This is my 9-patch exchange quilt that was started in September of 2008. I finished the top some time ago, and then it got folded up and stuffed in a drawer for a long time. Poor quilt top.
One of my local quilt shops had a sale the first weekend in September. The sale was 25% off of backing fabric if you brought in a finished quilt top. While I was there, I ran into a woman who long arm quilts and offered a very reasonable price, so I picked out some backing fabric with the assistance of my six year old daughter and left the quilt top and backing in the hands of Marge.
I really wanted this quilted in very small stippling, but the price would have been twice as much as the edge-to-edge pattern I ended up choosing. It was a kind of a "rock and a hard place" decision because I don't really like the quilt too much. I can see it's merits, but it is just not to my taste. The quilt was made from a block swap I joined while attending a quilt show. The sample quilt at the show was beautiful and was quilted in the very small stippling. This whole experience was one of those VERY IMPORTANT LESSONS that we often experience when learning a new hobby.
Here's what happened: The quilt shop had pre-cut packs of 2 1/2" strip sets to make up the 12 blocks each month. I would go in each month and pick out 2 packs of fabrics that I liked for myself. I would go home and sew up the requisite 9-patch blocks and then turn them in at the end of each month while keeping 4 for myself. Then, of course, I would get the swapped blocks. This particular quilt shop is very friendly and the owner and staff is great, and they are very close to my work and home. This should make it perfect! It would, except for the fact that the shop is primarily dedicated to civil war reproduction fabrics and I gravitate more towards bright, light, color combinations. Purple and yellow or red and teal. Happy colors.
Looking back, I don't know why I didn't just pull out after the I realized that the blocks I was getting back were all really brown and dark. I just kept my head down and kept on going. Once I had all of the completed blocks, I distinctly remember thinking "this looks like throw-up". Again, I just kept my head down and kept on going.
I struggled a little with the assembly. Many of the blocks were way off the mark size-wise, but I perservered. Once I picked out my border fabric and assembled the quilt with the borders, it grew on me a little. The green-with-gold-accents border seemed to pull it all together. I was uncertain about whether I was going to try to quilt it myself or pay someone else to do it, so it went into storage.
This brings me back to the sale, the long-arm quilter, and then a week and a half later a finished quilt. Wait! Not quite. I still had to bind the quilt. I really dreaded the idea of this process on a queen size quilt. I had used a what I imagine to be a whip stitch when hand sewing the binding on previous quilting projects and was not very thrilled with the process or the results. This time I did a little research on Mr. Internet because I had heard from various quilting friends that there is a BETTER WAY.
Oh boy, was there. I found out about the ladder stitch and I actually really enjoyed hand sewing the binding to the back of this queen sized quilt. I loved the result as well. It was finished in about a week. After I dragged it in to work for a day to show-n-tell, I threw it in the washer and then replaced my WHITE bed spread with this 9-patch, block swap beauty. Ugh! It's so dark! Every time I walked in my bedroom it startled me. I kept telling myself that it was just a big change and I would get used to it.
It's been about a month and I still haven't. I'm kind of torn up about it too. I think I did a good job sewing the blocks together and choosing the border fabric. I think Marge the long-arm quilter did a beautiful job quilting it. It feels wonderful to curl up underneath it's quilty weight at night and know that I MADE THIS and I actually FINISHED IT! It's the fabrics that are the insult to my eyes.
I know the obvious answer is to make another quilt to replace it with, but right now I have other crafty pursuits going on, so who knows when that event might ever transpire, if ever? The rub is that I'll never know if spending the extra to have the tiny stippling pattern done would have saved this for me. I know the quilting can really change the look of a quilt, but my best guess is that even that would not have been enough.
Good thing my eyes are closed most of the time that I'm in my bedroom, and I don't think I'll be signing up for any other block swaps in the foreseable future.