Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What a Blockhead, Charlie Brown

Yesterday I would have been thrilled to report that Lida the moonbird is finally attached to her quilt, Lida Luna.


Today I'm a little less thrilled, because it hit me this morning that I did not block the quilt before attaching her.

Holy crap.

In the manifesto under my blog profile, I mention the fun, the challenges, and the 'aha moments' of landscape quilting. This will be one of the challenges.

I always block landscape quilts. Or at least I did until now. As any teacher of this particular quilting genre will tell you, it is a necessary step in getting the final piece to hang square, straight and flat against the wall. Blocking in this case means laying the quilt flat (or hanging it) against a firm, heat-resistant surface, pinning it down square, and steaming the holy heck out of it. After that, it sits, sometimes for a couple of days, untouched and unmoved (very important to prevent warping or uneven stretching) until it's completely dry.

I'll admit to being a bit distracted these days, with the studio move just completed and two trips in the offing (where the h*ll did my two bathing suits go???). Add to that the nagging feeling that Lida Luna has been, for various reasons, taking more time than I ever dreamed it would--hence the rush. It's not that I have a deadline; I don't (although Moore's Sewing & Learning Center has very kindly offered to exhibit it as soon as it's done). It's just that there are so many unmade quilts in my head, and ever since my 60th birthday last year, there seems to be some internal pressure that can almost qualify as a deadline--though one of my own making. The good news is, the same thing happened when I turned 50 (only then it was writing books instead of quilting), and after a couple of years I finally got past that time-crunch illusion. I'm looking forward to that downshift again this time around. What is it about decennial birthdays? The years in between never bother me, and it's never about 'growing old' for me, either. It's just the time thing. Grrrr.

Back to the quilt. Some might ask, why not steam it even though Lida is already attached? Answer: Lida would most likely wrinkle in a few places. Right now she's smooth and nicely rounded, puffed out with a couple of thin layers of batting between her and the quilt. There's also a good chance the acrylic yarn on her feathers would be affected (like, melted--or at least wilted), although you never touch the iron directly to the surface, and I would certainly test a yarn sample first. (It took 6 hours to attach those 30 or so little knitted lengths of yarn--you bet your booty I'd test it first!)

Ok, what about taking Lida off the quilt, steaming it, then re-attaching her? Answer: Are you crazy? Just kidding, and yes, this may sound stubborn, but after the long hours spent and the eyestrain and sore fingers endured to secure Lida firmly to the quilt, I'd sooner put the whole project on a shelf than detach her now. And it's so close to being finished...

Which leaves at least one more option, and it's the one I'm considering. Would it be possible to steam carefully around Lida without causing her to draw up and wrinkle? And even if she didn't, would the quilt then warp in her area because of the uneven shrinkage overall? Something tells me it might. Then again, would that matter, if the quilt hasn't yet been trimmed and squared?

This all boils down to the lesser of two evils. If I don't block the quilt, it may start out hanging flat and square but eventually stretch out of shape while hanging on the wall. If I do manage to block most of the quilt without crinkling Lida in the least, it may still be impossible to square. Remember, there is a lake in this quilt. One cardinal rule with landscape quilts portraying a water line or a horizon line is that the top and bottom of the quilt must be parallel to that line--and hence to each other. From there, you square your sides. This is sometimes trickier than it would seem and, with an unblocked area in the quilt, could be downright impossible. The result, as in the first scenario, is that the water line could look all wonky or the whole quilt could hang unevenly. Who wants a crooked or saggy quilt hanging on the wall?

Then again, any distortion after blocking could (crossing my fingers here) end up being so minimal that it's nearly unnoticeable after all's said and done. Considering that Lida is 16 inches long, that might be a stretch. No pun intended.

I'm trying to look at it this way: whichever way this goes, it will be a learning experience. (Gulp.)

Wish me luck...

Update, June 7:  I spent yesterday afternoon carefully blocking the areas around Lida. It might not be perfectly flat, but if I do a little bit of easing in a couple of areas, I think it will hang fine. Whew!! So since I have a little something to whoop-whoop about after all, I'm hooking up here with Whoop Whoop Fridays. Sarah has just finished a quilt that makes me happy just looking at it. Remember to also look below her post to see what her readers are working on. Lots of inspiration there! Also hooking up with Leah Day at FMQ Fridays. She's mulling over the importance (or lack thereof) of the occasional renegade stitch on her AMAZING quilt, Duchess Reigns. Check it out, and check out her hookups, too.

Linda

13 comments:

  1. I certainly don't have any advice so all I can do is wish you luck! I'm sure you'll figure out what you need to do and impress us all with such lovely work!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! I keep reminding myself of the old adage, 'Where there's a will there's a way.' It may not turn out perfect, but I'll give it my best shot.

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  2. Beautiful quilt. Love the bird -- she is gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you! I'm getting so fond of her it will be a little hard to let this one go.

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  3. Hello Linda,

    I just love the line of trees.

    Love from England,
    Muv

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    1. Muv, thank you! I was hoping they would be one of the focal points, so it's very gratifying to have you point them out.

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  4. I think it is wonderful and that you should let it be. If it does not lay flat, you could stitch small triangles on the back and use a very thin dowel to keep the quilt taut when hung on the wall. I have done this with a bit of success. The top dowel also creates a way to hang the quilt as well.

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    1. Suzanne, what a great solution! I have never seen this idea. Well, I'll see how it hangs, and by golly, that just may be what I wind up doing. Thank you so much.

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  6. thank you for reminding me that I need to block my quilts. I generally don't but have lately been doing more and more heavy quilting so need to do it. I do the triangle method as suzanne mentioned and it does work really well.
    http://www.alzquilts.org/sleeve.html is the link to show how it's done.
    You block the quilt BEFORE adding the binding, right? even the triangles won't help it if it isn't square or wonky though due to lots of quilting / embellishment'

    thanks for sharing

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    1. Hi Carol! Yes, I first square it up by measuring and then pinning the edges down with T-pins, and then I block it with lots of steam to shrink out any waviness or warp between the pins or within the quilt. After it's completely dry I measure and square it again, trim it, and bind it. Oh, thank you for that link! That will help so much.

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  8. (Didn't really remove any of my comments, as it says above -- just moved them into the 'reply' sections where I meant to put them in the first place. :)

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