I have been quilting for around 10 years and have made hundreds of keepsake quilts, but I still consider myself an intermediate quilter with lots more to learn. In January 2019 I decided to challenge myself to learn some new techniques and attempt my first quilt along. I was sure I could easily put an hour or so aside each week. I am writing this in January 2021 having just finished it. It may have taken me two years to complete but I have to say, it is the quilt I am most proud of and I am so pleased I started it (and finished it). There are literally hundreds of quilt alongs out there, some free and some paid for. I have looked at loads and book marked a few for another time, but when I came across Lori Holt’s Vintage Block Along, I knew it would be perfect one for me. I love the vintage, mix match style and it looked like a great way to work through scraps without having to buy anything, although her vintage farm girl collection is beautiful.
I like the simplicity of her instructions and her pictures. I am a visual learner so I tend to mostly look at the picture rather than the written instruction. Her writing caters for both though. I also like the introduction to her blogs and learning about her Grandmother. She sounded like an amazing woman and I would love a rummage through her pattern collection! I lost both my grandmas to cancer in my early teens. Both introduced me to sewing and knitting and I remember my Grandma Jo taking me to my first fabric shop as a child, I must have been around 9 years old. We bought some purple gingham and some other solids. She taught me how to make my first patch work cushion on her sewing machine. I have been hooked ever since. I think about them both all the time when I am sewing, especially during this project.
The finished quilt is around 2m x 2.4m, in other words, massive! If I had seen the full pattern first, I probably would have thought, there is no way I can do that, and never attempted it. The beauty of a quilt along, or some at least, is that you have no idea what you are letting yourself in for and once you start, you are committed. That for me means one day it will be finished, even if it takes longer than planned. Having a challenge set helps with my motivation. Having someone else break it down into manageable chunks makes the challenge much more achievable.
I created a Pinterest board and saved each week onto it so it was easy to find. I had my laptop on the table next to me when I was working on it, so I could follow the instructions. One of my top tips was to have a cutting day. I would look through a handful of weeks at a time and cut all the fabric out that I needed, and put each week in a plastic wallet. For me, cutting is the worst bit and can put me off doing anything at all. I had a new baby in March 2020, so that has made life and sewing much trickier. After a stressful day, and often night, I just want to sit and sew to take my mind of things. It really helped to have a pile cut out before he was born so I could just pull out a plastic wallet of pre prepared fabric and sew.
My fabric choices were mainly depending on what I had in my fat quarter basket. I tried hard to just use up my stash. However, I also sell fabric and I only ever stock fabric that I love, so it makes it extremely hard not to play with them! When new collections came in that suited a block, it seemed a shame not to use them. One of these was when Debbie Shore’s A Cottage Garden collection came out around the time I was working on the Farmhouse block. It was a great way to show off the fabric. More recently I had the William Morris fabrics arrive from The Craft Cotton Company, I absolutely love them, and I couldn’t not include them. I think the twirl block is my favourite and I can see a whole quilt in just this block looking beautiful.
In the summer I treated myself to a new sewing machine. Not a day goes by when I don’t turn it on, and I was due an upgrade. I do a lot of dressmaking and crafty projects, but I mainly use my machine for quilting. A big arm space, even stitching and a variety of quilting stitches were all on my must list. I am very loyal to Janome, I just love their machines, so I knew I would stick with them. I settled on a Memory Craft 6700P. It had the main things I was looking for plus some things I didn’t realised I needed until I used them including the automatic needle threader, automatic thread cutter and the knee lifter.
I would never have attempted quilting this size quilt with my old machine, and I did consider sending it off to a long arm quilter, however it seemed like a waste of buying a machine especially for these occasions and then sending it off so I braved it myself. I used fabric called Botanical Gardens to back it, the peachy pink colours worked well with the quilt top and the green and orange in the border picked out a few of my favourite blocks. I used Bosal heritage mid weight cotton / polyester wadding. For the quilting, I decided to keep it relatively simple and used a wavy stitch in horizontal lines across the quilt. I had to move onto the dining table because it was far too big to handle in my craft room but I couldn’t believe how easy it was to manage on the machine and I quilted it in just a couple of days.
So here it is, I hope you like it! If you want to look at the pattern you can still get all the blocks here.