After an assembly line process that would have done Henry Ford proud, there is a bright light at the end of the zig-zag tunnel. Two of the six quilts are finished, quilted, bound and presented; three more are pinned and ready to quilt, and the last, the one I'll keep, is sandwiched. I have learned so much about this kind of mass-production and have absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed every stitch.I am very grateful for the tutorials and advice of some experienced quilters in the blogosphere. I was originally inspired by this design from crazy mom quilts. Her use of the red and green color palette, though not for Christmas, sent me straight to the fabric store, where my idea for a handsewn holiday took shape.A tool I found to be invaluable in both precision and efficiency was this tutorial from a quilt is nice. By facing two squares right sides together, marking the diagonal and stitching 1/4" on either side, you are left with two perfect 5" squares made of two contrasting triangles. While this was gratifying, it was also by far the most labor intensive and long piece of the assembly. There were 324 of these pieced squares that each had to be cut and ironed. Papa joined in one late night over a bottle of beer, a sweet conversation, and the Sufjan Stevens holiday Pandora music selection.After laying out the zig-zags (I opted for the deliberate Charlie Brown-esque arrangement over my usual random piecing), I used this tutorial from the purl bee to pin my sewn top, my batting, and my backing together. This is the first time I've used curved safety pins and I doubt I'll ever use anything else again. Once I was all pinned up, I had to make a decision: to stitch-in-the-ditch, or to try free motion quilting. The only time I'd free motioned before was on the short arm quilter at Sew Worth It. This was for the log cabin quilt I made during little b's pregnancy (shown beneath his cute little foot in the upper left column of this blog). A short arm quilting machine allows you to move the needle, rather than the fabric, so you are basically drawing your stipple pattern as if you were drawing on paper. When you free motion quilt on a normal sewing machine, you use a darning foot to allow free motion of the sandwiched fabric. This is pretty much the exact opposite of the method I'd learned. So I bought a walking foot and prepared to stitch-in-the-ditch, but then I couldn't bring myself to do it! I LOVE the way free motion stippling looks on a finished quilt, and I feared that stitching in the ditch with this pattern would show every little misalignment (and there were several) that the pattern so beautifully hides. So I made a practice sandwich and went for it. I am so glad I did.
THE BIG FINISH: Binding is the most difficult part of quilting to me, albeit the quickest. I was literally pushed to the eleventh hour of Christmas Eve when deciding whether to make my own binding or use double fold bias tape I had in my stash. Then I was led to this tutorial from the angry chicken, who taught me how to completely machine bind my quilts, quickly and easily, using the pre-fold. And her tutorial is hilarious. I look forward to finishing and presenting the final three, and to opening up my Christmas storage boxes in 2009 and finding this folded neatly on top.