My Magnum Opus: Post-Show Thoughts

Hello habibis!  Happy Wednesday!  The week is halfway over and the holidays are nearly here…I am so ready for Easter!

I put my magnum opus, “What So Proudly We Hail,” into my guild’s show this weekend.  I’ve never had a quilt in a show before, much less had one judged.  It was really exciting to see it hanging there!

(That’s one of my mom’s quilts hanging above mine, with the ribbon on it.)

Doesn’t it look great?  I love it.

I wanted to share some of the judge’s comments: she said the patriotic message was very clear (definitely) and she liked my scrappy binding. She said my stitching was good.  (I was afraid my hand quilting wouldn’t be up to snuff.)  She actually said it needed more quilting – I did leave the top two and bottom two rows free of stars because I ran out of time and then decided not to drive myself crazy.  (I could go back and quilt more stars if I want.)  Her only other negative comment was about the stain where the red fabric bled, which is visible on both the front and the back.   That’s from where Z spilled detergent on the quilt – and I’m not sure what he did to get the stain out, but it wasn’t effective.  I don’t mind the ding.  I’m so happy with the quilt, regardless.  The detergent stain isn’t a mistake I made, and Z actually felt really bad about it, so I didn’t tell him about the negative feedback.

So, overall, I loved seeing my quilt in the show.  I don’t think I’d enter it again – it’s Z’s quilt, after all, and I took it away from him for several weeks in order to show it.  Also, that stain won’t come out, so any judge would surely comment on it.  Next time we have a show I’ll have other things to enter!


My Magnum Opus: Show Prep

I’m showing my magnum opus in my guild’s quilt show, so I had to put a sleeve on it.  I used this tutorial:

I don’t think an 85″ wide quilt was the best choice for my first quilt sleeve.  I spoke to other, more experienced quilters afterward and they said I should have made several shorter sleeves and sewn them along in a row.  I’m not 100% sure it’s going to hang straight, but oh well.

I also had to sew a period that had somehow disappeared.  Did I miss it when I did the initial quilting?  Not sure.

I’d originally planned more rows of stars, but I decided I didn’t have time for that.  I’m glad I decided not to – between the Handstitched class and all my other sewing stuff, I definitely would not have had time.

I didn’t wash the quilt.  I think it’s pretty clean.  Z had a detergent accident with the quilt – somehow he managed to spill some on the quilt, and I’m not sure how he cleaned it up, but it bled a bit.

I submitted the quilt for judging anyway.  I’ve never had a quilt judged before!  I’m very curious to see what kind of feedback I get.  I don’t think I’m the most technically skilled quilter (and same goes for my piecing) but I think I’m creative when it comes to my designs.  I’m preparing myself for some negative feedback.  I’m so happy with this quilt, and Z loves it, so the judging is really an academic exercise.

Here it is, all rolled up in its pillowcase.

“What So Proudly We Hail” Part IV

Yesterday I showed you the rest of the hand quilting. Today let’s talk about the finished quilt.

I knew I wanted to do a scrappy red, white, and blue binding.

I pulled out leftover pieces from the quilt and other red, white, and blue fabrics, looking particularly for graphic/geometric and nautical prints. I also used this Pledge of Allegiance fabric I got from my guild. (Everyone who made a charity quilt with the shirting fabric – see mine here – got to pick a fat quarter of fabric as a prize back in June. They were all patriotic  and I chose the pledge fabric thinking that I might use it for this quilt as part of a pieced back. I ended up not piecing the back but I knew I wanted to incorporate the pledge fabric regardless.)

I also used this anchor fabric leftover from Z’s storm at sea quilt from last year, some blue polka dots, and more of the fabric leftover from my grandpa’s train quilt. Most of the white fabric is leftover from my drunkards path quilt.

The binding is all done red, white, and blue in that order. I love it. I wish I’d made the binding pieces shorter, actually, to have a greater variety, but this is my first scrappy binding for a big quilt and I’m still learning.

I cut my binding at three inches and sewed an extra seam 1/2 inch to the right of my seam so I’d end up with scrappy  half square triangles. I don’t know what I’ll use them for, but they’ll make something cute! (That’s why I used three inch strips – specifically to get the HSTs. I thought if I used 2.5″ strips the leftovers would be too tiny.)

Here’s the final quilt! (The picture was taken before I finished quilting all the red stars, but they blend in so well that you can’t tell.)

I made a quilt tag using more scraps and more of the pledge fabric. It has the name of the quilt, the date of our anniversary, and a message from me to Z. Normally I iron the edges under and the hand see the tag down with a running or a blanket stitch, but I didn’t have a lot of leeway for the edges so I sewed the turned-under edges on my machine and then hand sewed it to the quilt. From this distance you can’t tell; if you look up close you can see the two sets of red stitches, but that doesn’t bother me.

The quilt took me approximately 115 hours to complete, give or take 10 minutes. That’s the longest I’ve ever spent on a quilt. And I’m not done! I want to enter it in my guild’s show in spring. I’ll need to add a sleeve and I didn’t quilt as many stars as I wanted to. The two topmost and bottommost stripes are blank. I want to quilt more stars (white ones this time) in the two red stripes and blue stars in the two white stripes. I think that’ll make a really cool border. I just didn’t have time for another 48 stars.  I’ll need to make a second tag with actual quilt information on it, too.  Lastly I need to make sure I can get all the pencil marks out of it, and wash it.

When I told Z I wanted to enter it in the show, he immediately handed it back to me. (So sweet!) I assured him he could keep it in the interim. When the show gets closer I’ll take it to work on.  (I’m going to feel so bad taking it back from him!)  Z really loves the quilt. I knew he would. I put so much love into it and spent so much time thinking about what he’d like and making it special and personal for him.

I don’t think my piecing or my quilting are technically perfect by any sense of the word, but I think my design is really special. I’m planning to enter it for judging and see how creativity counts vs. technical skill.

“What So Proudly We Hail” Part III

On Monday I showed you the hand quilting of patriotic phrases on my flag quilt. Today I’ll show you the rest of the quilting.

The rest of the quilting – appropriately, I think – is stars. First, fifty stars for the fifty states. I quilted stars with a running stitch in white thread.

I did my math wrong initially and I wasn’t going to have enough stars. I had to redraw some of them to hit 50. (I don’t know how I thought I’d have enough! The rules of math do not change!)

I quilted stars using a running stitch with red thread in between the patriotic quotes. One at the top of the flag and one after each quote. At the end of the quilt I had enough space for three stars. I decided to do one red, one white, and one blue. I knew the white wouldn’t show up on the white fabric, though, so I did a whip stitch going around it – once in red and once in blue. I thought that came out really nicely.

All of my quilting was on the white stripes. I decided to quilt stars on the red stripes too. I chose red thread so it wouldn’t distract from the phrases. (Although I think a running stitch in white thread would also look great.)


For reasons I can’t understand, I had a problem with fuzz catching on the thread and showing when I quilted but only with the red stars. I can’t figure it out. It helped if I kept the thread short and pulled the needle straight up through the fabric rather than at an angle but other than that I have no idea what caused the problem. I’m not happy with how that worked out.  There are 8 stars on the short stripes and 12 on the long stripes.  That’s 64 total.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the binding and the finished quilt!

“What So Proudly We Hail” Part II

Happy Monday!  I had a busy week and I finished three more Christmas presents (including this quilt, actually), so I’m making progress.

Today I’m going to show you the assembly for my magnum opus, “What so proudly we hail,” and talk about some of the quilting.

I bought fabric for the backing from Keepsake Quilting.  I’m not sure what fabric collection it’s part of, but it’s called “Freedom Rings,” and it’s perfect. It has circles of gold stars on a cream background, giving it a nice patriotic feel. I used twin sized batting and it was just large enough.

I had to assemble the quilt on my floor. Normally I go to my parents’ house, but this was a surprise for Z and the only time I would have been at my parents’ house to do it, he was with me.

I knew I wanted to make the quilt all hand-quilted. Remember how quick the piecing came together? If I had machine quilted it – think wavy lines all along the stripes to give it movement – I’d have been done months ago. However, I wanted to quilt patriotic quotes on the flag- and, of course, fifty stars for the fifty states.

I told one of my guild friends that I was going to quilt patriotic sayings into every stripe and she told me I’d never have time for that.  I took that into consideration and decided to only quilt sayings on the white stripes and to leave out the top and bottommost white stripes (in case I had to cut into them when it came time to square up the quilt.

Then I started planning what sayings I wanted. I made myself a list. I already had some ideas: patriotic song lyrics, John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask what you can do for your country,” and a New England hymn that dates back to revolutionary War times, but I researched quotes by our founding fathers and important presidents, paying particular attention to Z’s favorites. John Adams is his favorite founding father but I also read quotes by Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc.  I had a specific idea for the tone of the quilt and I also wanted sayings that would be meaningful for Z.

I ended up with a long list that I then had to cut down for space reasons. Here’s the final list (and an explanation for each quote and why I chose it).

1.  “For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (from his poem “Boston”)
I found this quote online and it just struck me.  I thought z would like it too. J saw it and commented that the quilt would be very serious, and it is. It’s about the freedom and sacrifice and the values america is built on. It’s about how we don’t always live up to our values but we strive to improve because we believe in them. America isn’t a perfect country but we were founded on the principles of freedom and equality and justice, and that we hold those dear and work toward them even when we fall short is what makes america a special place. When my grandparents escaped from Hungary behind the iron curtain after the hungarian Revolution, there were a lot of countries they could have immigrated to. They chose America because they wanted their children to grow up free. That’s why people come here. Z grew up in New England, steeped in the history of the birthplace of the American Revolution, and it’s part of his being, that pride in America and all the good that it stands for, and the belief that we sacrifice for it, to make our country that great place. So that’s what I wanted to capture with every line of this quilt.  (Forgive my rambling.)

2. “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.” – John Adams
Again, Z’s favorite founding father.  I knew I needed an Adams quote. It’s heavy, again, but it captures the essence of the quilt.

3. “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
The modern expression of the same ideals – and I couldn’t leave out Kennedy for a quilt for my New England man.

4. “Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.” – Lord Mansfield/John Adams
I was a little bit concerned about internet attributions being inaccurate – how much can we trust the internet?  I had a slight hitch here.  I found this quote listed as belonging to John Adams; when Z saw the quilt, he immediately recognized it as being a quote by Lord Mansfield.  (If you saw the movie “Belle” – and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it – this is the same Lord Mansfield.  He served as Lord Chief Justice and handed down many famous rulings in British jurisprudence.  Z researched him after seeing “Belle” and that’s how he knew the quote.)  I’ve now done more thorough research and this quote has been used multiple times in both the British and American courts and judicial writings, dating back to the 1600s.  Lord Mansfield used it in one of his rulings and John Adams later used it in a letter written to Elbridge Gerry, a fellow Massachusetts representative to the Second Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and future Vice President.  I had wanted all my quotes to be “American” and was disappointed that I’d made a mistake with a misattributed quote, although Z assured me that Adams would have respected Lord Mansfield and was pleased with the choice.  Now I know that we were both right!

5. “Let tyrants shake their iron rod.  We fear them not; we trust in God.” – selection of song lyrics from “Chester,” by William Billings

I first heard this song watching the Adams miniseries with Z.  (P.S.  Does anyone else always read the words of John Adams and hear them spoken in the voice of either Paul Giamatti or Mr. Feeney?  Perhaps it’s just me.)  The full verse is “Let tyrants shake their iron rod, And Slav’ry clank her galling chains, We fear them not, we trust in God, New England’s God forever reigns.”  It was a popular Revolutionary War-era hymn in New England.  Per Z, school kids still learn it and he was surprised I’d never heard it before.  (Z also learned whaling shanties in school when he was growing up, which he refuses to sing for me, because he claims he “can’t remember.”)  I left out the line about slavery and the line about New England’s God because the former didn’t fit the tone of the quilt and because the quilt is about America, not New England.

6. “O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved.” – lyrics from “America the Beautiful”

I wanted to include some patriotic song lyrics.  I picked lines that I felt would most appeal to Z, not necessarily opening lines or the most famous lines.  I didn’t finish the rhyming couplet because I knew I was running out of space.  (Also, at this point in the quilting I kept getting the songs stuck in my head.)

7. “Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” – lyrics from “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”

I picked the line that referenced Pilgrims as a nod to Z’s New England roots again.

8. “Fidelis ad mortem.” – Faithful unto death, the motto of the NYPD

This has special meaning for Z, and again I felt that it was in line with the spirit of the quilt.

I had a longer list that I couldn’t fit, including “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable” – Daniel Webster; the opening lines of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”); and the last line of “God Bless America” (“God bless America, land that I love, my home sweet home”) (and now I’m going to have Kate Smith’s version stuck in my head – it’s the one they always play at Yankees games).  I had wanted to incorporate lyrics from “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and had settled on “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” because none of the other lyrics fit what I wanted, but in the end I replaced it with “Fidelis ad mortem” instead.

In order to do the quilting, I first practiced my cursive on paper (seriously, I had to write some of the phrases over and over because I’m not used to writing cursive anymore) and then traced the phrases onto the quilt.  (Z specifically asked how I quilted in cursive and I showed him my practice cursive in my noteebook.)  Then I quilted them with dark blue thread to show up on the white background.

Tomorrow is Travel Tuesday and Wednesday T-Rex will be guest posting!  We’ll come back to my magnum opus on Friday and I’ll show you the rest of the quilting.

Magnum Opus: “What So Proudly We Hail” Part I

Hello habibis!  Happy second Sunday of Advent.  In honor of this, the second week of Advent, I finally bring you the first glimpse of my magnum opus!  It’s called “What so proudly we hail.”  (For my non-American readers, this is a modification of a line in the “Star Spangled Banner.”)

I decided to make another quilt for Z, for our third anniversary.  (Last year I made him this Storm at Sea quilt.)  I got the idea months ago, when Janice Jamison came to speak to my quilt guild.  She showed us pictures of the American flag-themed quilts she makes for veterans.  I’d love to make a Quilt of Valor one day, but in the meantime I’m making mine for someone closer to home.  Z is not a veteran but he is very patriotic and proud and I knew he would love this quilt.  (I actually got the idea to make the American flag pillow for Z’s grandpa after I decided to make this quilt.)

I could have shown it to you while I worked on it – Z doesn’t read my blog – but I really don’t like to share presents before I gift them.  Z and I just celebrated our anniversary, so now I can post his quilt.

In anticipation of the quilt, I picked up some red, white, and blue fat quarters and a yard of a white on white print when I was fabric shopping with my mom back in spring ago.  Here’s some of the fabric (with a few others thrown in for the flag pillow).

I started with math!  I knew I wanted to enter this quilt in my guild’s quilt show next year, and they have size requirements of 96″ long by 90″ wide.  Since I knew I wanted my flag to be horizontal, not vertical, that meant that my size limit was 90″ wide.  I did my calculations and decided that my stripes should be 4″ long by 85″ wide.  (I used the same website as I had for Z’s grandpa’s pillow.)  My original plan for the blue section of the flag was to piece it with whatever blue fabric I had, but I had plenty of blue fabric in the right shades (thanks to my previous purchases).  I didn’t need to do a patchwork found-fabric kind of thing for the blue section, so I decided instead to do 4″ long stripes of the blue as well.  The blue is approx. 35″ wide and the red and white are approx. 50″ wide.  (I do think a random patchwork look for the blue fabric would be really cool, and perhaps I’ll do that on a future quilt.)

I sewed my stripes together to make this lovely flag.  The piecing went quickly!  I used safety pins and little pieces of paper with numbers on them to make sure I kept the prints in the order I wanted.  (I messed this up making the pillow for Z’s grandpa – I switched two of the red stripes and it’s not as balanced as I wanted it to be, but oh well.  I didn’t notice until he was holding it in his lap, and that was far far too late to fix it.)

I paper clipped pieces of paper with numbers on them to keep my rows in order.

I wanted to add borders.  First I used this red and white print and added a narrow border.  This print is actually leftover from the train quilt I made my grandpa some five years ago.  I must have bought yards and yards of this print and I still have scraps of it lying around.  I periodically use them in other projects.  I thought it was perfect for this: a print to set off the flag, but a simple one that wouldn’t be distracting.

With the narrow border I had hit the width limit for the quilt show, so the rest of my borders went only on the top and bottom.  I added a narrow white border and a narrow blue border, just to give the eye a break from the wide red and white stripes.

I wanted more space for quilting so then I added two more 4″ long white stripes and one more 4″ long red to the top and bottom.  (It looks so weird to say 4″ long, doesn’t it?)  Then my quilt top was ready!

So, here’s my take away from this: making an American flag quilt is easy IF you do simple quilting.  The  cutting and piecing went so quickly.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the rest of the quilt assembly and start talking about the quilting.

Magnum opus update #13

Habibis, it is hard to believe, but this is my last magnum opus update.  I’ll be finishing it up in the next week and gifting it soon – very soon!  I’ll post about it during my Advent calendar posts but not until I’ve given it to its recipient.  I have spent more time on this quilt than, I think, any other quilt I’ve made, because I hand quilted the entire thing.  (Even now, when I’m close to the end, I still want to add more to the design, and I probably don’t have time for that.)

I quilted 14 stars this week, which brings my total to 85.  I also added the binding, so in the next week or so I need to finish quilting all the stars and sew the binding down.

Check back in on Sunday for my first Advent calendar post – a Sunday stash!  See all the gorgeous fabrics that made their way into my stash this year (many, many fabrics).  Also, a quick shout out to Casey at  She wrote an applique book, Modern Applique Illusions, and every project is AMAZING.  It is on my Christmas wish list.  In addition to being super talented, she’s also super generous; she did a blog hop for her book (buy it here!) and she did a giveaway with scraps and fusible webbing for every project in the book!  I won for her Perspective quilt – there’s a package of scraps and fusing on its way to me!  🙂

I want to wish a happy and safe Thanksgiving to everyone in the US, especially people who are traveling.  Where I am we’re expecting some poor weather today, so J (my roommate) and I are planning to head to our hometown this morning, just to be on the safe side.  For my global readers, have a wonderful week as well!