Y’all, I am SO embarrassed about how long it has taken me to talk about the project I’m going to show you today… my life is very hectic these days and it’s not always easy to find time to write, sew, or write about sewing, even if it’s something I’m very proud of: my first full size half square triangle quilt!
This quilt has had a very long lifespan. I started planning this waaaay back in 2017 when I stumbled on this incredible award-winning quilt from Quiltcon – I loved the neutral colour palette with pops of coral and blue and decided to recreate it using a much simpler triangle pattern. It took about four years to finally complete, another few months to photograph it, and then almost a year before I finally sat down to write about it. Quilt, I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to talk about how wonderful you are. Please forgive me!
My original dream was to make a linen quilt because I love nothing more than being swaddled in all linen, all the time. That said, linen tends to be more rustically and loosely woven than good ol’ quilting cotton, so I was concerned about the long-term longevity of a 100% linen quilt given my lifestyle (aka, my co-sleeping doggo). Enter Essex Linen from Robert Kaufman. In a 55% linen/ 45% cotton mix, it also happens to come in a zillion colours. If memory serves (this was 5 years ago people!) I got the bulk of the linen at Stitch Sew Shop when I was there teaching a workshop, along with a little quilting cotton for the colours I was missing in charcoal and coral. As I started making my half squares, I realized I needed more fabric so I ended up re-upping with additional chambray-ish Essex linen. Overall the palette is mostly tones of grey, white and black with pops of soft blue and coral. The binding and backing are both solid Essex Linen in light grey.
I believe I started the actual quilting process in late 2017 or so and quickly realized that quilting is serious business. I made a sort of improvised quilt a while back, but the accuracy required for quilting something like this is next level. Prep for this was intense given how many pieces I needed, but was made much easier with two tools: a Square Me Up quilting ruler, and a rotating cutting mat. The quilting ruler is very simple but very helpful. Rather than painstakingly cutting each triangle out one at a time (and then sewing them together in pairs, where you risk stretching them out by sewing on the bias) you layer two pieces of 10″ fabric together. Using the square ruler, you mark your cut lines with chalk, sew on either side of the cut lines at 1/4″, and use the rotating cutting mat to cut the triangles from the square when you’re done using a rotary cutter. From each 10″ square you get 8 pairs of triangles that form a square when pressed open. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any process pictures of this (from um, 4 years ago) but you can see a similar process here (apparently this process is called the Magic 8 Quilt block, who knew!)
I did not follow a pattern for this at all. I randomly created my coloured squares and started building larger quilt blocks using intuition, trying to balance tones and emerging patterns. It took many, many days of cutting, sewing, pressing and assembling, and I lost steam many, many times. To be honest, I have no idea where quilters get the indomitable patience required to make quilt after quilt. It can be monotonous work, and while I’m sure there are some meditative benefits to it, I am simply too accustomed to the instant gratification of sewing garments. Even my more ambitious couture sewing projects are a drop in the time bucket compared to making a quilt of this size.
There were many starts and stops until the pandemic hit. Trapped in my apartment for the first few months with nothing to do but work and sew, I pulled this out of the WIP pile and committed to finishing it. I even managed to make enough extra blocks to create this back yoke for a Sienna Maker Jacket! I was feeling especially motivated to get ‘er done since I was house hunting for a cottage at the same time, and dreamed of filling the bedrooms with handmade, heirloom quilts.
Once I finished the quilt top, I knew there was no way in earthly hell I was going to wrestle this queen-size beast through my machine to be quilted to the batting, so I sent it to a wonderful long arm quilter here in Montreal (sadly her website is down). She suggested a wool batting and helped me pick out a quilting pattern. I quite love this wave pattern and how it subtly challenges the rigid geometry of all these triangles. When she sent it back to me, I finished all the edges with hand-sewn bias binding, weirdly one of my favourite sewing chores despite the aforementioned lack of patience.
Spoiler alert: I did end up finding the cottage of my dreams a few hours outside the city, and this beauty is now happily at home in the guest room. I keep trying to psych myself up to use it on my own bed, but I’m worried Harry is just going to trash it with his nails and general doggy dirtiness, so for now, it is a loving welcome for friends and family when they come up to stay. And while I am so very happy I made it, I am making up the remaining beds with vintage quilts I find at flea markets because I’m not quite ready to take on a project of this magnitude quite yet, if ever, again. Much like knitting, I just don’t have the patience to make quilting a part of my regular crafting routine.
So that’s the story of my half-square triangle quilt! Have you ever made one before? Any tricks to making quilting a more regular part of my sewing practice? Comment below!