Alan’s First Quilt

Alan’s First Quilt

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, we’ve been sharing snippets of #alansfirstquilt. Today, he’s here to tell the tale and share photos of the finished quilt. He picked an upcoming line of fabric from Fig Tree called Somerset (look for it in September). Here’s Alan!

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So I made my first quilt and put in the last stitch this last week (Sunday night actually).  A friend of mine, Adrian, was out in Missouri working for the summer with us and wanted to surprise her mom with a quilt and challenged me to make one, too.

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The buddy system worked really well for us, having one of us call the other and say, “Hey, let’s go quilt for an hour or two.” It helped us see our quilts to the end. But quilting really is a social thing, even if you’re just helping each other iron or both messing up on your 1/4″ seams together, it’s great to have a partner in the process.

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Now going through a quilt start to finish, I had a few thoughts I wanted to share.  My honest thought was that I would be a pro already.  I have watched every. single. one. of Mom’s tutorials. I’ve seen her do everything that touches quilting a thousand times (and then some) so I was ready to be a pro. I had it all worked out in my mind, so I was a little surprised that it wasn’t soooo easy. Maybe you’ll get a kick out of this story:

Both Adrian and I chose to do the Dresden Coin quilt tutorial. I was hovering on the churn dash because I love that one, but settled on the Dresden Coin because I thought it would go together a bit more quickly.

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So I needed two Layer Cakes (I’m a big guy) and my layer cake dresden template, I got those and hopped right in. My first obstacle was when I opened up the layer cake I broke the bands on it and was staring at this beautiful stack of fabric… but now what?  I just kind of stood there until I got the courage to start cutting, so I grabbed 4-5 at a time and started cutting my dresden blades.  Cutting fabric is a bit tricky, I kept trying to use the ruler / template as a guard, so I’d angle the blade into it and got some wonky cuts until I figured out straight up and down was my friend.  Game changer right there.

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The other hard spot was after I got them all cut, what next?  I had these big piles of dresden blades and struggled figuring out how to go from a stack to the quilt, so I grabbed two tables and started laying them out. It was turning into a big endeavor because nothing matched anything and it felt like there was no right place. I’d get one row set, then have to change it again because I’d see too much brown.

Then my sister Natalie suggested I just match up two blades at a time and sew them together, then put them into groups of four, then move around batches of four to make my rows.  It made it much more manageable, and I got a few spots of too much orange or too much red. I was too overwhelmed trying to get everything perfect before I sewed my first seam, so Natalie’s way was much better for me.

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This leads me to my next challenge. I had no idea how to thread my sewing machine or set it up. I sent mom a text, “Ma, we need to do a tutorial on the first time you sit down at your sewing machine. I’m lost!”  Thankfully, Natalie rescued me (again!) and showed me how to follow the numbers on our Baby Lock Melody sewing machine. Now I’m a pro! If you don’t know how to do it, maybe just get someone to show you once or twice and you’ll be set.  Then I tried Mom’s Baby Lock Jane (the super fast one she sews on) and broke the thread. I think I put four square knots in that thread before I gave up on it. Moral of the story; not all machines have numbers on them to help you thread that needle.  They should.

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So now got all my rows together and called Natalie. It went a little something like this:

Me: “OK. What do I do if my rows are different lengths?”

Nat: “Just make sure they have the same number of pieces, they’ll be the same length.”

Me: “I did. There is like a 3″ variance in length.”

Nat: “Haha, you’re a dork, Al.  I’ll help.”

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So, here’s how we fixed that. I cut my sashing to all the same length, then would pull on some rows and be loose on a few and that helped until I got the whole top together.  Then I had a top that had one great side, and one really wonky side.  So, we folded it in half 4-5 times until I had a 10″ strip by however wide my quilt was, then I just trimmed the one side about 1/2 – 3/4″ in and I had a straight edge again. I was ready for my side sashing and my borders.

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Borders were hard to pick! I wanted an orange one from the line, because I like orange. But it made the quilt too soft, so I went with a brown one. It was hard to let my orange go, but after auditioning the fabrics (as mom would say), I knew I was making the right choice.

This was all still work for me at this point.  I kept making the comment “I can’t believe people pay money to do this! It’s so hard!”

Then I went to the quilting department and got our great girls Sandi and Danielle to help me quilt.  Once we got the quilt pinned on, I think I giggled a little. It was happening!  I was so tickled with myself for making something. For doing it!

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As we quilted, that’s when it started clicking for me.  Sandi was there with us until almost midnight (Thanks, Sandi!). We got it done, and then were off to binding.

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I watched the binding tutorial a few times and got to work.  I kind of found my own stitch that worked for me. Mom said it was a slip stitch and not a ladder stitch, but it looked good and worked fine for me.  I don’t mind a knot or two showing on my backing. 🙂  When I finished, I texted mom: “I’m done with the quilt!” Her first response was, “What?! Who taught you how to bind?” I laughed. “You did! Via YouTube!”

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What an awesome feeling to have made a quilt.  I know where each mistake is. I know the sashing is wavy and the borders don’t match perfectly.  I know my binding is fudged in two parts cause I didn’t sew it onto the quilt right. But it’s done, and it looks awesome (I think!) and I’m so excited to have made something that just a few weeks ago I didn’t know how to do.

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That’s the greatest feeling to me. It’s making something that takes time.  Amazon can’t deliver this. When I give this quilt away, someone will have 20-30 hours of my life, and that’s something I haven’t given anyone for a long time.  Thanks, quilting!