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  • Writer's pictureMary

The Monster quilt...20 years in the making

I met my husband in the fall of 1998, It wasn't very long before we knew we were meant to be. Our first Christmas as a dating couple was coming near and I had decided I'd make him a quilt. I'd make it a twin size since that's what his bed at the time was, and that's what fit my budget. Well, I got the fabric and got to work. I cut my squares and started sewing them together. It wasn't coming out how I wanted it to. This was before I'd found YouTube tutorials so I called my mom and she asked if I was matching up my, no I didn't know I was supposed to do that! So she explained matching corners, nesting the seams and all that. I ripped out all the work I'd done and set it aside. I couldn't look at it right then. It became a pile of fabric in a paper sack. I got him something else for Christmas instead and he still loved the gift even though I didn't make it myself. Can you guess what our favorite color is by the picture?

My husband and me pre-engagement

A couple months later we were engaged. Then by summer of 1999 we were married and I thought about the quilt again. We began our marriage with a full size I needed more fabric if I wanted to get that quilt done. I went out and picked a couple more fabrics and proceeded to cut more squares and sew them together. It was still missing something and I wasn't liking my fabric choices next to each other! I undid those seams the quick way (rotary cutters are awesome!) and suddenly my 2.5-inch squares were 2-inch squares...and back in their sack in the back of the closet.

The years rolled by, we moved, got pregnant, moved again, bought a bigger bed for me and my prego self to sleep better in - and more space for my sweet hubby who'd been sleeping in short-people beds this whole time. He's very much NOT a "Short People"! So now the bed had graduated to a queen-size and, once again, I needed more fabric but we'd also just gone down to one income and a new baby so definitely no fabric shopping any time soon. Besides, the apartment barely held the three of us so I didn't even have room to drag out my sewing machine.

Our son was growing fast and by December 2006 we bought our first house. Man did we end up getting ripped off but that's a whole other issue! I finally had my own place and I could paint and decorate...only I didn't. I was more busy just being mommy and the budget was admittedly pretty tight most of the time. I puttered in the new yard, painted some interior walls in colors I wouldn't think of picking now (that ruby red dining room turned out magenta and the chocolate brown living room really was more purple), and we had our second baby. Now I had a toddler and a baby and really didn't feel like sewing. I just wanted to play with the munchkins all day and nibble their little toes and listen to those sweet baby belly laughs. I mean, who can't resist that, right?

My favorite distractions

When our son was in preschool I made him an adorable costume - a princely robe that he loved and wore for play as long as it would fit him. Red velvet is a hard habit to break - even when it's the fake stuff!

I'd completed my first sewing project in years so I brought out the quilt squares...fiddled with them a while and decided I really wanted it to be special, especially since it'd already taken so long. That meant the standard 9-Patch I'd planned wouldn't do. What pattern could I

live with having on my bed day in and day

out? I wasn't sure. I eventually settled on blue and white for the color scheme, which was good since that's what all my fabrics were. The design I came up with was a snowflake. Pretty, and while I still love it, I decided if I did that I'd have to quickly make a second quilt for the warmer months.

I began a hunt through all my quilting magazines for inspiration and I found this lovely design. I liked it but wanted to add a twist to make it mine so I got out my favorite drawing tools - large sheets of graph paper, a ruler, and a pencil. Now it's mid-November 2018 and I've decided on an ultimate do or die have this thing FINALLY off my To Do list by Christmas. That would mean I'd have to have the kids help me keep this monster a secret. That also meant I'd have to work on this quilt for my husband even when he was home. That posed a problem so the first time he asked who it was for I said the first name that popped into my head - his mom. He never caught on when the kids would ask me, "How's GRANDMA'S quilt coming along?" or wanting to see what it looked like now. Our son almost gave it away one day but fortunately his dad wasn't paying attention so we were safe! He got to see how much time and effort I was putting into it as well which, ultimately, made the gift that much sweeter when I gave it to him.

Here's the design I ultimately came up with. There's a large piece of my feature fabric in the center and then the fabrics radiate out in small squares (remember 2-inches each!) before gradually expanding into larger squares at the outer edges - keeping the diamond all the way through. I watched a lot of Bond, James Bond when I was a kid so I call it my Diamonds are Forever quilt. Since it's for my husband, I think that's also fitting. You can't quilt and avoid math so it's a good thing I happen to like crunching numbers...yeah, I'm weird.

Diamonds are Forever Design

The fabrics I ended up with. There's the ones I'd accumulated specifically for this project over the last 20 years while waiting to truly get started on it, several that were leftovers from when I made curtains for our current house, as well as a few I pulled from my burgeoning fabric stash. I grabbed all the tiny squares that I'd cut up over a decade ago, cut all the other little 2-inch squares (literally hundreds and hundreds of them) I'd need for the first parts, and got sewing. The center section radiating outwards, each fabric makes a complete diamond. The order was largely dictated by how much I had of each one. Once the inner diamond was complete, the remaining squares would alternate with white before the squares began getting larger and larger before reaching the edge. In all, the front would take about 5500 squares and since I pieced the back with the "leftovers" it totaled closer to 7000 squares for the entire project.

Fabric selection and order they appear in quilt

I did this same block over and over and over again until my head spun. Sometimes it was a point of the diamond, sometimes it was one of the sides - each time I was making the blocks the same in groups of 4, 8, or 12. The fabrics changed slightly as I moved outward from the center. I built blocks systematically, first sewing together fabric pairs, then quads, then the strips were eight squares long. Once I had all the strips I needed for a group of identical blocks, I'd sew them together in the order on my design. There was the inevitable error when I wasn't paying attention then I got out my handy dandy seam ripper and started over but ever day I made steady progress. It was a VERY happy day when my original design was all colored in...

See those little numbers written all over on the edges of the design? Yep, that's how many little squares I needed to cut and sew together. It was all worth it though when I finally got to the point where I could consider the top DONE!

See the dog? Max is a big dog and is a full grown German Shepherd in this picture. Acts tough but is super sweet. He was pouting because I wouldn't let him lay on my masterpiece. When finished, this quilt top comfortably covers a King sized bed.

I grabbed all the rest of the pieces and began sewing them together randomly to make 12-inch blocks, then rows of blocks, and finally the back was done as well. I think, even today, I've only looked at the entire back all spread out just a couple of times. I love it but the border on the back ended up being a bit wonky because I messed up on my pinning but the front looks perfect which was the whole idea!

Now, I could have splurged and sent this monster out to be quilted by a professional. After all, I'm a beginner at quilting and I don't know how to do all those fancy feathers and swirls and such yet. I'll get there but it's not happening any time soon, at least not on a beast like this and on my 1971 Bernina which is what I use day-to-day for most of my sewing or my newer machine that I use pretty much only for the quilting part because of the automatic thread cutting feature that made it so much easier to reposition when I needed to in my overall design. You'll have to excuse the mess that is me. I'm creative and disorganized. Plus, at the time this space was also where I kept my laptop and all the home-school stuff. I've since made this into only a sewing area with all my scripture study and craft books on that shelf in the background and the office and home-school stuff is now elsewhere...still needing some organization in both spots. But that's a project for another day and I've got the plans already drawn up.

I'd like to note that while I tried very hard to meet it, I missed my Christmas deadline. I finally sewed the last stitch and clipped the last thread on January 21st, 2019. Twenty years and two months in the making of this work of love for the man I married. It was a Monday and he was at work so the kids and I planned our surprise and got everything set up. We draped the quilt over the back of the couch and the kids drew pictures saying "This is DADDY'S quilt" and we pinned them onto the front. I made sure the corners were folded down to hide the drawings. When my husband came in from work I asked him to help our kids hold it up so I could take a picture of it before I mailed it off to grandma. I didn't take a picture as they held it high, I hit record to catch his perfect reaction when he saw the drawings and the whole thing sank in. I've been very blessed to have this wonderful man in my life as my husband and the father of our children and he truly appreciates my gift of love and all the time and effort I put into it.

The final result:

Now, since I have this quilt design as an option for sale on my website, I have to draw it all up again in various other sizes - Queen, Full, maybe Twin, and a baby or lap sized design. time to break out the graph paper again!

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