quilt top was two-fold. First, I don’t think I’m a “seat of the pants” kind of quilter. This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this blog. But I was simply confused, I think, because scrappy quilts can be so gorgeous and string quilts seem so easy to make! Perhaps that’s true for others, but it ends up that I need something different. I think in order for me to be a successful quilter, I need to select those quilts which have a pattern to follow, with steps, instructions, dimensions, etc. Less improvisation, more rules.

Second, I was using less-than-high-quality fabrics. I’ve been reading Oh, Fransson! lately, and she makes many compelling arguments for using good materials to achieve the best result. This of course makes perfect sense, and we all know this to be true for knitting as well as sewing.

If I may take a second here and make a detour down memory lane: when I just learned to knit, I cannot tell you the amount of money I spent buying who-knows-what-brand crappy-ass yarn off of eBay. It never looked quite right when it arrived, the texture was always a surprise (since I couldn’t touch it prior to buying), and it never knit up exactly as I imagined. All of it ultimately got tossed, if I’m being totally honest. I eventually learned that bargains are great, but no matter how cheap, bad yarn is bad yarn.

I guess I had to make the same mistake with fabrics, too. The ones I was using for the String Quilt Set on Point were variously acquired, but none from a reputable source. Some were from a discount fabric store, others were a freebie with something I bought on eBay, many were leftovers from previous sewing adventures.

They were all slightly different weights, but I think what really killed the possibility of this quilt top ever being finished was that this one fabric, my favorite of the bunch, this dark navy with white hatch marks that I felt was holding the whole thing together, which I was going to use for sashing and backing, this fabric really sucked the most. It was stiff and felt slippery to the touch, and even though I pre-washed it, the blue ink rubbed off on my hands, my iron, and my ironing board during the whole time I was using it. And who would want to work with that?

Anyway… this brings us to today. I’ve been feeling the quilty love lately, mainly because of my peeps over at Flickr who play along in quilting bees and block challenges, and whip up some absolutely stunning masterpieces in the process. Their genius combined with some amazing quilting blogs (many of which share tips, resources, and tutorials) finally pushed me over the edge.

I decided that my best bet would be to find a quilting “kit” (if such a thing existed), which would provide me with instructions for completing a quilt top together with the necessary materials. Mrs. Vesper pointed me in the direction of Hancock’s of Paducah, where I found out that this kind of thing definitely exists. Considering my recently-acquired respect for high quality fabrics, I compiled a short list of manufacturers whose fabrics I’ve seen praised by my quilting friends. Quilt kit + good brand from my list + not too expensive + not too complicated = Botany Quilt Kit by Lauren & Jessi Jung for Moda Fabrics, which is described in all its glorious detail in the main entry ;).


38 thoughts on “Big quiltin’

  1. Virginia

    And you could travel a couple hours south and be Big Quiltin’ in the NYC.

    sigh. The title of your post (and subsequent crafty lyrics) made me so very very happy.

  2. Maria

    What lovely entry. I am a knitter, quilter, spinner, weaver, painter….you know…the kind that does a little bit of everything!

    And the “jelly rolls” of pre-cut strips are a wonderful thing!. My husband and I own a sewing machine and vacuum store. we also carry long arm quilting machines. He just ventured where no bearded/canoer/inventor man has yet gone and made the Quilt in a Day project, using the jelly roll. He was so proud!

    Thanks, I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it as new entries are posted.


  3. ashley

    Yeah, that air-dry label is nonsense (although I like its bossy tone. Don’t agitate me!). How are you supposed to get your quilt all nice and shrinkly if it doesn’t go in the dryer?

  4. Silvia

    Hi, I wish you good luck with the Quilt and I shall watch your progress:) I been lurking about on your Blog for a while. Hope you do better at quilting then I do!!!


  5. Sara l

    Darn those quilting bee flickr folks.

    i’m quilting too.

    tho i’ve been sewing since i was 5.

    I just completed my first quilt.

    I’m working on 2 & 3 now.


  6. Danielle

    My grandfather was an excellent craftsman (carpenter) and he always said to buy the best materials you can afford — you’ll always be happier with them.

    The other lesson he taught us, which is applicable to quilting?? “Measure twice, cut once.” Happy quilting, Kathy!

  7. Robin

    It’s difficult to tell from the picture, but your post indicates that there is bias piecing involved with the rectangles rather than the traditional rectangular log cabin (round and round) piecing.

    If this is the case, you may be happier with the results if you run that bias/diagonal seam and then inset the square.

    That diagonal seam will ultimately be a high exposure detail, given the fabric print inevitably not matching at the mitres. You’ll want a nice, crisp seam there.

  8. Rose

    Wow, that looks gorgeous (i checked the link). Good luck and I hope the weather cools soon so you can get started without melting.

  9. Holly

    I always wished I could quilt but it eludes me. I’m sure it will be beautiful and the kit is a clever idea. Although it bugs the heck out of my inner grammarian that there is a typo on the one label, made by hand, stiched with love. I’d be tempted to sew a ‘t’ into it.

  10. Becky in VT

    Wait, wait wait! You mean to say you can buy PRE-CUT quilt kits?? So my main excuse for not quilting – that I could never cut that many little squares – is a complete dud?

    Maybe I can try some quilting after all…

  11. Meg McG

    It’s funny how similar the kit you picked is to that honeymoon(?) blanket you knit in the pinks and yellows!

    Same shape and design – you are nothing if not consistent!

  12. yahaira

    I’m in love with that little basket!

    I’ve been eyeing this quilt since the showed it at one of the quilt shows, but I didn’t realize they wanted you to inset the center. I had just assumed it was a log cabin block.

    and air drying? umm I’ll pass. I like how crinkly it looks out of the dryer

  13. Slinky

    I started having wrist trouble a couple of weeks ago and opted to take a while off of knitting until they felt better. So I turned to sewing. I pulled out a project that I had put off for a long time and wanted to complete for this fall – a fur lined velvet cloak. I got it most of the way cut out and then the heat wave hit. Needless to say, it stayed that way for a week until the weather cooled down. I finally got it cut out, but I haven’t wanted to sit in our office with two computers, one small window and a huge pile of velvet and fur in my lap. Tonight I’m going to try some knitting and see how it goes. If it still bothers my wrists I’m going to go nuts. Can’t knit, can’t sew. Maybe cross stitch?

  14. Anna

    Having to iron in such heat is a real pain, but have you considered a mini iron? Seems like it would be ideal for quilting, especially when you have so many seams to press open. (My issue with pressing seams down is that my iron and sewing machine aren’t on the same floor of the house. I don’t quilt, but when I’m sewing I wind up doing a lot of decorative topstitching to avoid ironing seams open.)

  15. wooliegirl

    I have never used a jelly roll or charm pack and now must have one! I love yours and have been contemplating taking a quilting class..thanks for sharing…please post your progress, I will be watching.

  16. carolyn

    i dry my quilts in the dryer all the time.

    i usu tell pepole “dry in dryer OR air dry but do not HANG dry”

    hanging a wet quilt can result in popped stitches from the weight of the wet batting (fine to hang up dry quilts to take photos, etc.)

    sampler classes at local quilt stores are totally worth taking FYI. exposes you to all different kinds of blocks (strip piecing / triangles / curved piecing / etc).

  17. Samina

    Timely post! I’ve been drawn to the quilting bug too & just like you, I decided that I needed a kit to get me going. Although I’ve been following Care’s 1st Quilt Ever QAL on her Obessively Stitching blog, I’m not comfortable with winging (beyond her guidance) it yet, either. I bought a couple of kits a couple of weeks ago. One of them is a simple kit put together by the quilt store. The other is Moda Dea kit, but I was told that it’s a bit advanced for my current quilting skills. Oh well, it’s something I can aspire to.

  18. Bertha

    Even though I’ve been quilting for years, I am also not a seat-of-my pants quilter and prefer specific directions when embarking on a quilt project. The reason I joined a couple bees was to branch out and stretch my skills in that direction since I knew some people would ask for more free-formy type blocks. I can’t wait to see what you do with this!

  19. Steph

    Cute quilt kit, but I like your idea of not using the big flower centers. They make the quilt look just a little big rigid, and I think the charm of a quilt lies not perfectly matched patterns.

    I just made a quilt top consisting of triangles, sewing on the bias was a bit tricky as they started to stretch out a bit, making my resulting squares not quite square (ok, I was also not super patient and sewing speedily). Starting the squares from the middle as you suggest sounds easier and less fussy, and you avoid bias. Have fun!

  20. janna

    My grandma was a quilter and for her (in an un-air-conditioned farmhouse in the Midwest), it was always a fall/winter activity. Although she pieced on the machine, she did all the quilting by hand on a big frame set up in the living room. Personally, even though I’m from a family of seamstresses, I have a fear of the sewing machine. Nevertheless, I am always drawn to quilting — enough that I have done some small pieces completely by hand. I can’t wait to see your quilt!

  21. Jennifer O.

    Yay! Grumperina tries quilting. I also support not using the big flowers as the block centers. The Fat Quarter Shop has a good assortment of kits as well.

  22. Jessie

    Yay for quilting! I am looking forward to learning a new craft/skill. And thank goodness for instructions/patterns — I don’t think I could handle seat-of-my-pants piecing right now!

    I’ve got some fabric to try some little patchwork projects to see if I can sew in a straight line before tackling actual quilting blocks…

  23. Rhonda

    Well, if you look closely at the photo, they didn’t miter the corners of the blocks! You can really see it in the lower right corner block, and the other blocks that use that pattern on the edge.

    I would just start from the center and work my way out. The photo shows that they put the shorter strip on the left of the center, and the longer strip on the top. If you do it consistently, you’ll be fine and it will look just like the photo, which is why you bought it in the first place, right?

    Any decent quilt book will explain how to do the block, but really all you need to do is make sure the center blocks are the correct size, then sew on your strip and then cut, turn, sew the same strip and cut, and you are all set.

    That’s what I would do.

  24. mari

    I love Hancock’s, I have been buying there for years. Their kits are always in good shape and whenever I’ve had to email them questions they have always been helpful.

    I had gotten the string quilt book after you had started that quilt and I couldn’t wrap my head around it either. I do much better with more well defined instructions myself.

    Fat Quarter Shop, The Virginia Quilter, Shibori Dragon are my favorite places beside HoP to order from.

    Not too far from you is Cambridge Quilt Shop on Blanchard Road, Lynn and Monique are very friendly and I’m sure you would enjoy their little shop. Quilter’s Way in Concord was another favorite of mine while I was still in the area.

    Have fun Kathy!

  25. Stephanie

    I’ve really been enjoying quilting lately. I know this won’t surprise you, but I do much better with detailed instructions as well. It’s just my personality. I would suggest you make at least one block as the directions say – there may be a reason for that construction that isn’t immediately apparent. After the first block you’ll know if there’s a good reason or if the pattern drafters are just idiots. 🙂

  26. Seanna Lea

    I’m with Becky in VT. I dislike cutting fabric, which is why I have so much fabric and so little done with it all. I might be able to finish a quilt if I don’t have to do all of that cutting!

  27. sallya

    I was (and hope to be again) a quilter and have to recommend the Quilt in a Day series of books for new quilters. I know two people who didn’t even know how to sew but became accomplished quilters b/c of Eleanor Burns & her series of books. She was also on PBS (don’t know if she still is or not). When my husband & I downsized houses I gave away so much fabric (more than 25 boxes) that it makes me cringe to think about it. I only have one box left. Boohoo. Good luck with this quilt. ALSO, I think if you start w/ the square and add the “logs,” it will go MUCH faster. Sorry for the wordiness.

  28. erical

    I can’t second the Quilt In A Day method enough — Eleanor Burns’ shows still air, but if you can’t get the shows either online or locally, the books have the kind of detail you (and I!) look for. I’ve made several perfect quilt tops based on her patterns and methods. And, the accuracy required in quilting has made me a much better sewer, even though I’ve been machine sewing since I was 8 years old. Finally, thanks for your blog!

  29. dana

    i’ve been quilting for almost twenty years. while there are lots of “rules” the most important one is to do what works best for you. the block is a half log cabin block. certainly you can start from the inside and work your way out. there is no reason to torment yourself by working from the outside in.

    whether you should air dry or machine dry your finished quilt greatly depends on what kind of batting you select. i put quilts with a cotton batt in the dryer until they are just damp to the touch, and then spread them out to air dry. i have a nice big yard, so i do this on a sheet on the grass. i would never put a wool batt in the dryer. i just bought a batt made with bamboo, and i’ll have to test it in the dryer to see how it works first, before i use it in a quilt.

    i would recommend any of Sally Collins’s books on piecing. while she prefers to work in a small scale (her work is stunning!) her methods translate to any kind of piecing. she believes in and practices accuracy in cutting and piecing techniques. and in ironing too!

    i hope it cools down enough for you to get to your sewing machine soon. i was thrilled when my husband brought home a room air conditioner for my sewing room, which had been unusable in the hot summers we have here in the foothills.

  30. Kim

    I’m also confused that the instructions have you set in the square. I say go for the log-cabin construction!

  31. Siow Chin

    I drool over the patchwork/quilt photos on flickr everyday and I so long to quilt. But first I must sew more clothes which would use up those stash quicker.

  32. jenny

    I have also been recently bit by the quilting bug, and I blame Oh, Fransson! My first finished quilt top was her Mod Sampler Quilt-a-long, which I really liked because she walked you through each step with good detail. I also like it because there’s no triangles, and I prefer sticking with rectangles to begin with. I have just started free motion quilting my mod sampler now (I practiced on a very simple smaller baby quilt) and I love it so much!

  33. Holly

    Oooh, I’m so excited for your quilt! I bet it will be lovely. But… air dry? Pfffft.

  34. deb roby

    I do not know what the pattern says, but the photo you posted is a log cabin construction. And, admiring your precision (oh the math!) with your knitting, I completely get your desire for the same thing in your quilting.

    I quilted for 25 years before I started to knit. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email.

  35. Diane

    My local sewing shop is also going big on the Jelly Rolls. They’ve put up a nice blog posting:

    but they specifically refer to a book called “Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts”. This may help you to find your way through those luscious fabrics.

    They also are talking up patterns for bags and such but I’ve not yet headed over to see what they look like. Honestly, I’m not stumping for the shop (I do like them) but was hoping to help point you in a direction that’ll give you the structure you’re looking for.

    Good luck, Kathy!

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