necktie quilt

lonestar quilt of neckties

I remember my grandfather as being a sharp dresser.  I don’t ever remember seeing him in jeans or an old t-shirt, even when working in the yard or doing something messy.  In my memory, he always wore khakis, an oxford shirt and a sweater vest.  When he dressed up, he wore ties.  He had quite a collection of ties that my brother took after my grandfather died.  My brother is an engineer and leans towards cargo pants and polo shirts when he dresses up, so I couldn’t imagine what he was going to do with them.  Evidently, my brother didn’t know what to do with them either as they sat in a couple of grocery bags in his closet for almost ten years.

Over the years I’ve thought about making a quilt out of those neckties but there were always more urgent quilts to make.  While at my brother’s house last year I asked him if he was ever going to use the neckties for anything.  He said No and I offered to make him a quilt out of my grandfather’s ties.  The bags of ties sat on the floor of my sewing room for about 6 months until I worked out the pattern and summoned up the courage to cut into them.

I chose a lonestar pattern – the third that I’ve made (with modifications!).  This was the first memory quilt (well, maybe second, if you could the t-shirt quilt I made out of my triathlon shirts) and I was a little nervous about ruining the ties and working with a different type of fabric.  Though the quilt is made of neckties, I didn’t necessarily want it to *look* like it was made of neckties.  This was a really really fun project and a big learning project and confidence booster for me.

This quilt was also a lot of work!  I first washed and dried all of the ties (yes, I just threw them in the washer and drier – just added soap!).  Then I opened the ties up and took them apart.  Then a quick pressing and adding of interfacing.  I think cut the ties to size and started sewing them together – once you’ve affixed the interfacing, it’s *just like fabric* haha!  I loosely followed this blog post on how to work with the ties (again, with my own modifications and shortcuts).  One thing I didn’t anticipate was, even after washing and drying the ties, I could still smell my grandfather’s pipe when I took the ties apart.

necktie quilt

I was so psyched to finally have quilt top!  By this point, I had already fallen head over heels with this quilt :-)

necktie quilt

My brother is over 6″ tall so I had to add a lot of borders to the top.  I had always planned to longarm the quilt and my resolve was strengthened once I realized the top was so big I could barely lay it out on the floor of my sewing room!

necktie quilt

For the quilting, I just kind of meandered around the quilt.  If I was more confident in my longarm skills and more patient with using the machine, I probably would have done something different.  I think the meandering works.

necktie quilt

necktie quilt

The back is pretty simple – the green fabric is some old Marimekko fabric I had and I think it works well with the simpler fabric on the right.

necktie quilt

necktie quilt

I think it goes without saying that I LOVE how this quilt came out!  I am so proud of it and I am so happy that I was able to use my grandfather’s ties in a way that will be used for (hopefully) many years to come by my brother and sister-in-law.  This is the first quilt that I’ve made that I was a little sad to let go of but I’m thrilled to pieces that I’ll be able to visit it every time I visit my brother :-)

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sewing curves, part 1

I saw a very inspiring exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum a couple of months ago, Circular Abstraction: Bull’s Eye Quilts.  It was amazing!  Huge quilts, freehand curves, bright color and some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in a while.

I was so inspired by the exhibit, that I decided to teach myself to sew curves.  In the quilting world, there’s a bit of a mystique or fear about sewing curves.  I’ve also been intimidated by curves, with my only experience being on the Meadow Quilt, which found really frustrating once I learned that thin fabric has way too much stretch.

For this attempt at curves, I decided to just wing it – no pattern, no paper piecing, no pins, just play.  I don’t think I do enough of “just play” in quilting and I’d like to do more.  I watched a bunch of YouTube videos (this one and this one were the best!)  to get the hang of sewing curves and pulled out some polyester fabric that I bought by accident and just went for it.

You know how they say that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you become an expert?  Let’s just say that I have many more hours to go!  I think there’s something to be said, however, for admitting that you’re learning and you’re not an expert.  There are days/weeks/months/years where I feel like every quilt I see on the internet or at a quilt guild meeting is perfect and the quilter was born knowing how to perfectly piece, sew and press.  My first few sewn curves, were kind of a hot mess:

sewing curves

sewing curves

sewing curves

I cut all of these freehand – no pattern, following a chalk line or using a plate as a “curve guide”.  It took a few times before my muscle memory kicked in.  (and there are a lot more samples that were such failures I immediately used them as dust rags!)  When I sewed the pieces together, I didn’t use pins so it took a few tries to figure out where to match up the seams.  Working with the polyester was kind of a nightmare – the stretch was unbelieving and when I tried to press, it smelled like I was burning down a Barbie factory.  What gave me hope was this one perfect block:

sewing curves

So beautiful!  :-)

sewing curves

Once I felt comfortable with the polyester, I moved on to a much heavier weight fabric and the difference was unbelievable!  The fabric didn’t pull when I cut it and it held its shape during the sewing.  This is when I realized that I was on to something!  I pulled a bunch of fabric, figured out the measurements and just started playing.

sewing curves

This is the start of my latest quilt and I am loving it!  For size reference, each finished block measures 8″.  This has been such a fun experiment and learning opportunity for me.  Now that I have all the blocks cut out, I can see how tentative I was at the beginning with my cuts and re-cuts, and how much more creative and confident I got as I made more blocks. This project has been such a great reminder of a couple of things: everyone has to start somewhere; if you mess up – it’s just fabric; and wow is it fun to learn new things!  Stay tuned for the finished quilt . . .