August 08, 2019

If you've been following Free-Motion Mastery in a Month for a while, you know that I quilt individual blocks, then put them together to make a quilt. I call this version of quilt-as-you-go "Quilt First, Piece After." I love quilting a quilt this way, because it's easy to manage. Quilting one block is fast. And evey time I complete one block I get that lovely "FINISHED!" feeling. (Sometimes it's the only thing that gets finished in a day . . .  I'm sure you know how THAT feels.)

Well, I was at a quilt show a while ago and I saw all the sample sandwiches that were being used to demonstrate the  longarm machines. "Hmmm..... Pre-quilted blocks....." I thought. "That could make Quilt First, Piece After go even easier and even faster......"

I have 14 nieces and nephews. When they finish high school I do two things: 1) I invite them to come and spend a week with me in New York City; and 2) I make them a quilt to take to college.

The first time I made a college quilt, it was a gorgeous queen-size, intricately quilted affair for my oldest niece. I knew she would appreciate it because she has exquisite taste. She also has two golden retrievers who sleep on the bed with her. Thankfully, she doesn't let the dogs sleep on that quilt. But that means it never gets used. In fact, though I have visited her numerous times since I gave it to her years ago, I have never seen it even once.

I learned my lesson. When the next two nephews went off to college, they got quilts that were made from practice blocks and cut-up jeans. I told them that they could take the quilts to football games, picnics, dates under the stars in the backs of their pick-up trucks, whatever. They could throw them on the ground and throw them in the washing machine. Those quilts have been used and loved, and when they wear out I'll replace them.  (I made my niece another quilt, by the way, which she and the dogs sleep with every night. I goes in the wash about once a week.)

Back to the quilt show . . .

I saw those sample sandwiches and, knowing that I had those nephews about to go off to college, I thought "Prequilted blocks.....that could save me a lot of time." So, I asked if I could have them at the end of the show, and I came home with 10 pre-quilted blocks 21" square. One side was black, the other sides were a variety of less-than exciting prints. They were quilted in florescent colored threads that would show up against the black -- yellow, orange, pink, etc.

When I got home I realized two things: I had to figure out a way to make a coherent and (for my sake) interesting design, despite those backing fabrics that did not coordinate at all. And since the quilting was uneven, I was going to have to do some fill-in quilting.

I pulled out a cone of Superior's King Tut thread in Color #921 "Cleopatra" that was left over from doing the sample quilt in my book Free-Motion Mastery in a Month. Its bright colors would pull together all the other thread colors.

I sat down at my Handiquilter Sweet 16 and started to quilt. Well, so much for saving time: I ended up quilting those blocks to death! It was a lot of fun working around what other quilters had started, and easier in a way than coming up with my own design. Here are "Before" and "After" pictures of one block.



Now for the design. Since my goal was to save time, I wanted to cut up the blocks as little as possible, but still end up with a good, strong, design. 

I squared up the quilted blocks to 20 " x 20", then I cut them into three pieces, like this:

And I arranged the blocks like this:

I arranged the Blacks and Prints on the Front like this . . .

. . . .which made the back look like this:

For an extra bit of color, and to add an even more personal touch to the quilt, I used leftover pieces of the Radiant Collection fabrics I designed for Blank Quilting years ago to give the back joining strips some color. Here's a work-in-progress picture where you can see them. (Wherever I didn't want the joining strips to show up, I matched them to the fabrics around them.)

I finished the binding on the edges just as my alarm clock went off, telling me that it was time to go to the airport to pick up my nephew, arriving for his New York City trip. It was waiting on the bed in the guest room when he arrived and he slept under it that night, before I even had a chance to take a picture of the finished quilt.

Here is the finished quilt. I really love how it turned out! And I love that it went from throw-away to a masterpiece (my nephew's words).

What are some  ways you could use pre-quilted pieces to
"Quilt First, Piece After"?
Here are some ideas we came up with.
Write us a comment and share YOUR ideas!

Use up tension tester blocks.

Use pieces you started in a class but didn't finish.

Pre-quilt t-shirts and combine them to make a t-shirt quilt.

Save pieces of a quilt where some sections were damaged or worn out but other parts are still good and combine them to make a new quilt.

Divide up a single heirloom quilt among siblings and combine it with new pieces you make so that everyone can have a part of grandma's quil

Happy Quilting! 

P.S. Watch for another post soon about the secret pocket I added to this quilt. It's a simple technique that you can use on any quilt either while you're making it or after.



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Copyright © 2019 RaNae Merrill




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