Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Simple Gifts Completed

Ta-dah! I completed my Simple Gifts quilt a few days ago and here is it displayed artistically (my attempt at artistically, anyway) over the wing chair next to the fireplace. I can just imagine myself next Christmas curled up under its brightly-colored and cheerfully-wonky blocks. I used a bamboo batting because it drapes so gently. Simple Gifts has not yet been washed in this photo. It will get softer. My quilting is not very dense either so the quilt will be very flexible. I am looking forward to a cuddly Christmas, even in California.


Any attempts to take pictures outdoors failed miserably in the wind. Also, quite frankly, since we are in a California drought area, the dead brown lawn was not a very attractive backdrop. For a better overall view of the quilt, I tried hanging it from our upstairs railing. The shot is fairly straight on but the bows of the top presents got nipped off.

Here is Simple Gifts displayed on the upstairs hardwood floor so at least all of it is visible at once. It measures 49" x 68". Correction: almost all of it is visible. I just noticed the bottom right corner.  A photographer I am not.

Upon completion of Simple Gifts I am feeling a mixture of... sadness... pride... sentimentality... relief... reflection...

There is a line at the end of the 1998 movie Hope Floats where Sandra Bullock quotes her momma as saying

... beginnings are scary,
endings are usually sad, 
but it's the middle that counts the most.

The middle counted a lot for me on this quilt. It was "nice" to "slice and splice" and stretch myself beyond my precision piecing norm and to play with the patchwork background in an unusual way. Working with that bright trio of red, lime green, and aqua successfully and repeatedly chased any blues away. That part being over is a bit of the cause for my sadness. It is hard to see something fun come to an end.

And, as much as I fretted over the fabric selections being too busy, I think, in the end result, the presents popped just enough. I put the gifts that "popped" the most in the middle of the quilt. I think even though its print variations are extreme, the block in the lower right corner of the photo turned out to be my favorite. I love the little village houses and the very graphic red/white, that I worked so hard to segregate at the edges, does bring the eye to that part of the quilt... the better to explore those itty-bitty buildings.

Even the blocks with the green and aqua backgrounds turned out better than I was expecting. I think quilting the patchwork background, but not the gifts, helped. I started with the green background blocks since I was quilting with lime thread throughout and wanted to have my earliest work be in the least noticeable areas.

The aqua background was the busiest and concerned me the most. I am withdrawing my previous misgivings and regrets about not going with a one fabric background. That choice would have given the quilt a bit more formality than the wonky blocks warranted. The echo quilting shows up just fine amid the patchwork aqua. The lime green quilt thread color that I used throughout contrasted more with the aqua background. I did these rightmost two columns of blocks last, so my skill level could be a bit higher when I worked on them. I also love the red binding bordering those red gifts.

I am also proud that I ventured to do ruler work on my HQ-16. The stitching lines are not perfect but it is passable considering my inexperience. There are a few bobbles on the back and the stitch size is not uniform throughout, although it did become more consistent in parts of the quilt I did later. I suppose this shows some skill growth and bulk management improvement on my part. The ruler work was not simple for me and so the quilt's name is a bit ironic. It is also ironic because after my concentrated efforts, I am keeping this quilt, so it is not a gift either. I still like my reason for the name though. The wonky simplicity of the gifts are still there.

Sometimes it is a battle to coax binding around the corners and join it ripple free at the end. I wanted the binding to be a mixture of reds to carry out the playfulness of the quilt. I knew I'd be taking a chance though because multiple seams in bindings increase the odds that a binding seam is go into fall right at a corner and create bulk issues. This one came close but it cooperated nicely. The binding went on like a dream. Along with the binding this photo offers a closer look at that cute little house fabric I so like and my straight line echo quilting around the gifts.

I came to the realization that if I name a quilt, but the only record of its name is in my blog, then the name gets forgotten. Now I put two labels on my quilts, one with my initials and the date of completion  and one with the quilt's name.

 I picked a deep red for the type on the labels to go with the deer on the backing

I am feeling a bit sentimental over this quilt, too. I bought the kit November 2011. The year 2011 was a busy one. My daughter got married in May and my son got married in September. After the second wedding, my husband and I enjoyed a weekend away at Cambria Pines Lodge, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law to thank us for our support and efforts on their wedding.  It was during that weekend away that I visited the quilt shop where I bought the kit for Simple Gifts.

I did not sew up the quilt for Christmas 2011, 2012, 2013, nor 2014. So I think I am feeling relief that it will finally be complete and ready to be enjoyed Christmas 2015.

As for the reflective part of my feelings... ? One of the very first questions someone asks the creator when they look at a quilt is "How long did it take you to make that?" The short answer is, "just under five months." I certainly do not want to count the nearly four years it sat dormant in my closet, but, once I began, I pretty much was excited enough with the project to keep at it. I started Simple Gifts in January of 2015 to be sure to have it by Christmas this year. January was spent in planning and piecing. Most of February was spent trimming, arranging, assembly and prep for quilting. March was spent being afraid to start quilting. April was spent FMQing. I finished the last bits of binding and label at the end of May and very first part of June. For my own reminiscence, rather than as an overload of information for the reader, here is the timeline for the Simple Gifts blog posts. This is my fifteenth post that mentions Simple Gifts.

If I am pressed further and asked how many hours I have invested in making this quilt, that answer is not so clear. Counting time spent pleasurably is a paradox because part of the joy of creating is being drawn into "the zone" and losing a sense of time. Besides how should I add up the hours? It amounts to much more than cutting apart and sewing back together. Should I count the time spent...
  • dreaming and planning? 
  • picking the perfect fabrics?
  • learning a new tool or technique?
  • building up courage to start a new stage? 
  • thinking up a name? (I can take a while on this one.)
  • photographing the different stages?
  • writing blog posts about the quilt?
I can not give a simple answer for the hours invested in creating Simple Gifts. But I do know I really enjoyed making this quilt and sharing my experiences with it! Enough said!

Here are the clickable links to the listed posts about making Simple Gifts.

Technically Simple Gifts is no longer a work in progress but it has been for five months, so I am linking up to this Wednesday's Freshly Pieced's WIP to share its completion.


  1. What a great holiday quilt! I love the scrappy backgrounds in the blocks.

    1. I vacillated back and forth about liking the scrappy background. But now I like it. Good thing since I cannot change it now. Thank for commenting and visiting. BTW I wrote a long comment about loving your cog quilt but either it is in monitoring or the internet ate it. I tried again.

  2. I love the wonky gifts! You're going to enjoy snuggling under this at Christmas!

    1. Wonky make me giggle. I think I will like this one. Thanks for visiting and commenting. After seeing your photo/stash inspiration idea I think we are comrades in color!

  3. Where is your husband in all of this? Usually we see his hands and shoes when he holds the quilt for the photographs? And why are you snuggling with a quilt and not him in the winter? Did he fall off the ends of the earth? Oklahoma?

    1. There is room for two under this quilt. My husband and I will just need to snuggle closer. How else am I able to keep TrackingFrank since he apparently has his settings at no reply blogger?

  4. Man that quilt looks sharp in the Living room! you'd think you'd planned it, for all the colors to blend so well. And I always swear I will never do another scrappy binding, and then end up putting one on the next quilt anyway - I'm a little surprised you did one just for reds (at least in the pictures the immediate benefit is not obvious, but of course a 4x6" picture on the screen isn't a live quilt), but I'm glad it turned out well.

    Also November 2011 is the same year I bought the fabric for *my* longstanding Christmas Quilt Project (Christmas Traditions); I think I'm on year 4 of working on that though, because I actually cut into the fabric sometime in late 2011 or early 2012, right before practically everyone I know in my age bracket (included myself) started having babies. I'll have to aggregate the posts for that and see what my timeline is!

    1. I thought it would be too difficult to control where the colors of a multi-color binding would fall and I did not want them to disappear and reappear around the border; hence I stuck with all red. And yes, the fact that is goes with the living room is kind of cool!

      Your Christmas traditions is coming out beautifully. Do not be concerned you are taking your time with it. You have just a few other distractions.