Thursday, November 6, 2014

Transforming a UFO into a WIP

Remember this quilt? This is Christmas Yet to Come, the block of the month project for 2011. I loved making this quilt. I loved the over-the-top applique, all simple shapes, but oh, so many of them!

It's a large quilt, 102 inches or so square. I knew that basting the quilt could be a challenge. Buying a 108" backing fabric seemed like the way to go.

This is also the only quilt that has taken me three tries at basting to get it right. Three tries on a quilt that is 102" square.

My first fail came from a rush job at a quilt shop retreat. Because the place was packed full of happy quilters, only a couple tables, of slightly different heights were available. No biggie, right? This is not my first trip to the basting rodeo. Wrong. Puckers and pleats everywhere. Unbasting ensued.

For my second try, I switched over from my default 80/20 batting, which is white, to a black polyester batting that was supposed to be designed for machine quilting. I was concerned about bearding (when the light colored batting comes through the fabric to give it a hazy appearance), and I was hoping the loft of the polyester batt would add to the texture of the quilting. Another epic fail. This time it was incredible static cling that resulted into unruly bubbles on the backing, and the quilt weighed a metric ton. More unbasting.

Hoping that the third time would be a charm, I switched out the poly batt for wool. Wool has a gentle loft, and keeps its warmth despite being very light.

Of I toddled to the Quilted Cottage, on an off day so that there would be lots of open tables. With all the room I would need, I carefully pressed and then secured the backing fabric to the tables.

Starting in one corner, I was careful to leave enough fabric for wiggle room on the edge. I happily basted the majority of the quilt, feeling positive about the outcome this time.

But then I came to the opposite side of the quilt. Aaargh! The backing is short by about eight inches. Of course I started by kicking myself in the rear and then sitting down for a little bit of a pity party. I really couldn't face unbasting this quilt yet again. And when I measured out the extra on the opposite end I realized that it wouldn't have been enough, even if I'd snugged the quilt right up to the edges. Perhaps the quilt is a little larger than I thought, or maybe the backing wasn't 108", I bought it three years ago. Maybe it shrank in the closet, lord knows my clothes do.

In the end I decided to forge on ahead and seam the backing fabric. I started by ripping away the selvages. I had plenty of fabric left over in yardage, so I ripped that as well. The pieced edge will be cross grain while the majority of the backing is on the straight of grain. This might be an issue if this quilt were to be hung, but I'm not overly worried. I'm going to quilt the snot out of it, so the backing should be very stable.

Ripping the fabric keeps the edges perfectly on grain, This might end up being the only "perfect" thing about this quilt.

The sewing, even while being very careful, only took a few minutes. My machine has a dual feed option, which helps to prevent shirring along the seam. Otherwise,I would have used a walking foot. A seam this long, and with so much extra weight to one side, is just begging for trouble.

The proof is in the pressing. The seam was pressed open to eliminate as much bulk as possible. A seam pressed to the side can result in unexpected bumps when quilting. Thanks to the subtle print pattern of the backing fabric, the seam almost disappears.

Even though it seemed like a monumental job, it actually took about a half an hour to complete.

The quilt is now fully basted. Done and Done. Now it's time to finally commit to a quilting plan. I will begin by stitching in the ditch around the applique and the pieced elements. I'm pretty sure the center stars will be surrounded by some sort of grid work. As for the background fill? I'm open to suggestions. Really. Help!


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! Can't wait to see it in person.

  2. Oh my gosh I'm in the process of finishing up my top too. I'm working now on the middle border a good deal of the units are done and are ready to stitch down to the background fabric. Only problem is I'm short fabric and don't really want to piece it. So I will find something close or go solid. Who says all the borders have to be the same. As long as it is the same color. Besides there is so much applique on top it would really not matter. The swags on the last border need to be assembled and the sewn down. The pieced blocks are sewn together. I'm so close. But what to quilt. I'll be anxious to see what you do.
    So glad you are working to get this done.

  3. Anonymous10:47 AM

    I was thinking about pulling mine out the other day and wondered if you had quilted yours yet.

  4. Glad you got it basted, Beth! Can't wait to see the finished quilt.