Friday, April 23, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Wallhanging Finished!

Cinco de Mayo  17" x 29"
Improvisational wallhanging, all fabric from stash.
Based on Pin the Tail on the Donkey techniques from the book Quilters Playtime

I still find it hard to believe that I made this wallhanging in just two days.  Yesterday morning I chose fabric and today the quilt is up on my wall!  This project was improvisational, starting from scratch with no pattern in mind.  Below are lots of pictures and comments so you can follow along with the project, if you like.

The lime green fabric with chili peppers, sombreros, maracas and pinatas was inspiration for this quilt.  I found a couple more chili pepper fabrics in my stash, along with the bright geometric on the left.

Fabric with black background cut and pieced to make it wider (vertical seam).

Trying out a couple of fabrics to act as dividers/spacers between chili fabrics.

Vertical seam bothering me. Trying out a couple of fabrics to cover up, also different spacer.

Yet another cover up, and trying to get the turquoise spacers to work.

I'm liking this arrangement a lot.

Now that the arrangement feels good, I make several "tails": Red on the green chili; big purple over the red chili, with green and red tails over it; orange cover up counts as another for total of 5 (Cinco de Mayo is May 5...5th day of 5th month).

Here's the same layout, with a narrow black strip on the purple divider.

Sketch of the wallhanging.  Decided to keep dimensions the same as the roughly folded fabric on the wall, later noted on sketch.

Cover up quilted with zigzag, sewed to the chili fabric just at top and bottom.  You can see by the chopstick that the cover up is not sewn down all the way--a design decision.  With both ends of the tail enclosed in a seam, Quilter's Playtime calls this an Inserted Tail.

Purple divider attached

The red tail (a Dangling Tail) has been sewn onto the green fabric across the top, just to secure it.  Also, I decided to use the narrow black between the purple and the green. It's just a 1.5" wide strip folded in half. I'm letting the fold hang loose into the green area.

You can see by the chopstick that it's open under the black, not stitched down.

It's open behind the tail, as well.

Here are the black and green chili sections sewn together.

Stripe has been sewn to the green.  I've had this fabric for years.  The selvage said Masai, which is African, but I think it works quite well in this Mexican-inspired piece.

This is the largest tail.  It will provide a background for two smaller ones.  I quilted the basket shape with a cross-hatch sort of pattern.  The seams are finished, except across the top, where it will be sewn into the stripe/red chili seam.

Red chili and purple basket not sewn to stripe yet.

I decided it was time to trim the piece.  To my amazement, when it was trimmed up, the quilt looked done!  Are you kidding?  What about the red chili?  Can I still add the purple basket?  I can do without the red chili, but I really want the purple.

Okay, that looks good.  Then I had a problem.  How in the world am I going to finish this thing off with binding?  The basket is already finished on three sides, and is really thick.  I played with possibilities in my head, not coming up with a solution.  It was late, so I decided to call it a night and figure it out in the morning.

Morning came and I looked on the internet for prairie points.  After all, my basket was like a prairie point.  But it really wasn't much help, because the example's prairie points went all the way around the quilt.  I found a tutorial on facing a quilt, but I wasn't convinced.  Next I tried Quilting Arts, not your average quilts.  Surely I could find help there, and I did.  I found an article on 12 unconventional ways to finish a quilt.  I decided to do the pillowcase technique.  I've done it a million times with quilts.  This time I could build an escape hatch, an opening in the backing to turn the quilt inside out.  That could work!  Woo-hoo!

Decided to use red chili fabric as backing.  Laid over the quilt top to check for size.  (Basket still not attached.)

Cut a couple of strips, trying them out for size.  I'm not worried about the basket being covered.  It will hang freely below the body of the quilt.

I made a vertical cut in the backing a little off-center, then sewed the vertical purple strip between the two backing pieces.  Then I made a horizontal cut in the backing, also off-center, and sewed in the horizontal purple strip--leaving several inches unsewn on one edge.  This would be the "escape hatch" for turning the quilt right side out later on.

I thought it would be interesting to let the green and red tails hang a little below the purple basket.  I had to trim about an inch off the top of the basket so that the tops of the tails would be even with the top of the basket.  I sewed the tails to the basket to secure them.

It was time to do some quilting.  One of the tips that I picked up at Quilting Arts about the pillowcase technique is that quilting can be done with the top and batting alone; fabric for the back (not the actual backing) is optional for quilting.  I decided to give it a try.  I usually use a low-loft polyester batting from Joann's.  It's quite fluffy, and can get caught on the presser foot, etc.  I didn't want to deal with all that mess, so I found some fleece batting I had bought umpteen years ago.  No fluff, no problem.

I sprayed some 505 (love that stuff!)  on the batting and pressed the quilt top into place.  Time to quilt.  I found a design in the book Mindful Meandering that had curvy triangles that looked like tortilla chips, one chip per block.  I didn't have blocks, but I decided to try to adapt.  I started in the black chili area, got lost during the second row, tried to recover and was totally dizzy by row three.  So I gave it up, and just did some free-motion curvy lines with triangles now and then for the last row.  That felt better, more like the loop-de-loops I've done several times.  I jumped over the orange cover up and finished quilting the black chili area.  I skipped the purple divider, and did more of the same quilting in the green chili area.  I left the stripe section alone.  I'm not big on embellishments, but I may try to find some beads, jewelry, etc. to dress up some of the unquilted areas.  We'll see.

Now it was time to join the backing to the quilted top.  I laid the purple basket and tails face down on the stripe and sewed to secure.  I taped shut the escape hatch on the backing so it wouldn't stretch on me.  I made some triangles (5" squares folded on the diagonal and pressed) for hanging.  I laid the quilted top on the backing, right sides together, placing a triangle in each corner, and sewed all the way around the edge of the quilt top.  Part way around I worried that I might not be able to open the escape hatch.  I had to was only scotch tape.  I'm stronger than it is, for Pete's sake.

Quilted top and backing sewn together, all around the edges.

I trimmed around the quilt top, cut out the corners just to the stitching line, removed the scotch tape from the escape hatch and turned the quilt right side out.  I used Mr. Chopstick to push out the corners and pressed the quilt to make the edges flat.

All done!


I taped the escape hatch shut again, so I could hang the quilt right away.  I will do a permanent closing another day.

That was fun!  You never know what you're going to end up with when you do improvisational quilts.  As you can see, the quilt changed directions many times.  I'm happy with the results, and I'm glad I have the wallhanging done and on the wall before May 5th!  It's weird to call this a WIP since it was so short-lived, but I can count it in the Stashbuster WIP and WHIMM contest.  So, proudly, another WIP finished!

I'm going to continue my retreat for one more day, Saturday.  I'll go as far as I can in Quilter's Playtime.  I'm going out of town on Sunday, but I may continue in the book even after my official retreat is over.  I'm not sure what my schedule will hold, with the imminent birth of my new granddaughter Piper.  I may be going back to work on Monday, but not if Piper arrives this weekend.

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