I’m so pleased this braid quilt is done. I was going to say finally done, but that’s not really the case. I have a quilt tops that have been around for 20+ years, but not this one.
This one was started this past spring while school was still in session. I was teaching full-time, working on finishing my National Board materials (not a small task, let me tell you), and trying to finish out the spring months with my sanity intact. Although I already started this quilt, I put it aside knowing that I just did not have enough time to do everything. In fact, it sort of motivated me because each time I looked at it thinking I wanted to work on it, I told myself to go work on my National Board submission.
Fast forward just a tiny bit, and school was out for the summer, and my National Board materials were submitted. I stopped and took a couple of deep breaths. Now I could quilt.
Since I recently bought myself a massive long arm quilting machine, I figured I better put it to good use. What better way to practice, then on a quilt that will end up in the hands of someone whose eyesight is not so great. That would be my mom. Unfortunately, she has developed quite a few problems with her vision, but she can still see bright colors. That’s what she asked for. A quilt with bright colors.
I got to work in my scrap bins, and cut up all these little pieces. Fortunately many of them were already in 2 1/2 inch wide strips. I put the pieces into a paper bag, and pulled them out at random to make the braids. Once in a while I re-pulled if the color was too similar to the one before it.
Putting the braids together was a lot of fun, and really a great stress reliever. It was getting the whole thing stitched together that was a little bit more of a challenge. I’m glad I saved that part of the project for after school let out. First, I had to decide what I wanted to put around the braids, if anything. I tried out a few different colors, and decided the turquoise was the way to go. I also was debating between either white or black in between. As you can see, I chose the black. My mom wants to use this on a bed in what used to be in my bedroom. Grandkids stay over regularly, so I figured the darker color would be a little easier to maintain. I love the way the black sets off all the bright colors.
The thing about this type of a quilt, is that when you do the braids you end up with a lot of bias edges. If you don’t sew, you may not realize that the bias edge is extremely stretchy. That makes it a little bit tricky to sew with, because those edges like to change size. Getting those turquoise frames around each strip ended up being kind of a hassle. Still, I got it done and loaded onto my quilt machine.
That’s where the fun really began. You see, I am a novice at this. I only have loaded the quilt machine three times. Well, actually four. The thing is when I put it on the quilting machine I forgot to check my tension before I started quilting. No big deal, right? Wrong. I got pretty far across the quilt before I realized that stitches were being skipped. That’s not good. However, I decided to ignore it and finish quilting the row. Big mistake.
When I got to the end of the row I looked under the quilt, and to my horror, there were tangles of thread all the way across the quilt. It was time to tear out stitches. Thousands of stitches. What took me five minutes to create took three days to undo. I even had time to order a new seam ripper and have it delivered before I had the job done. Once all of the stitches were out, I took everything off the frame and reloaded it.
This time I made sure to check my stitches on the side of the quilt before I got going. They looked pretty good to me, so off I went. Unfortunately, after a short while my thread broke. Maybe I threaded it incorrectly? I unthreaded the machine, re-threaded it, and tested the tension again. Then, it broke again. What was I doing wrong? I had to take a break, and watch a few videos to see if I could figure out the problem. I changed my needle, rethreaded the machine, changed the bobbin, and still it broke. Then I started to mess with the top tension, and all of a sudden the stitches looked a lot better. Yes, I thought they were fine before, but I was wrong. New tension setting in place, off I went to finish the quilting. Lesson learned.
The good news is that my quilting was better the second time around, so there’s that silver lining. I also ended up with an almost perfectly squared off quilt, which seems sort of miraculous considering how much fiddling I had to do with the turquoise and black strips. I had plenty of the black fabric left for binding, and much to my surprise the binding went on smoothly, and looked really good, if I do say so myself. Usually I hand stitch it down on the back of the quilt, but I decided to be brave and try a machine binding again. This was the first one I did that I’m actually happy with.
Mom’s quilt is done, and I learned a lot along the way. I also had the opportunity to use up some scraps, and to practice my longarm quilting skills. I love the bright colors, and I know she will too.