You’d be proud of me, dear readers. I’ve been very good lately. I have made no I-need-it-because-it’s-pretty fabric purchases in months. Of course, my local quilt shop closed last June, which has made this feat more attainable, but it’s a triumph nonetheless, right?
This phenomenon does not date back to, say, Thanksgiving 2015. Back then, the Fat Quarter Shop was offering some crazy sales, and I found myself making multiple well-priced purchases, including two jolly bars of Civil War reproduction fabrics.
These fabrics, from Barbara Brackman’s Union Blues collection, weren’t my usual thing. The more masculine palette and traditional designs, however, had the potential to appeal to my dad, who had yet to receive one of my quilty creations.
So what can a modern quilter do with Civil War fabrics? This is what I made for my dad ...
The easiest way to bridge my uncharacteristic fabric selection with my more modern sensibilities was to piece something visually simple. All jolly bars include a pattern. The one accompanying Union Blues was called Regiment and required one jolly bar plus sashing fabric. Since I had two jolly bars in hand, I used the same pattern and enlarged the quilt from a small throw to a much larger one.
My signature straight-line quilting wouldn’t have done much for this project, so I sent it off to Crinklelove for quilting. The swirling leaves of the Harvest Winds pantograph I chose softened the quilt’s strong geometry.
This was my first time using Crinklelove’s quilting service, and I was very satisfied. The process of making this quilt, however, had its hiccups. Maybe you can learn from my missteps and save yourself some heartache in a project of your own!
Precuts: A Blessing and a Curse
I love a good precut because I like owning a cross-section of an entire line. I most often buy jelly rolls and layer cakes, but jolly bars are a great size, too. The 5-inch by 10-inch rectangles can be used as is or cut down to 5-inch charms or smaller. (See my other jolly bar quilt here.) When I buy precuts, I almost always buy Moda precuts because I like Moda fabrics. : )
Precuts have their shortcomings, though. It can be annoying to sew their pinked edges together, and I’ve purchased one jelly roll in particular, from Free Spirit, whose pinked edges were so deep that the strips weren’t a full 2½ inches. I accept that manufacturers do the best they can with the available technology but that precuts aren’t perfect.
Too bad I forgot that before sewing this quilt top together! One jolly bar was an eighth of an inch longer and wider than the other. I had to ease many seams when sewing my rows of rectangles together. If only I had checked the materials I was working with up front, I could have trimmed the larger pieces before piecing and saved myself the need to ease. This experience won’t stop me from buying jolly bars, or other precuts for that matter, in the future. It just makes me more wary.
Pressing and Pinning: The Downside of Peer Pressure
Pins are my friends. I don’t pin as much as I did when I first started sewing because there are plenty of times when it’s not necessary, but in general, pinning is crucial to achieving the precision I want when piecing. (Full disclosure: Here’s a way to avoid pins and still get nice points.)
My instinct with Regiment was to press my seams open and use pins—lots of pins!—to get everything to line up when I sewed my rows together. But I had heard enough quilters (you know who you are!) comment about avoiding pins, and I chose to follow the pattern’s pressing instructions, nest my seams, and forgo pinning.
Boy, did that plan backfire. As it turned out, I had to use pins. Remember that wrongly sized jolly bar? I had to pin and pin and pin to make the seams between rows line up. And I knew I was tempting fate by pressing to one side in a project with light-colored sashing, but I surveyed the situation, checking to see whether the dark colors were noticeable in the side presses. I thought I’d be OK. When I got the final quilt back from Crinklelove, those dark fabrics were noticeable (see picture below). I should have known better!
Despite these missteps, the quilt is still beautiful. My dad—who does not see it through the quilter’s eyes that I do—could care less about any imperfections. He loves this gift, and that’s all that matters, right?
Do you have any tales of woes from projects you’re working on right now? Share them in the comments. I’ll be sympathetic. : )
Linking up to Finish It Up Friday, Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, and the Precut Linky Party ...