Saturday A.M. Quilt Break: My Ohio Star Quilt

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope this finds you looking forward to a healthy 2018 that promises a year of fulfilling pursuits.

I closed out 2017 with eight finished quilt projects instead of the 12 I had aimed for at the beginning of the year. I would have liked to complete more than two-thirds of my goal, but I have to allow that my goal was fairly ambitious for me. I also spent more time than I thought I would getting proficient in free-motion quilting, but it ended up being time well spent.

My completed Ohio Star quilt, December 2017

My completed Ohio Star quilt, December 2017

My final finish of 2017 ended up being the Ohio Star quilt I made for my mother-in-law and that I had hoped to give to her for Christmas 2016. Instead, that completed 60” x 60” quilt top sat in my house for almost a year waiting for me to decide that it was now or never in terms of getting it basted and free-motion quilted.

I completed the Ohio Star quilt top in December 2016

I completed the Ohio Star quilt top in December 2016

Just a few words about the design of the quilt top before I get back to the quilting. This quilt combined a few things I was interested in exploring around the time of Thanksgiving 2016: a red/orange color combination (inspired by my love of cranberry orange scones no doubt), scrappy quilts, and Ohio Star blocks. It seemed a natural fit for my mother-in-law, who is a born-and-bred Ohioan and who once told me she loves autumnal colors.

The center block finishes at 24”, the smaller blocks around it all finish at 12”, and the sashes and borders all finish at 2” wide. Rather than make it nothing but Ohio Star blocks, I decided to mix things up a bit and make unique blocks for each corner that give a nod to the places where some of her children now reside. I included a Delectable Mountains variation block (upper left corner) to represent Colorado, which is where her oldest son lives (with me, I might add); the West Virginia block (upper right) is for her daughter; the Maple Leaf block (lower right) is for another son who lives in Canada; and the Mother’s Dream block (lower left) rounds things out.

Back to the quilting. I spent a lot of time looking through a copy of Quiltmaker magazine’s 501 Quilting Motifs for ideas over the past year. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It contains thousands of potential uses for the motifs, which are fantastic for getting inspired when faced with a “quilt as desired” dilemma. I ended up using a combination of motifs and layouts from its pages.

close-up of the free-motion quilting

close-up of the free-motion quilting

Before any free-motion quilting, though, I started off by quilting in the ditch around each 12” block and each unit in the 24” block, as well as along the sashes and between the borders. This went a long way in preventing any puckers or tucks as I free-motion quilted.

The free-motion still presented some challenges. As I’ve said many times, it’s one thing to practice on a small quilt sandwich, but another thing entirely to quilt a throw quilt or larger. The size and weight of a full quilt makes a huge difference in terms of just moving the quilt through the machine, regardless of whether you’re using a walking foot (aka feed-dog driven quilting) or free-motion quilting. (Click here to read a Workshop Wednesday article about dealing with these challenges.)

I dutifully started free-motion quilting in the very center of the quilt, and was not at all happy with how it turned out. After I’d gotten more accustomed to quilting this particular motif, I ripped out those first stitches and re-quilted the center.

After it was all finished, I was mostly happy with the quilting. I will say that I’m very happy with the smaller leaves I quilted in the sashes and 1st border, and only moderately satisfied with the larger 4” leaves in the blocks. It was much easier to control the quilt and stitch quality when covering a smaller area, whereas trying to maintain smooth curves over a larger area was a lot more challenging. If I had been intending this quilt to be displayed on a wall I would have been much more critical, but because I knew this quilt would be washed and (hopefully) used as a throw, I was willing to put up with some less-than-graceful quilting.

If you look closely you can see some not great quilting, but taken as a whole it’s fine.

If you look closely you can see some not great quilting, but taken as a whole it’s fine.

And now, a word about washing a quilt and what to do if it bleeds.

All of the photos of this quilt that you’ve seen so far were taken the morning after I finished the binding and right before I put it in the washing machine. It’s worth noting that I did not prewash any of the fabric in this quilt, in large part because this was very much a scrap quilt and also because I am not a prewasher. With a few exceptions of fabric I got from a friend when she destashed, I know that almost all of my fabric comes from high-quality manufacturers and that their fabrics rarely if ever bleed.

So I was dismayed when I pulled the quilt out of the machine after a cold gentle cycle (yes, with a few color catchers thrown in) to find that the dark red batik I used in the 24” center block had bled into the neighboring cream patches, turning them pink.

close-up of a portion of the quilt showing how the dark red batik bled into neighboring cream patches

close-up of a portion of the quilt showing how the dark red batik bled into neighboring cream patches

You’ll note that it bled only into the cream patches in the 24” block and not into the neighboring cream sashes. I find that interesting because I know that those two cream fabrics come from different manufacturers—I wonder why one took the dye and the other didn’t?

I immediately got online to research solutions to the problem, and the general consensus was that Synthrapol was the best answer. Fortunately, my local quilt shop had a couple of bottles in stock. After soaking the quilt in my bathtub twice with Synthrapol and hot water, then putting it back through a cold delicate cycle in my washing machine, I’m happy to report all of the extra dye was washed away.

the same portion of the quilt after soaking it in Synthrapol twice

the same portion of the quilt after soaking it in Synthrapol twice

It’s also worth noting that none of the red screen prints bled, nor did any of the other batiks in the quilt, just this one very dark red batik from an unknown manufacturer. So now I know what to be on the lookout for in the future. I also know that I should always have Synthrapol on hand, just in case.

So that’s the story of my Ohio Star quilt. Although I didn’t get it to my mother-in-law by Christmas Day, I was able to ship it to her to arrive by on fifth day of Christmas. She sounds very happy with it, which is all that I wanted. Mission accomplished.

pieced backing made from assorted panels and yardage

pieced backing made from assorted panels and yardage

As for 2018, well, I’ve again set 12 finishes for the year as my goal. I’m feeling confident about reaching it now that I know I can free-motion quilt with some degree of success. I hope you’re also feeling good about what you want to accomplish this year, no matter the number you’re shooting for.

Until next time,
Mary Kate

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