Another week, another challenge! I was commenting to a friend just yesterday that when this is over (one more challenge after this), I am going to miss this! While I think my hubby will be happy to not have me running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make unicorns and such, the motivation to get in the sewing room and get something done because of a deadline has been good for me. And, as you saw in my last post, it's been getting me in there even in the off (voting) weeks.
This weeks' the challenge is "Abecedarius" which translates roughly to the alphabet, or having to do with the alphabet.
While the first idea that pops into the heads of most is to make an alphabet of the English letters I know so well, or use some of them to make a word, I resisted the obvious option. For those of you who know me, that should come as no surprise...
So some research and Pinterest lurking gave me some ideas, but as I was chatting with my hubby, the idea that came to be was fleshed out.
But what to write? I didn't want to, again, use the obvious choice of the whole alphabet. Also, that's a lot of little dots to make and fill with stuffing!
So I thought a bunch as I was researching techniques for trapunto. Now, I know it's a technique where extra stuffing is applied after quilting, but exactly how to do it, or any easier methods than poking it through the back side of the quilt, were not known to me. (Turns out there are a number of methods, and a number of video tutorials...)
And I settled upon a set of words.
First, I needed to translate my words and figure out appropriate spacing. (Appropriate spacing is apparently not something anyone worries about because I found nothing. Then again, who tells you how far apart to put words? I mean, if you're writing, you just KNOW, right?)
Computers to the rescue - in this case, I made an Excel document and adjusted the cell sizes. (Good thing for my many years in the field of science, as this went very quickly!)
I liked the size of this, so next up was finding something I could trace around. While the circles are about the size of a dime, I went looking for something I could trace inside, rather than around outside, thinking I could get better accuracy that way. It took a while, but I found something...
...in the kitchen! (Kitchens are great places to find templates, I've found!) This is the ring that screws on and holds the tip onto the icing squeezer (I'm sure there's a technical name for it). It's old. My mom gave me her extras and I'd guess the whole contraption is older than I am. But it works far better than the newer one I got for Christmas a few years ago. And the center was the perfect size!
So I taped things to the window (because I don't have a light box...despite my efforts to purchase one...) and got busy while the sun was shining.
Notice the fabric behind the template? It's kind of washed out and funkified by my phone camera, but it has words on it. Irony is funny, no? (And if you want to get technical, it's in French, so I can't read it either.)
The technique I used calls for quilting through two layers of batting and the top, then cutting away the excess batting and layering the quilt as normal with yet another layer of batting.
So, carefully, carefully I started sewing the circles with a dark grey thread so they'd stand out...
...sew 3-4 stitches, pivot. Much of this was done using the hand crank with minimal foot pedal encouragement. I just couldn't trust it to go only a few stitches at a time!
And before I knew it, I was done!
(Notice the difference in lighting? It got dark outside! The first photo shows the color much more truly.)
And then it was on to cut away the excess batting...
...carefully, carefully, as a couple of the videos I watched mentioned accidentally clipping the fabric or stitching. I'm proud to say I did neither!
And before I knew it again, it was done. But this task was made much more difficult since I used (a lot of) spray baste to hold the batting layers in place. I found running my fingers under to release the stickiness from the fabric helped some. It was still a fairly tedious task, but I kinda like the poofy circles here...maybe I'll make a poofy circle quilt later?
On to another round of spray basting, this time a proper quilt sandwich and I made darn sure that spray basting was sticking every place it could! I didn't want things shifting while I quilted. Because it needed a LOT of quilting to make those circles pop again!
The next dilemma was what color thread to use. Since I chose a lime green backing (you'll see that in a bit), my creative brain wanted to use lime green thread. But my practical brain wanted to use the same dark grey, as some of the videos mentioned that could hide any imperfections. (There are quite a few, but this is my first time trying to quilt perfect circles, so please have mercy on me!) At this point I asked a friend why we had to have left and right brains? Who came up with that idea anyways? It messes with my creativity...but as you can see, lime green won!
After a few hours, it was starting to look like something. I started sewing between the dots horizontally (starting near the center as well) all the way across the quilt to get things more permanently attached. I planned to go back and do the shorter stretches, between dots, later.
But this was taking a LOT of thread...I think I went through about three bobbins of thread...and a lot of time. Who knew matchstick quilting took that much? (Hahahahahahaha!)
Again, different lighting, but you can see progress here. About now I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. The shorter spaces between dots seemed to take longer than the longer spaces. But I just kept quilting...
...and finally it WAS done. This was the exciting part. I knew trimming and binding would take very little time (at least compared to the rest of the project!) and I'd be done before long.
Next up was to choose binding. When I started, I expected I'd use the same lime green print as the back. But as I was finishing and trimming, I felt it needed a border of sorts - something the binding could provide...
The green on the left is the same as on the back. But then I found the grey dots. Well, you know I have a dot problem, but this was too perfect to not use. And it was the right shade of grey as well. (Other fabrics were quickly discarded as too light or too dark grey.)
Binding was quickly prepared - cutting at 2" again this time, as in the first challenge - and machine sewn on the front. I pressed it so it would be easier to turn the skinny binding to the back and headed down to the couch and Netflix. I've started re-watching the Gilmore Girls as a treat when binding. I've seen many of the episodes and enjoyed the show when it was originally on television, so this is fun to revisit the show. And watch them in order without commercials!
Before I knew it, it was complete!
The back (with the dolly pinwheel quilt that I also bound this afternoon peeking out from behind)...
...and the front, finished project!
I measures about 11.5x12"
What does it say?
Fitting for these challenges, no? Since some days that really is all I do!
If you had told me a year ago, or even 3 months ago, that I would be doing these challenges, that I would be learning trapunto and free piecing and matchstick quilting and making a whole 72x72" quilt in under a week, I probably would have laughed at you. No way. Not me. I can do stuff fast and I can learn new stuff, but like this. And I don't see myself doing trapunto or matchstick quilting or trying to finish a huge quilt in under a week again any time soon, but I am having so much fun. I truly will miss the prompts and the challenges within the challenge to myself and seeing all the other things that people imagine and create. The things I see make me want to stretch further. To create more things like they create and less like the traditional quilts my mom creates. (Nothing against my mom, and I do still love to make traditional quilts!) I am so glad I found this challenge. And I am so glad that I didn't talk myself out of stepping out of my comfort zone and joining in the fun.
One more challenge to go, but don't despair, three of my friends are currently pregnant (they come in threes, you know!), so I will have baby quilts to create when (or if) they find out the gender. It's been a while since I've made a quilt to give away, but I'm glad to have an excuse to buy more fabric that the hubby won't roll his eyes at!
And now it's time to go clean that poor, neglected bathroom and perhaps run the vacuum as well? (The kitties have been less neglected of late, as today my binding efforts put me on the couch for many snuggle-able hours...)
My oldest and youngest were very happy to help. Of course, the youngest didn't know the drill of "don't mess with the thread," so once he woke up, he wasn't able to stay long. Skitter, however, just didn't care. She was just happy I was sharing HER couch with her and didn't run her off completely. But I was truly happy to have the two of them so close without any snarly whapping happening!
P.S. The Braille alphabet was created by a 15-year-old blind boy with the last name of Braille. In my research to make this quilt, I read a fair amount about him and he seemed like a determined man in all his endeavors. Just goes to show you that having a disability doesn't have to limit your potential!