Am I working on the numerous UFOs languishing in project boxes? No. Am I assembling the Oriental Stained Glass top, or making the last two Hawaiian appliqué blocks? No. Am I working on my FAL project (the only one with a deadline)? No, not even that (although I have finalised the layout and written the cutting instructions for it).

Floral fabrics from 1990s
Floral fabrics from 1990s

Instead I’ve spent the last couple of days working out an Irish Chain pattern to use up some extremely old floral fabrics that have lain on the shelves for (at best guess) twenty years. I have been wanting to get these made up for a long time but couldn’t decide on a pattern that would allow them to blend without being too bland.

Quad Irish Chain 9-grid
Quad Irish Chain 9-grid
Quad Irish Chain 7-grid
Quad Irish Chain 7-grid

I looked at various chain types and eventually chose a quadruple chain, but made in a seven-grid block rather than a nine-grid block, so there is less open space in the alternate blocks.

I also decided to use two fabrics for the centre of the alternate block rather than just one (does that make it a quintuple chain?).

Greens from stash
Greens from stash

I wanted to make this entirely from stash, but I also wanted the centre of the chain to be a green solid or tone-on-tone. Unfortunately I only liked one green (second from right) of the ones I already had, and I didn’t have nearly enough of it.

I made a quick trip to the fabric shop and found a Makower print that reads as a solid. It’s a little brighter than I would have liked but no one had the slightly greyed green that features in the leaves of the two darker florals. Luckily it doesn’t stand out as particularly jarring when next to the florals. Vanima seems to like it, anyway.

Final palette
Final palette (with bonus Vanima)

There will also be a pink inner border and possibly some pink appliqué in the alternate blocks, but I’ll decide on that once the top is done.

Quad Irish Chain design
Quad Irish Chain design

Final dimensions will be roughly 80″ x 108″ — a long double quilt or a queen topper.

Retrospective: 1998 Four Ts in a Maze

Welcome to the fifth in my more-or-less monthly series of quilt retrospectives.

1998 Four Ts in a Maze
1998 Four Ts in a Maze

Size: 160 x 220 cm (63″ x 87″)
Design: Traditional blocks in an arrangement by Mary Ellen Hopkins
Fabric: all cotton
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom 100% Cotton
Backing: plain muslin
Pieced: 1998 by machine (Janome MemoryCraft 8000)
Quilted: 1998 by machine in monofilament

In 1998 I did a workshop at Truly Lois (a quilt shop in Canberra, now defunct) on quick-piecing techniques by Mary Ellen Hopkins, one of which was the “Four Ts in a Maze” pattern. The instructions said to bring two sets of three coordinating fabrics, so I made my choices in burgundy and green.

The block itself is a very simple rail fence with three fabrics per unit — the T pattern arises from the way the units are arranged. The blocks were cut and stitched together in only a few hours.

Once I had finished the maze section I had to work out how to finish the top — the maze is only 36″ x 60″ so borders were required. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on a detailed pieced border and my original plan was to use the dark burgundy print, of which I had about a metre and a half left. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to bring the top up to the size I wanted, so I bought an unrelated print that didn’t clash too badly and used it for a 3″ inner border and binding, and the burgundy as a 9″ outer border. It was machine-quilted by me using invisible thread — in-the-ditch for the centre section and parallel lines in the borders. It was bound in yet another multicoloured fabric.

When I had finished, I found that I really didn’t like it (I still don’t). In the maze section some of the fabrics blend too well, others are jarring. The border is far too plain in comparison with the central section and that one extra fabric sticks out like a sore thumb. Until I got my cats it was only ever used under something else, and most of the time it sat in the linen cupboard. Since the cats arrived, though, it sits on top of a box beside a window and has become one of Verya’s favourite spots.

Lessons learned:
1. I don’t have a problem with colour, I have a problem with contrast (I ought to try a colourwash quilt one day, I think I’d do well).
2. Don’t let your desire to finish quickly lead you into bad border choices.
3. Cats love ugly quilts.

July Achievements and August goals

July goals:

1. AHQ: One quilt … not quite finished. All the walking foot quilting has been done, but I had three strips 6″ wide so I decided to have yet another attempt at ruler work, using a crescent shape from the Westalee Janome sampler set I bought in January. I did manage to get the quilt to move this time (by using the medium setting and ramping the pressor foot height up to maximum) but even then the result was not good:

Ruler Work attempt
Ruler Work attempt

So this will be unpicked tomorrow and I’ll draw more straight lines that I can do with the walking foot. I should have it in the post by Friday Monday. Note: I honestly thought it was Tuesday today, not Thursday. Where did the week go?

The more attempts I make, the more I believe that the upgrade for the 9400 was not worth it. It’s a lot harder to move a quilt through a domestic sewing machine than it is to move a longarm machine over a quilt, and even with all the sticky patches I can’t stop the foot from shifting the ruler out of position. Honestly, I think I’d be better off practising my FMQ.

2. Personal: eh, not done (I’m not sure I’ll continue listing this goal as it’s almost never done).

3. FAL: still working on precise measurements for the Blue Christmas panel quit — I want to have as few seams as possible so I’m trying to work on placing the small panels in pairs rather than individually.

Additional Work:
I didn’t actually work on anything else this month but I did get two thank you letters this month from recipients of my quilts. One was physical, a lovely hand-made card:

Thank You card
Thank You card

The other was by email and included a picture of the quilt and also the laundry bag — I’m so grateful for that as I forgot to take a picture of the laundry bag myself before posting and it was a design I was particularly pleased with:

Camo Kitty Laundry Bag
Camo Kitty Laundry Bag

August goals:
1. AHQ: 4 generic laundry bags
2. Personal: Not setting one this month.
3. FAL: Complete the Blue Christmas top and start on the quilting