Crooked Rail Fence Quilts Completed

Completed. Finished. All done. What lovely words! These quilts, which were started long, long ago as a single quilt project in a class at a quilting retreat, are finally finished. My original plan was for a queen-sized quilt to cover the bed in the guest bedroom, but by the time I got back to the project we had long since redecorated that room and the quilt would no longer fit in. So I decided to split up the blocks and make two large nap quilts that will one day become gifts.

One of the quilts has more blue in it, so I chose a dark blue fabric for the back and binding. For the second one I used a dark forest green fabric for back and binding.

I quilted them both the same, using straight lines. First I quilted in the ditch between each row and column of blocks. That stabilized the quilt enough for me to remove all of the basting pins. Then I quilted two straight lines, one inch apart, down the centres of each row and column. I didn’t mark the lines on the quilt top. Instead, I used the edge quilting guide that came with my walking foot. I set the distance between the guide and the needle to the right measurement, then stitched the quilting line, making sure that the guide stayed in the previous line of quilting.

quilting first quilt

Here is a close-up of the quilting on the one with the blue fabric back. I used a variegated thread on the top. It’s a Signature thread, size 40, in colour M106. It blends quite nicely with the colours of the fabrics on the top without being distracting. On the back I used a colour to match the backing fabric.

quilting on blue quilt

This is the finished Crooked Rail Fence quilt with the blue fabric on the back:

Crooked Rail Fence blue finished

This is the finished quilt with the green fabric on the back:

Crooked Rail Fence green finished

Now that these are finished, I can move on to another work-in-progress!

I’ve written several other posts on the making of these quilts:

Crooked Rail Fence – making the blocks, and auditioning block layouts

Crooked Rail Fence, Take One – the first quilt top is together

Crooked Rail Fence, Take Two – the second quilt top is together

Putting It All Together – sewing the blocks together into a quilt top, step-by-step

Getting Unstuck – in which I try to get working on them again

Fall Flies Shawl – a brief mention of cleaning up the back side of the quilt top before layering

Fall Flies Shawl

I’m still working on the Crooked Rail Fence quilts, getting them ready for quilting. Right now I’m busy cleaning up the back of the first one, before I sandwich the layers and baste them together. I’m afraid that the slightly rough handling of the strips when I was mixing them up for random piecing has created a lot of loose threads and fraying. There are too many strips of dark and light next to each other to skip this step, so I am carefully trimming away all of those loose bits, while trying not to be too perfectionist about it.

cleaning the back of the quilt

In the meantime, I finished knitting my version of the Summer Flies shawl, from the pattern by Donna Griffin. I’m calling it Fall Flies for the rusty autumn colours of the yarn. I started knitting this on the train to Rhinebeck in October of last year, and worked on it through the following months, setting it aside now and then for some Christmas knitting.  I modified it quite a bit, not only adding more repeats of the patterning, but increasing the depth of each pattern section as I went along. I also used a fingering weight yarn instead of a worsted weight, and a smaller needle to create a more dense fabric.

Here is the finished shawl before blocking.

before blocking

And here it is while blocking. I just love how lace opens up when it’s blocked.

blocking

And here is the finished shawl:

Fall Flies shawl front

I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Fall Flies shawl back

The details:

Pattern: Summer Flies, by Donna Griffin (ravelry link)

Yarn: Gedifra Fashion Trend Sportivo in colour 5721 (no longer being made, but it’s a fingering weight sock yarn with a subtle self-striping variegation)

Needle size: 4.0 mm

Modifications: I added more rows of eyelets and butterflies, and more rows to the openwork section at the bottom.

Finished size: wingspan 109 cm (43”), depth 51 cm (20”)

Getting Unstuck

Now that I’m home, all of my recent travels are finished, and the garden has almost been put to bed for the winter, I decided that it was time to dig out a UFO (unfinished object) and get to work. I have a few of those around, both quilting and knitting ones, and I don’t like to have them lingering. They loom over me like a big looming thing, casting a shadow over any desire I have to start something new.

I recently finished off three knitting projects that had been UFOs for months and even years. It was such a relief to get those finished. Now I’d like to get a couple of these quilting UFOs finished, too. With this in mind, I dug out the two unfinished Crooked Rail Fence quilt tops and had a look at them. They’ve been sitting in a plastic bin for almost 3 years, along with fabric that I had purchased for borders and backings.

Here is one of the tops:

crooked rail fence quilt 1

Now that the quilt tops have been sitting on my ironing board for a couple of days, I realize why I stopped working on them. I’d run into a problem. I wasn’t happy about where I was going with them, but I wasn’t sure why. I was stuck. So I did what I often seem to do – I put them away and did something else.

When I stop to think about it, this is why most of my long-time UFOs end up lingering. I reach a point where I am stuck. Something goes wrong and I don’t know what it is. Or I do know what’s wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Or I know what I want to do to fix it, but I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge involved. Or the next step in the project is something that’s difficult or new and I’m hesitant to do it in case I mess it up. What those reasons all boil down to is that I get stuck, and instead of working to get unstuck I set the project aside and ignore it.

I’ve been asking myself why I got stuck when making these two quilts, and the answer I’ve come up with is this: I don’t want to put borders on them. I’d spent all kinds of time trying to decide on the colours of the borders and how wide they should be, without really stopping to consider whether I wanted borders on them or not. What finally got me asking this question was the lecture I attended at the International Quilt Festival in Houston on Modern Quilts. One of the features of Modern Quilts is that they often don’t have borders.

When I was taught how to make a quilt, I was taught to add at least one border, and sometimes two or three of them. Borders could be plain, pieced, or appliquéd. They could be narrow, wide, or in between. But they were always there. They were the frame around the picture that was the quilt top. They made the quilt bigger. They were often a place to add some fancy quilting. I’d just assumed without thinking that these quilts needed borders. But when it came time to cut the fabric for the borders and sew them on, I just didn’t want to do it. And now I know why.

Now that I’ve made that decision, I’ve had another look at the size of the tops as they now stand. They are each 8 blocks by 10 blocks (each block is 6” square), which makes them 48” by 60”. I don’t think they’re quite big enough to be good napping-under quilts. I don’t want them to be full bed-sized quilts, but I do want them to be big enough to cover a snoozing adult. I think that if I add one more column and two more rows they’ll be a perfect size. That would make them 9 blocks by 12 blocks (54” by 72”), which is almost the size of a standard double bed mattress (54”x75”). A little math tells me that I need to make 28 more blocks for each quilt top. I think I can manage that without too much trouble. And I can use up some stash fabric in the process.

It’s interesting to me how much better I feel now. These quilts have been causing my brain to itch every time I thought about them. I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know why. I just knew that I didn’t want to work on them.

Being stuck – it isn’t much fun. Getting unstuck takes a bit of investigation, and perhaps some inspiration, and a few new ideas. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to try something new, or a bit of instruction in how to do something unfamiliar. Sometimes it might even mean giving up on the project. Whichever it is, it’s much better to get unstuck than to let unfinished projects linger forever.