I love to enter quilt challenges. It’s never about winning. It’s about expanding my creativity for a specific challenge and being accepted.
Winning is just a bonus – and spoilers, there is a giant bonus for this quilt.
A few years ago I found a quilt challenge for Judy Gauthier’s Quilts for Scrap Lovers book. Finding information on her website about the challenge was perfectly timed. In a place where I imagine most quilter’s reach – having more stash fabric than I know what to do with- this challenge was right up my alley. Her book is formatted very well with quilt projects that are based on blocks. Blocks of similar sizes made it quite easy to pick and choose a few favorites to work with. For her challenge she had a size guide of designing a 72″ quilt which is a very make-able quilt. Not too big, not too small, and will use up a fair amount of scraps.
Working in EQ8 I created a couple of her block designs and started playing with the layout to create a design I liked. Beginning with her Sunshine and Shadows block and Chevron block, I was able to create an on-point quilt layout. My blue bin of fabrics was overflowing so I decided to create a monochromatic quilt with these two blocks. I used EQ8 to create the layout and have an idea for how much fabric I would need. However I ignored the cutting directions, I already had them written for me in her book. Why bother with EQ8 directions that were asking for 15/16 inches and other odd numbers. I was making 8″ blocks, I didn’t need any of those odd numbers! Right? Here became a fortuitous accident for the quilt’s story.
I knew I had a mountain of squares to cut. MOUNTAIN. To make this quilt I borrowed an AccuQuilt to help cut the squares but really, it didn’t help at all. I could only do two layers of fabric at a time and still had waste cuts. After bothering with it for a few hours, I went back to the good ole ruler and rotary cutter. I tried a Stripology ruler as well, but with having to keep turning it, it wasn’t very useful either. In the end, I believe I counted 2083 squares which many of them had to be turned into half square triangles. Working in these 4″ squares I didn’t really have a size understanding of the quilt. It looked like a lot, but that’s what EQ8 said I needed! So I just kept cutting and quickly realized even though my blue scrap bin was over flowing I wouldn’t have enough fabric. Spreading into purple and just a bit of aqua, helped fill in the gaps. Plus ‘shopping’ from my mom’s fabric stash I was able to secure enough fabric.
It was time to assemble! Going off me design I knew I would be working from majority of light and dark fabrics to create the designs. Pairing deep blues with light blues I created a million HST units which became the chevron sashes. I was very excited in how the sash design was forming. It was an 8″ sash to go with 8″ blocks. No worries – right?
It wasn’t until I was a good few weeks in on this project and starting putting units up on my design wall that I realized I had a problem. My design wall is 72″, the size the quilt needed to be. Once I was putting up my block units of the quilt I quickly realized my sizes were all off. My units were overlapping and I didn’t have the sash on yet. But how? I made 8″ blocks and 8″ sashes just like I was supposed to! I went back to EQ8 and saw that odd 15/16″ markings again. I figured I just drew a block slightly off but slowly I began to realize something. I was using Judy’s 8″ block designs but my quilt design was on point. An 8″ block on point is not in fact 8″. It’s actually 11″ across. So those odd numbers that EQ8 was telling me which I ignored – were the right measurements. Doing some more quilt math I quickly realized that my 72″ designed quilt was turning out to be 100″ square. Yep. 72″ to 100″. Time was of the essence.
I believe this was sometime in early December when I realized my sizing error. Still going with the quilt, I emailed Judy to make sure if I submitted a larger quilt it would be ok? She replied yes, that the 72″ was the minimum actually. Oh good, my giant 100″ would still be acceptable! Second question – the challenge was really about creating a design with her blocks. Did it have to be quilted by the deadline as well? I had less than a month to finish making the top, quilt it, and bind it. Add in that it’s December. Family obligations include holiday decorating, planning my daughter’s birthday party, it’s my husband’s birthday as well, Christmas, and leaving on a family trip on December 26th. Getting the entire quilt done before Christmas even though the deadline was December 31st was just not going to happen. Luckily for me, a top was all that was needed to submit.
So when you have a 100″ quilt, how on earth do you take a photo of it? Ok, I live in Florida – taking a photo outside is ok – but still the size of it! I moved all my living room furniture out, vacuumed up a million dust bunnies, and laid the quilt on the floor. Taking the picture from my second floor loft was the only way to do it! Dedication for quilting: we do what we need to do, even vacuuming.
I emailed off my picture and went on my family trip. After getting back I knew I wanted to finish the quilt even if it wasn’t accepted. All that work deserved to be quilted and if all else failed would become a new quilt for our bed.
My quilt was on my Handi Quilter longarm for a good week. I wanted to add lots of quilting details in the center blocks, sashing, and such. I’m very happy with this quilting but looking back, I could have kept going! After I had finished the quilt I learned my design was accepted! I needed to take a new photograph of the quilt and send the image for their publishing purposes. Whose you ask? Why the International Quilt Festival in Chicago needed the photo! This is such a wonderful accomplishment, to display a quilt at IQF.
Of course my mom and I made plans to go see my quilt, why wouldn’t we? She had been to IQF Chicago many years ago before I was a quilter and we both had been to International Quilt Festival Houston. It was a great little weekend trip up to Chicago even though it was freezing! Luckily our hotel was connected to the convention center so we barely went outside. Those Chicago winds you hear about are true! We viewed all the quilts in the exhibits on Friday, which were awe inspiring, coming back Saturday to do shopping and then flying back out on Sunday.
While we were walking out to an early dinner on Friday we were stopped before we had a chance. A woman came up to me and stopped me – knowing exactly who I was. In return I had no idea and stepped back. Seeing her badge I realized it was Judy! How fun to meet her! She was very happy to see me and she asked if we could stay for a few minutes to help hang the awards. Ok – being completely honest I had no idea of winners for her exhibit. I had a quilt hanging in the International Quilt Festival and that was all I wanted. Then Judy has this giant box and hands me this GIANT ribbon, for MY quilt. Hello! She loved how I took her blocks and created this design. Such a surprise! This quilt was such a fun quilt to make, learning along the way to pay attention to measurements, and a memorable trip with my mom. Judy’s exhibit was well received and traveled to the International Quilt Festival Houston as well. Guess a trip to Houston that fall was also in order.