Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Hex

Hello, dear readers. You may recall a post, not so very long ago, where I attempted to quilt. So frustrating was the process that I vowed never to quilt again. Ever. Never, ever.
I did finish that one quilt, though. It sits on our bed right now, and it is rather awesome. I love how it looks, all imperfect and handmade and cozy. Olive loves it, too. She scrunches it up and studies the patterns. It buys me up to an extra half hour of sleep most mornings.
Clearly, quilts are fantastic. I am now a convert.
A friend made an amazing hexagon quilt for Olive. It's hand finished and utterly perfect and lovely. I've been staring at it hanging on her crib for far too long. It started to look doable. I stared to visualize a nap sized quilt for Olive and I to read under. She could drape it over chairs to make forts. It would be handmade and cozy and lovely.
Thus, I began working on the Hexagon Hell quilt in early June.
I had a vast array of pink fabrics gathering on the shelf, begging for a project to be part of. I wanted great big hexagons. I went with a 5" size, because that was the largest one my ruler would make. I also wanted to make an embroidered centerpiece. I had recently finished designing the Bunnies in the Kitchen embroidery patterns, and I wanted to try them out. I figured they'd be perfect for this.
The cutting progressed perfect and uneventfully. Man, I love cutting fabric. With the first quilt I made, I started with a charm pack that turned out to be...less than square. I only found this out once all the "squares" were sewn together and the strips would. Not. Line. Up. I was determined to not have the same problem happen twice. (See The Quiltening part 1) I bought a special plastic cutting guide, and I very, very carefully cut each piece. The initial phase went so well that I pretty much failed to document it. "Wow! This is going perfectly. I don't think I'll get a blog post out of this at all. Wheee!"
hexagon quilt pieces
Before too long, I had lovely stacks. I laid them out in a pleasing arrangement, pinned post its in place to guide the assembly, and got crackin'.
Super careful assembly of the long strips began. Seam guides were used. Seams pressed open. Blah blah blah.
And then.
I had 11 perfect rows. I was rarin' to attach them to each other. I laid the first two out and...
Drew a total blank.
How the heck do these things fit together?
I couldn't figure it out, but I found a helpful tutorial that made it click. The stitching commenced.
The hexagons simply would not line up properly. I watched the video again. I ripped the seam again. I watched the video several more times. I ripped the same darn seam many, many more times.
This is where the fit of pique happened.
The sounds of angry grunting and frustrated whining brought by husband into the room.
"Why won't they line up? WHY?!?! I was so careful!"
"Hmmm...why are they so much longer on one side?"
"They're not! They can't possibly be! I used a RULER!"
I felt like such a failure. How could I have made the same mistake again? I threw in the towel for the night. But every time I closed my eyes, I saw hexagons. Gahhhh.
Throwing the towel (er, quilt top) away was not an option. Not that I ever give up that easily. (If my mom is reading this, she just said "HA!") I had used up a bunch of my favorite hoarded fabrics. Laurie Wisbrun lambs were in there! And a bunch of Japanese imports from Superbuzzy that I bought when I was pregnant with Olive. The quilt must go on.
However, it soon became apparent that doing things the "right" way wasn't going to work for me, either. I realized again that I simply do not have a straight line in me. Trying to force perfect geometric shapes out of me was making me crazy. I have such limited time to create things these days. Picking a painful project just seemed insane.
I couldn't stop thinking about those darn things. I kept rearranging them in my mind, and coming up with other ways to salvage the quilt. I even dreamed of a really fantastic quilt that night.
I had a small window of time the next day to try out some of my ideas. I stumbled upon something that worked for me. Real quilters will probably want to puke when they hear it, but I think we've established that I am not a real quilter.
I simply laid both strips right side up, and folded the second strip on top of the first. I then sewed on top of the folded hexagon. Boom. Done. It worked! I no longer felt like a looser. Nay, I was a sewing wunderkind!
I'm really pleased with the effect. The rows are layered almost like roof tiles. It makes me think of Necco wafers tiled on a gingerbread roof.
For the backing, I happened to have snagged some cute vintage-y green rosebuds at the local thrift store. A couple of seams later, and that was done.
Now, the basting. Man, was I dreading the basting. The last time I quilted, the basting went on forever. Thread and needle. Hands and knees. Pregnant lady on the ground. Fun stuff. This time, however, I took my mother-in-law's advice: I bought a basting gun. That lady knows her stuff.
Boom, boom, boom, click click click, and 20 minutes later, I was done. A revelation! One does not have to suffer to baste! Sure, this makes for a less interesting blog post, but it also makes for a FINISHED QUILT. And less pain.
Okay, now comes the part I was really, really dreading. (If I dread so many parts of this process, why was I doing it? This is a question that I asked myself a lot during the making, and one I still have no answer for.) THE ACTUAL QUILTING. I decided to bite the bullet and try to quilt it on my machine. went fine. More than fine, actually. It was so easy, and so fast. I really wish I had attempted to machine finish the last quilt.
Can I confess something to you? I actually like making binding. I spent a blissful couple of hours while the baby napped ironing. IRONING! And listing to the Judge John Hodgman podcast. It was perfect.
And thus, the quilt was finished. I actually finished it on July 17th. Not bad!
Here's the finished quilt:
Hexagon quilt folded
Hexagon quilt detail
Hexagon Quilt backing
And here's the embroidered centerpiece:
Hexagon Quilt Embroidery Detail
I LOVE how it turned out.
Bunnies in the Kitchen Embroidery
Okay, who's ready for a nap?


Lynsey aka Swirlyarts said...

Oh it's cute! And as a very novice quilter myself I say do what works for you :) That's what I do anyway!

Juli said...

It's adorable! Congratulations on your perseverance. Olive will love it, I'm sure.

Claire said...

Thanks Lynsey!

Claire said...

Aw thanks, Juli!

Jenny said...

given that I've never quilted ever. ever. also given that I've not ever (ever.) worked with hexagons, here's a thought:

perhaps it had something to do with joining a convex shape to a concave one?

just thinkin' out loud here...
i'm surprised no one's commented on that.

anyhoo--you did what you hadda to get the result you wanted. It is of my opinion that what is "right" is what is good for you and what is "wrong" is that which is not so good for you. So in terms of doing something wrong that would make quilters want to puke, was it? is it wrong to pursue your happiness, which in this case is a finished quilt? Nay! Even if pursuing your happiness takes you away from any specified technique, it does not make your pursuit wrong. Not by a long shot. We are people, not machines, and each of us is different, unique in our own way with our own ways of getting things done. There are probably as many ways to quilt as there are quilters. I'm also sure that there are probably certain technique categories that each quilter generally loosely or strictly follows, but it doesn't make any one way of quilting right and all the others wrong. Were it not for individuality, there would never be anything new. Without anything new, we never progress. Without progression, we remain stuck in patterns of thought and living which get us nowhere. How mundane and sad, really, in my opinion.

That being said, you seem pretty comfortable with your way of doing things, even if they can get to be hairy and, shall I say, nail-biting? This quilt story was kind of a nail-biter to me :) So it doesn't really seem like you're the type of person who necessarily doesn't realize anything of what I said, but I thought it was worth saying all the same.

Nice work on the old roommate's [now] husband is terrified of bunnies....maybe I should show him this....muahahahahaaaaa!

Nancy said...

Hi Claire

Be careful that's how I got addicted to quilting. You can also tie it every so often with embroidery thread. Very nice job.

Claire said...

Thanks Jenny! That was a really nice comment. Also: I think you may have the award of longest comment ever. Good job! ^_^

Claire said...

Thanks! I have to admit, there's already another quilt in the planning stages...

Jenny said...

yes, well i tend to be long winded when it comes to comments, telling stories, improvised dance phrases (i am/was a dancer), projects such as housework, laundry, crochet...pretty much anything i think.....i guess i'm just one of those know...the long winded ones?

did you ever solve the mystery as to why they weren't lining up? or is that a buried hatchet not to be unearthed? I'm just so curious!!

Claire said...

Oh, no. I'm sure the problem must have something to do with my not cutting them correctly, somehow. I really think I just don't have that many straight lines in me.

Jenny said...


I so wanted the quilt to be like, "it's not you, it's me."

maybe next time...


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