Monday, May 18, 2020

Cutting the Gordian Knot

Here's a project you haven't seen in a while:
The last time I wrote about it was October, 2015!

A summary of its history:

  • The quilt top was purchased by my sister's mother-in-law in the 60s from the side of the road in Kentucky when they were on a trip.
  • It lived in her attic until my sister was helping her clean out the house for a move in the late 1990s. There were three quilt tops; my sister liked two of them and offered this one to me. I took it gladly.
  • I added the hexagons around the outside to get it to size. I made it into a duvet cover (because I was sleeping under duvets at the time; not quilts) and used buttons to hold the layers together.
  • It was too warm as a duvet cover and the buttons were uncomfortable (mostly when sitting on the bed, not sleeping) and would scratch you. I disassembled the duvet cover which left me a quilt with raw edges.
  • I decided to remove the buttons and hand quilt it, echoing all of the seams.
  • My plan was to fill in all the spaces on the sides to get straight edges. I really disliked those points hitting me in the face especially. I even had extra triangles in the bigger blue polka dot fabric to use.

And that is how the quilt has been for almost five years now.

During this self-isolating time at home, I have had a need to finish projects that are stuck at some step. (I've also had a need to start new projects. I know I'm not the only one.) The problem with this one is that I really didn't want to inset triangles in all those spaces. They would need to be layered-- front, batting, and backing--and then sewn into position. Not an attractive project.

And then I had the thought, "I could cut the edges so they were straight." Just lop them off like Alexander and the Gordian knot. Boom.

I may have considered this before and rejected it as a hack and because I wanted the quilt to be big enough for our bed. Well I no longer worry about every quilt fitting my bed (smaller quilts have their place too) and it sounded like a good hack to me at this point. (No, it sounded like a great hack to me at this point.) So that is what I did.

No pictures of cutting the edges. More of a "don't stop me now" moment although it felt a little like a "here, hold my camera and watch this" moment. I wanted to take a full hexagon off of the sides so that only original material was left. I did first attempt to unpick the seam, but a lot of it had the seam allowance pressed toward the quilt and it was sewn down. That would give me nothing to sew onto. So I just cut it with the rotary cutter, about 1/2" from the seam line.

I wanted a little more length compared to the width, so I cut the top and bottom about 4" from the highest point of the white hexagons.

All I needed to do to finish it now was the binding. I was lucky to have one long straight piece of the big blue polka dot fabric that was long enough for almost all of the two shorter sides. I had some leftover hexagons in the same fabric and briefly thought about cutting them up and sewing them end to end, but that was crazy, right? My binding would be made up of pieces 4"-8" long.

But then I saw that I also had a chain of hexagons already sewn in a strip. Well, if someone else was going to have them sewn together for me, who was I to turn it down? So I got just about enough from that for the rest. I think I only had to add one more hexagon.

I only had enough because I decided to do a two-colour binding. In this case, I paired the polka dots with a white solid. The polka dot fabric was pretty thin. (You can see some of the blue from the seam underneath showing through here on the back:)
Doing it this way meant that there was solid white under the polka dots on the front and I could sew it down on the back into a sturdier fabric. And it also meant that I could use a thinner strip of the polka dots and that is why I could squeeze out enough from the little that I had.

It took a few days, but I did get the binding sewn down. It is a hot mess under there with the double seam allowances, but the binding looks great so no one can tell. There is not a single judge anywhere who could say that my binding was not filled enough. :) (Yes, they judge you on that.)

So I was done right? Well, while I was sewing the binding, I decided there was too much unquilted space in the top and bottom border. The batting is cotton and it really needs to be sewn in place or it will come apart and bunch up.

So I decided a simple diamond shape would work. I marked them with a ruler,
(ceramic pencil on the blue fabric; blue water soluble marker on the plaid)
and hand quilted it.
(This is the back, in case that is not obvious.)
Like the rest of the quilt, my stitches are not great. But that's what you get for using dense sheets instead of muslin. I matched my thread to the different fabrics on top and bottom so it doesn't stand out on the front but you get the texture.
Seven diamonds on the top, seven diamonds on the bottom and I'd be done.

It went faster than I expected and I had them all quilted. So I was done, right? Well, while I was sewing the diamonds I noticed there was quite a lot of unquilted space on each end of the borders. When I finished the diamonds I admitted to myself that I would have to quilt a triangle in each of the four corners. That went even quicker--half the stitching of a diamond.

So I as done, right? Well, while I was sewing that I found a hexagon where I missed some quilting! Can you see it?
It's all around the outside of the star.
So I threaded up the needle again and finished the star. And while I was sewing that...I found nothing more. So I was done!
You can't even tell that some of the binding is on grain,
some is off-grain and there are seams every 8" or so, right?
Crinkly texture!
(This is why you don't sew light fabrics with dark thread.)
A view of the back

It's laying on my queen size bed and just covers the top.

Project summary
Started: 2009 (this incarnation)
Finished: May 17, 2020
Size: 61"x76"
Top: originally made in Kentucky in the 1960s. I repaired damaged blocks and had to replace fabric in four of the flowers.
Cotton batting.
Hand quilted.
All blog posts about this quilt: link

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