Sunday, June 29, 2014

When You Don't Know What You Don't Know!

Most of you already know I started a new job back in March. (Yeah!  So happy and I love my new job!)  However, since then I have neglected posting but that doesn't mean I haven't been sewing and writing. So these next few posts will be catch ups, starting with the Hunter Star.

There was a long wait between landing the job and actually starting so I decided to tackle some UFOs that have been sitting around for a while.  This one is the Hunter's Star.  I started it in 2004 while at a quilting retreat at Threads Galore in Rangely, Maine.  It was a beautiful long weekend in the fall and the teacher was Deb Tucker

When I went to my first quilting class in 2000 I had no idea what I was getting myself into or how much fun I would have quilting.  By the time my sister Dutchy and I headed to the back woods of Maine four years later I was feeling pretty confident in my skills and ready to learn something new.  What I didn't know was that this project would take years to finish.

Here's a picture of the view from the lodge deck in Rangely.  This is what we were seeing as we sewed on the enclosed porch and had our meals in the dining room.  Just lovely!

Back to the quilting.  The quilt it self was a challenge for me because it required using templates.  This was done with an early version of the Rapid Fire Hunter's Star ruler that Deb Tucker invented.  We got a skinny ruler that we used to cut the strips but the new ruler looks much easier.  So here's what happens when you don't know what you don't know.

If you're like me you jump right in - buying pretty fabric, cutting out the pieces, learning the new technique, and sewing some blocks.  I have to tell you this "jumping right in" technique has resulted in more than one pot-holder from fabric that was going to be a bed sized quilt!  I call it building my stash ;o)

I had chosen this beautiful "feather" fabric as my inspiration for the colors in this quilt.  I was still pretty new at picking colors but I chose three coordinating fabrics with what I considered enough contrast to make the "stars" pop.  It's hard to tell in the picture but the colors are a light turquoise blue, deep purple, and lime green.  Sounds ugly but in person it's really beautiful.

I chose the green as the color for the stars but of course there are no stars in the actual blocks.  They start out as triangles like you see in the picture below.  It's not until you put them all together that you see the stars.  What I didn't know was the green of the stars would blend in with the green of the feather fabric and not be enough contract with the purple so that the star points got lost.  It was fine as I was building the blocks but you'll see what I mean in some of the finished pictures.

Notice the white looking edges on the solid blue triangles?  That's from washing.  This project had been stored in a box in my basement and it got wet when I moved.  By the time I found it there was a musty smell to all the pieces.  I had paid a lot of money for the fabrics and really loved them so I decided the best thing to do was wash all the pieces.  What I didn't know was washing and drying them would cause all of the cut edges to fray!  Oh yeah, and I didn't know that every single one of those green strips, blue, purple, and feather triangles would come out of the dryer looking like so much spaghetti!  What was I thinking?

After lots and lots of ironing, with plenty of spray starch, I finally got all the pieces to lay flat.  I was really worried about the triangles because of the bias edges but the starch helped tremendously in keeping them straight.  After all that I couldn't remember what the layout was supposed to be so I set the pieces aside again for another year or so.

As the years passed I would take the project out to give it another shot.  Somehow I couldn't seem to finish it.  I loved the colors but something didn't work and I couldn't put my finger on it.  So back into the drawer it would go.  When January rolled around this year I found myself home without a job and plenty of time on my hands.  Between writing resumes, cover letters, and job searching I decided that I would have plenty of time to finish up some of the old projects that were sitting around.  This one was on the top of that list!

When I took it out this time I was surprised to find that I had lots of the triangle blocks completed.  I tried to lay them out but couldn't remember exactly how it went.  Thank heavens for the internet!  I was able to search for images of the Hunter's Star quilt and see what was needed.  What I didn't know was that some of the blocks were sewn together wrong so no matter how I arranged them on the design board I just couldn't make it look right.

But I was determined to FINISH THIS PROJECT!  So I forged ahead. First I trimmed all the long edges of the triangles so that they each strip was the same width.  It didn't take much effort but measuring was important so I took my time.  Next I finished sewing all the triangles into blocks being careful not to stretch the edges - again, starch saved the day.

Now if you looked closely at the blocks you'll see that I had sewn a feathered triangle to a feathered strip with green tips. I also sewed a solid triangle to a solid strip with green strips.  Pretty!  I was so happy that it was finally all coming together.

But wait, something didn't seem right with this batch below . . . there should be a plain side and a feather side to the block.  Get out the seam ripper.  It was a pain in the neck but finally I got all the blocks made.  Still . . . something wasn't quite right but I couldn't put my finger on it.   

What I didn't know was I should have alternated the colors of the points on the trapezoid pieces so that it could have looked like this, see how the "star points" are different?  This picture is from my sister's beautiful quilt which I'll show at the end.  Her stars have alternating colors and it is just gorgeous!

Anyway, with all the blocks made I could square them up.  Finally, I was spiraling in on the finish.  I used the 8" square ruler and the 12" rotating mat.  What a quick way to get the job done.

I laid the blocks out on the design board and left it up for a few days to see if I still liked it.  As usual I moved the blocks around over the course of about a week until I finally got one I could live with.  I have to tell you I didn't much like it now matter how I moved the blocks.  After looking at it to the point of irritation I finally said enough already and just sewed the damn blocks together.  

I auditioned a couple of options for the borders and settled on this one.  I didn't have enough of any of the original fabrics so I used the purple, (which was what a I had to most of) and put portions of the left over blocks in as corner stones.

Here's what it looked like during the class in Maine.  That's Deb Tucker on the left helping me lay out my blocks while Dutchy keeps a close watch over us.

And here's Dutchy's layout, isn't it just beautiful?!  

And here's how my Hunter Star turned out.

In the end, this multi-year project, with all it's starts and stops is finally a finished top.  What I didn't know was, after all that, I would truly hate it!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I've often heard the expression there's no such thing as an ugly quilt but I have to disagree.  This quilt is ugly!  So it has been relegated to the Finished Tops pile and will remain unfinished until I'm ready to try my had at machine quilting on my home machine.  I doubt I will ever feel it is worthy of the money it would take to have it quilted by someone else.

However, I do think it is "cat worthy" and it may yet end up as a finished quilt assigned to keep the cats happy HaHa!