Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 8 - Five Patch Chain - Making

The bulk of the piecing is done - I'm not quite sure why this design was included as there are no new techniques to learn in putting it together.  Still, it's a nice design and my red and white colour choice looks rather different to the example in the QA book.

Here it is up on the design wall waiting to be sewn together and side triangles added

Many people don't like to use white in their quilts, they prefer cream as white can be a bit stark.  I like cream too, it tends to muddy up the surrounding colours a little and tone it all down, perfect if that's the effect you're after.  I like to use white as I find it gives a freshness and brings out the surrounding colours with a bright and crisp look.

Having said that, this top is nice, but a little, well - boring.  When l first looked at the design I wanted to add something to it, a bit more interest - important as I've chosen rather uninteresting fabrics!  Traditionally, those blank white spaces are perfect for showing off beautiful quilting.  Hmmm - maybe one day, but not this day.

Instead I opted for applique - selecting a simple bird, designed by Michele Hill (which I took from a magazine - hope that's ok copyright police?)  

Two birds are better than one!

Even though this top has no new techniques to learn, I still managed to make a technical failure.  The white fabric I had so much trouble with, continued to cause problems.  It frayed terribly, it wouldn't press properly and it was tricky to cut and handle under the needle as it was so slippery.

I got suspicious and did a burn test on it and yes - it contains polyester!  The red damask was clearly labelled on the bolt as 100% cotton. It sewed and pressed beautifully.  The white damask was displayed next to it and I assumed it too, was 100% cotton.  I don't remember if I read the bolt label on the white or not, but it should not have been selling amongst the quilters cottons.  Naughty Spotlight.

Anyway, I found out why quilters use cotton and not polyester or polyester blends for quiltmaking!  The main issue for me was the pressing.  The stuff would ripple, bend and stretch.  I ended up with curved strips and wavy seamlines. Having struggled through making the blocks, I decided to live with it, so this quilt is not going to be winning any awards for precision!

Harriet Hargrave has written a brilliant book about the fabrics we use for making quilts called "From Fibre to Fabric".  This book tells us everything we need to know about working with cotton and every serious quilter should read it!  Here's what Harriet has to say about polyester blends (abridged) ..

'Polyester will not press flat because of the permanent press finish - it has a tendency to lift.  Polyester is more transparent than cotton causing seam allowances to shadow through.  Piling is a problem after quilts have been washed a few times and bearding can be a problem when polyester batting and fabrics are sandwiched together.'

As this quilt has lots of white, it's going to require lots of washing and piling is not a good look!  Oh dear.  I think perhaps this one will be put away, or just displayed and not used.  A shame to put so much work into a quilt which in the end won't get used.  It will make good quilting practice though!


  1. It is beautiful. I really like the birds you added.

    Sorry about the polyester - hopefully it won't do everything terrible that has been predicted.

    Cheers, K

  2. This is a great lesson for all of your followers. Thank you for sharing. It's too bad about the poly blend fibers...quilting practice is a good way to look at it. I love the birdies you've added. I wonder if you would consider a re-make with 100% cotton in a scaled-down form perhaps for a pillow or small wall-hanging? The color scheme is spot-on and the birdies are very adorable. Maybe you can use these colors and birds on a future quilt?

  3. The best thing about polyester is that it wears better overall than any cotton! My mother made a quilt which included lots of polyester amongst cottons ... the quilt just about survived two boys, one now 52, the cotton fabrics are faded and frayed, the polyester fabrics are bright and still in great condition.

    To back this up, I have removed a worn cotton binding from a quilt completed in the late 80s, but the horrible looking polyester binding on another is solid. The cottons in the second quilt are looking pretty worn!

    My dream is a cotton which is just like cotton with the durability of polyester. 9Nightmare is that it would stitch like a polyester!)

    Judy B

  4. Hi Lesley,
    What a shame about that damask being poly based- I am always suspicious of fabric from spotlight and have learned to trust my fingers and eyes more than any label on a bolt-I buy very little quilting fabric there. Maybe this is the quilt to try all those quilting designs you've been wanting to try and then hang it on a wall for reference somewhere- enjoy the colours and the design and the learning opportunity from the quilt. You could always drape it over a chair for display too.
    I have a quilt I was given as a wedding gift that has poly cotton fabrics in much of the quilt. The poly cotton areas have pilled so badly, the batting has crept through the fibres and beards, it is hot and sweaty to sleep under, and it slides off the bed any time we try to use it. And its needing repairs. So if you do decide to use it on a bed, that's what could happen. I think Harriet's information in her book is sound.