Happily Ever After: The Beginning

Attention, readers! We interrupt this Row by Row travelogue to bring you a post about actual quilting! Margaret, I hope you think this is interesting, even though you’ve heard a lot of it.

Around the middle of March, while talking to my mother on the phone, she said, “Oh, Becky’s daughter is getting married this summer and she wondered if you had a quilt top she could have quilted for a wedding present.”

Say what? Becky and I met in 7th grade and were BFF’s through junior high and high school. We went our separate ways but have remained friends. She still lives in our home town so every time I go home to see the folks we try to get together. So, why did she ask my mother who knows nothing about what I’m up to in quilting instead of calling me? Mom thinks quilting is boring so I try not to burden her with too much quilting talk.

When I saw Becky at Christmas she told me Rachel had a boyfriend but didn’t say anything about marriage. I called to find out what was up and what she had in mind. Apparently, the kids were going to get married next year but, since they are in their 30s and want to start a family, they decided sooner was better. Becky thought a quilt would be a good wedding present and would mean more to Rachel if someone she knew made it.

I only had one queen size top ready for quilting so sent the picture.

Mystery for the Millenium designed by Judy Hopkins.

Mystery for the Millenium designed by Judy Hopkins. The stars in the corners were my idea to replace simple cornerstones.

This was not acceptable. Becky said it was way too dark and busy. Busy? Bonnie Hunter’s Grand Illusion Mystery is busy. This is just blocks with sashing and cornerstones. Becky was picturing something with white and pastel. And, she mentioned “modern prints like zig-zag”. OK. Becky has a vision and I’d better find a way to tune in to it or she won’t be happy. She is very strong-minded and knows what she wants. Keep in mind that Becky does not do needlework or crafts – that’s just never been her thing – so she doesn’t know about “modern” quilting. But, since she was describing a “modern” quilt, I sent some pictures to see if anything struck her fancy. Her only comment was that the last one was better and might work. “Might work” isn’t good enough so I mocked up the simplest quilt possible in EQ – large print squares with white sashing. I did one straight set and one on-point.

Straight set

Straight set

On-point set

On-point set

These were more what Becky had in mind. Whew! She chose the on-point setting. Did I say Becky has good taste? Of course, that’s a little more complicated than the straight set but it is a nicer look. Now that we had a design, I did a little more work and sent her this very long email:

There’s a lot of info here and I’m sure it will be confusing. I’ve given 3 options for size. Pick a size, then follow that option for the fabric amounts. Print out the picture from the previous email and this email and take them with you to the shop. The people there will be able to help you. You should expect to be overwhelmed in the store. If you have any questions, please call. My cell number is 410-746-7647.
A queen mattress is 60×80. A yard of quilting fabric is about 36″x40″. Quality quilting cotton averages around $11 a yard these days. Jo-Anns is generally not considered to be quilt shop quality which is why I said don’t go there. 
The total amount of fabric for the quilt will run around $250. Maria charges 3.5 cents per square inch for custom quilting and 1.5 cents for completely computerized. Based on what she did for Colette’s quilt, this will end up as semi-custom – somewhere in the middle. Then there’s the batting and thread cost. So, $250-300, maybe. Could be less than $250. Just don’t want you to be surprised at the total cost. 
I plan to get an insurance appraisal which I’ll pay for. An insurance appraisal is what it would cost to pay someone to remake the quilt, not what it could be sold for. Without an appraisal insurance companies consider it a blanket and pay accordingly. Colette’s quilt appraised out at $1500. This one won’t be that high because it is a simpler design but it will be considerably more than a blanket from walmart. 
Size options for the quilt. I would choose 3 or 1:
1. 41 10″ squares will measure about 94.5″ square. This size gives a 17″ drop on the sides and a 14.5″ drop on the end (quilt laid over pillows but not tucked under). 
2. If you want it longer, that adds 2 rows to maintain the symmetry because the last row should have the same number of squares as the first row. In that case, using 10″ squares of color, it would be 94.5×111″ long which gives a 31″ end drop which is twice the drop of the sides. This would allow a pillow tuck but would probably still be longer than the sides. This version needs 50 squares of color.
3. Using 9″ squares of color would be approx. 87 x 103. This would give a side drop of 13.5″ and an end drop of 23 which would allow a pillow tuck. This uses 50 squares of color.
How much fabric for the colored squares:
1/3 yard will yield 4 squares of color.
If you choose 13 fabrics, you need 1/3 yard of each. More than 13 fabrics is great but you still need 1/3 yard of each. Fewer fabrics will work but then some will need more than 4 squares so would need 2/3 of a yard for those. If you find some fabrics you like but not enough, I can fill in here based on what you pick.
How much of the white fabric:
The computation is a little more complicated because of the on-point setting and that it is one fabric so we have to get enough in one fell swoop. The software I used to mock up the quilt overestimates but I’m not sure how much because I’ve never used its estimates before. For example, for option 3, the program says 14.5 yards. My back of the envelope calculation came up with 7 yards. I always round up from my calculations because too much fabric is better than too little. I don’t usually work with an exact finished size in mind, so I get anxious about my calculations for a specific size. Unfortunately, my friend Linda who helps me with the math isn’t available right now. I’ll check with her when she gets back in town.
Here’s what the software said for the white:
Option 1: 15.25 yards
Option 2: 15.75 yards
Option 3: 14.5 yards
Those are absurd numbers. I recommend we split the difference between the software and my rough calc. Go with 10 yards. I think that should be plenty for any of the sizes. Double-check with the shop people. I’ll reimburse you for the extra that isn’t needed for Rachel’s quilt – I can use it for something else. If you don’t find anything you like that is big enough, let me know ASAP and I’ll start looking here.
Fabric for the back:
Regular quilting fabric is about 40″ wide. That will have seams in the back to make a piece big enough. There is fabric made especially for quilt backs that is 108″ or so wide but there aren’t so many choices. That doesn’t require any seams unless the back needs to be wider than 108″. The backing for a quilt has to be about 6″ bigger on each side than the front.

[pictures of batik backings carried by my quilter omitted]

Please choose something for the back that isn’t a directional print. That can require a different set of calculations to keep the print going top to bottom depending on how the fabric is printed and which size option you chose.
Option 1:
40″ wide needs 9 yards.
108″ wide needs 3 yards.
Option 2:
40″ wide needs 10 yards.
108″ wide needs 3.5 yards.
Option 3:
40: wide needs 9 yards
108″ wide needs 3.25 yards.
In the meantime I had to get on my quilter’s calendar in order to get the quilt finished by the end of July. I had trips in April and July and Maria was completely booked up for June and July. So, I had to get the top to Maria by May 1st. That meant I had the last 2 weeks of April to make the top. By this time it is the end of March.
Becky asked if she should go to Jo-Ann (there’s one in town). I said “NO!” and explained about fabric quality. I sent Becky to Stitch & Sew Fabrics in Arthur, Il, the heart of Amish country, because they have a wide variety of fabrics. I debated about sending her to Main Street Quilt Company in Shelbyville, IL, because it is more modern. In hindsight, maybe that would have been the better choice but I think the Arthur store is larger. It all worked out. Becky took a friend with her to help with the shopping. Here’s what she sent me:
Becky chose these fabrics.

Becky chose these 15 fabrics plus the white background.

The fabrics arrived in early April. I called and left a message that they arrived and please call me. She called and asked if they were horrible. I reassured her that she did a great job, I just wanted to hear about the shopping trip. They spent about 2 hours choosing fabrics before she started to get overwhelmed. She understood that I wouldn’t be able to use everything she picked and was fine with that. Her husband thought the quilt was going to look exactly like the mock-up. He can’t visualize the design with different fabrics. Becky said she’s hung enough wall paper to visualize how something is going to look which is good for the quilt collaboration. She didn’t choose a backing and left that up to me since I now had the fabric. Sneaky.

I decided there were some gaps that needed to be filled in and a few fabrics needed to be replaced. I had a class at Patches that Saturday and found a couple of possibles there. The following Monday found us at Bear’s Paw for Mimi’s grad class. I found a great fabric for the back and a lavender polka dot. Becky mentioned lavender a lot and also mentioned polka dots.


The backing fabric. I don’t think the picture does it justice.

I felt we needed more options so I called Patty and we went shopping. We visited Quilters Studio in Fairfax, VA and Capital Quilts in Gaithersburg, MD which are both a more modern focus. When it was all said and done, I had these fabrics to add to the potential selections.

I added these as potential selections.

I added these as potential selections.

Becky’s choices and mine all together:


If we were doing a scrappy quilt with dozens of fabrics, everything would work. But, with a limited number of fabrics with large pieces, the choices have to be more precise.

These 2 fabrics from my stash were eliminated. The colors just weren't quite right.

These 2 fabrics from my stash were eliminated. The blue looked a little dull and not quite the right color next to the other blues. The green seemed to be a little too dark.

I think the problem with the check was the scale, looks too old-fashioned compared to the more modern prints. The one on the far right looks very 30s, which again doesn’t fit with the more modern prints. The middle one was again a style issue. I would have left it and the check in if I hadn’t found good replacements.

Becky sent these. I think the problem with the check was the scale, looks too old-fashioned compared to the more modern prints. The one on the far right looks very 30s, which again doesn’t fit with the more modern prints. The middle one was again a style issue. I would have left it and the check in if I hadn’t found good replacements.


I substituted the more modern check on the right for the gingham on the left.

I substituted the more modern swirl on the left for the one on the right.

I substituted the more modern swirl on the left for the one on the right.


The more modern dot prints on the left were substituted for the 30s looking print on the right.

One of the fabrics Becky sent had 8 different prints across the width of the fabric. While the color and style were right, the amount of each print meant that a square cut from it would look pieced which isn’t what we were going for and wouldn’t look right with the rest of the squares.

The top 2 fabrics substituted for the bottom fabric.

The top 2 fabrics substituted for the bottom fabric.

One of the prints Becky chose was a multi-colored swirl. It had blue in it but there were no blues in what Becky sent. Because this is a wedding quilt and men usually like blue, I felt we needed to add a little blue to “man” it up a little. Rachel is an elementary school teacher and Matt is in construction. Becky wanted words and numbers so this helps with that.


A couple of the fabrics Becky sent had gray in them and the walls of the couple’s bedroom are gray. Patty and I felt some gray was called for. I found a dog paw print which is appropriate because they have a dog. Normally, I wouldn’t choose fabric with a background that is the same color as the sashing but this word fabric was too awesome to pass up.


The dark gray was nixed by Becky and I was ok with that. I only got it as a possible because it was words.

There was a dark multi-color floral print in Becky’s choices. They picked it because Rachel likes Monet and they thought it looks impressionistic. I didn’t use it because it was too dark and just didn’t go with the style.

The final line-up.

The final line-up.



2 Responses to “Happily Ever After: The Beginning”

  1. Margaret Minton Says:

    Barbara, your colors are great! When do we get to see a picture of the finished quilt? -Margaret

    • Barbara Says:

      The next post I write will finish up the quilt and presentation to the bride. I have to find my camera and unload the pictures from the shower. Were you not at guild when I had it for show and tell?

      Barbara Bennett,
      Columbia, MD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s