29 May 2017

Quilt of Valor

One of my new year's resolutions was to finish my Quilt of Valor by Memorial Day. Mission accomplished! I finished the binding late last night.

Today is Memorial Day, and the purpose behind the day means something to me. So, today's snowflake pattern will be shared tomorrow. The snowflake is not red, white and blue, so it can wait. My latest quilt finish, however, cannot wait until Tuesday.

This quilt began with one of my Spoonflower panels, created from manipulated fireworks photos from a Fourth of July trip to Dillon Reservoir many years ago. I'd wanted to turn the photos into a quilt one day. The rainbow version was finished two years ago and presented as a Christmas gift to one of my dear nieces.

I decided the red and blue version of the Spoonflower fabric would be an ideal Quilt of Valor to send to my blogging friend Alycia, who regularly reports on Colorado QoV donation presentations. And now she's starting an Instagram QoF inspiration link-up! (First one this Wednesday...) How cool is that!?!

My Spoonflower panel was nowhere near large enough to meet the size requirements, so two years ago I added strip borders of the patriotic fabric I have collected for more than two dozen years. I used to use some of this stuff to make fun little summer outfits for my adopted kiddos...

The red, white and blue borders really made my Spoonflower panel pop.

The Lizard helped me assemble the layers, but he didn't want me to spray the 505 in the house while it was storming outside and the windows were closed. He actually doesn't want me spraying it in the house anymore and would prefer we do that on the driveway, so it was time to try something new. I love using the quilt frame he built for me, but I don't always have the time to set it up, assemble the layers, then thread baste, and I definitely don't have time right now to hand quilt, although I might pick back up another WIP during Ride the Rockies to finish the hand quilting during down time, yes, of which I expect to have an abundance...

I had tried pin basting one time only many years ago, when I still lived in a tiny apartment. I was making a full-size quilt and didn't have enough floor or table space to work effectively, and the nasty experience left such a sour taste in my memory, I have never tried it again. That is, until after watching Rob Appell's quilting basics video a few weeks ago with The Lizard. I thought the whole Man Sewing series would be a great way for The Lizard to get back into quilting, and it turned out I like the videos as much as my husband does.

I pinned the layers one night last week, and pin-basting went much smoother with a space large enough to lay the quilt out flat and pull all the layers tight.

I'd also recently watched Leah Day's "Quilting BIG Quilts on a Small Machine" because, let's face it, this is one huge quilt, measuring 58x66, and I was never confident I could do it. I had toyed with sending the monster to a long arm quilter for two years because I was so intimidated by putting such a large quilt in my little domestic machine.

I began quilting last week, doing just straight lines on my 1983 Viking Husqvarna, using Leah's technique rather than rolling, as I have done in the past with smaller quilts. I was nearly done, just two quilting lines from the edge, when another loud pop emanated from the top of the sewing machine. From that point on, I began having more and more difficulty getting the machine to stitch in even a borderline acceptable fashion.

Devastation does not even begin to tell the story. This exact problem had occurred twice before, and the last time, two years ago, the part was no longer available. The repairman used epoxy to adhere the broken pieces. The sewing machine shop gave me a one-year warranty on the machine, but only three months on the epoxy. We never expected the machine to last this long. But I couldn't believe it was giving out on me during such an important quilt. And what would I do now? Medical bills the last six weeks have completely drained us. There is no more water left in the well.

I walked over to the computer to write in my journal while I tried to decide what to do next. I mean, other than cry...

The computer faces the big picture window looking out over my raised-bed flower garden and bird feeders. A hummingbird was zooming around the hummingbird feeder in circles and had apparently caught a glimpse of my motion. She hovered, staring in my direction for a moment before taking another sip. I quickly but quietly moved to the bedroom to grab my camera, and I noticed mama tree swallow peeking out of the birdhouse right outside the bedroom window.

I didn't get a photo of the hummingbird, and I may have to make payments on a new machine, but these two choice sights left me smiling as I debated options in my electronic journal.

After The Lizard got home from work, I took a break so he could take me to the sewing machine dealer to see how much the replacement machine I'd picked out two years ago will cost now. We didn't even bother to take in the Viking Husqvarna because I'm pretty sure it can't be fixed. We found out we could get a small trade-in allowance. I decided I would give it a try one more time to determine if I want to keep it as a backup or do some spring cleaning and get rid of it. We briefly considered buying another $84 department store sewing machine like the one we bought two years ago while the Viking Husqvarna was in the shop. My husband uses it, and I've recently begun practicing free-motion quilting with it because I was able to purchase an open toe quilting foot for it. I actually like quilting with it, but the throat is way too narrow for quilts, in my opinion.

Nothing in the department store had a wider throat, so the Pfaff is still on the wish list, but with a couple of doubts I know I can't change. It is SO difficult to consider spending the same amount of money I spent on my Viking Husqvarna 34 years ago for a new and improved all-automatic machine that has many desirable features, including a much longer throat AND an open toe quilting foot, when the new machine has a mere one-year warranty. I can buy three more years for an extra couple hundred. It just seems so wrong to put that kind of money into a machine that most assuredly is not going to give me anywhere near 34 years of service.

The saleswoman kept chirping away at how easy the parts are to get a year or two from now because they will keep making them. I didn't bother telling her I was still able to get a part for my machine when it was 30 years old, or that my dinosaur had included a 25-year warranty.

It's so sad to accept that things today are just not built the way they once were. No one builds things now to last 25 years. Dealers want you to replace everything every couple of years to keep the income coming.

End of rant.

Because the solid outer border of my Quilt of Valor is wider than the jelly roll-size strips of patriotic fabric and because they are around the very edge of the quilt, I thought perhaps I could do some more free-motion quilting with my husband's little Brother sewing machine. I did a google search for patriotic free-motion quilting designs and decided to try free-handing a stars and stripes design I saw for computerized machines, of which I do not own.

After the first couple of star attempts (and multiple re-dos to make the stars look less bloated or inebriated), I asked The Lizard if he thinks QoV recipients would mind receiving a quilt that isn't perfect. He said he would be thrilled to receive this quilt because it's made by hand, and the slight imperfections give it character, as well as increase the value because it's made by hand, not by machine.

"Um, this is done by machine," I reminded him.

"Well, you know what I mean; it's not mass-produced. It doesn't look machine-made, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all," he replied. "I would love it because it is one-of-a-kind, unique and handmade specially for me."

With a comment like that, how could I not proudly continue? I think my stars continued getting better and better after that.

I have to laugh now because I started out using the same black thread I'd used to quilt the center and the patriotic stripes, but after three tries at making a perfect star in black on black, I decided to use the same variegated blue I'd used to harmonize with the busy backing. After a couple more attempts with the lighter thread that showed so much more, I wondered if I should go back to black because it would be better if the wonky stars didn't show.

Lizard liked the lighter hue, so again, I kept going. After about an hour, with a bunch more re-dos, I finished the quilting of the largest quilt I've ever done by machine, and I'd done the hardest part on a tiny little $84 machine with no throat space! I stood back and admired the unbound quilt and decided it truly is perfect, even though it is not precise. I love it, and I hope the recipient will, too!

And take a look at the wide backing I used. I love this backing so much, I might reverse the quilt on my bed as often as I displayed the front, if the quilt were mine. If I ever see this wide faux denim on sale again, I'm going to stock up so I can use it on the back of more quilts. I absolutely adore this print!

Old Jeans Print

The binding is leftovers from a child's Halloween costume I made so many years ago, I can't even remember when.

As I attached the binding to the third side, I discovered a pleat in the backing, about three feet long. Once again, tears flowed freely. Daylight was fading. My opportunity to take daylight photos of the quilt before publishing my blog post today were fading rapidly.

But this quilt is going to someone who served our country, and it could even be a Wounded Warrior. I owe it to the recipient to do my best, and a pleat in the back is not my best. I had to take off nearly four feet of the binding, and then I had to rip out just over three feet of the free-motion quilting. I had to square up that side of the quilt again after I got done. Nearly an hour later, the quilt was done, and iPhone photos were all I could get Sunday night.

UPDATE: On Monday, Memorial Day, my sweet Lizard took me to Fort Logan after he got off work. The feelings we experienced there will last a lifetime. The cemetery also was the perfect backdrop for my Quilt of Valor.

Linking up with Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Crazy Mom Quilts.


  1. Great way to remember the day indeed. haha you sure had a peeper wondering what was going on. Yep, things are built to fail. If they weren't then greedy companies wouldn't be able to sell you Version because version would still work completely fine. Just like batteries and light bulbs. They can make ones that last for decades, but they don't, no profit in doing so. End my rant lol

    1. Good rant, Pat. That part still makes me fume, but I'm trying really hard to be excited about having more throat space, a bobbin sensor and more stitches. I will like this, I will like this, I will like this...

  2. That turned out so great!!! I love the center piece!!!

    1. Thank you, Alycia! I need to get this to you as soon as I finish the pillowcase!

  3. i love the poppies. I made sure to get one this weekend. Thanks for making QoV!!

    1. Thank you, Margaret! QoV projects can be addicting... I can see more in the future!

  4. Great quilt! Thanks for linking to Finished or Not Friday!

    1. Thanks, Myra! Now to finish the pillow case...


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