Saturday, May 26, 2012

DIY Project: Busy Diamond Quilt

It is done! It is done! IT'S DONE!!!

Yup, totally did the whole "quilt hanging on a tree branch for no apparent reason" thing. 
In my front yard. For you guys.

My very first large quilt is finally completed. I did the finishing touches yesterday morning, and here it is:

Big thanks to my lovely husband, who kindly assisted me so I could take these pictures. 
I give him extra brownie points for doing it super early in the morning, half asleep,  before breakfast, or even coffee.

This is the 3rd quilt I've ever made (but the 4th one to get finished as I made this while waiting for supplies to arrive mid-project). It is the biggest quilt I've ever made, a queen-size, measuring a total of 88 by 96 inches! It is also the only quilt I've made that wasn't an intended gift; this quilt is for me.  I plan to use as a throw on the daybed in my office.

The backing is my favorite, and which is actually the inspiration of my next quilt.

I picked the fabric to match all the colors in my office. I wanted a busy mix of flowers, butterflies, and graphical patterns. I got four matching fat quarter bundles for the quilt top, not knowing how much I'd really need, but it turned out to be the perfect amount. I used ~90% of the bundles for the quilt top.

 Baby Cat (maybe it's time to stop calling him that?) walking across the finished quilt top.

I wanted to try a more precise pattern this time, and I also wanted the pieces to be large enough to show off all the different prints, so I drew this large diamond design. The large blocks were so easy to work with, which made this quilt come together really quickly. I like quilting so much better when I can clearly see the project progress. Spending hours piecing tiny, complicated blocks while my project inches forward at snail speed, really snuffs out my creativity. Besides, I actually really liked the look of the larger patchwork, so I'll definitely do more of these larger scale designs (in fact, I have already started another).

The backing is [at least] as fabulous as the top. In fact, it may be my new, favorite print. OF. ALL. TIME. While I initially thought I should go with something plain for the backing, to off set all the business on the front, that didn't gel with the vision I had in my head. Instead I opted to do the opposite and got another bold, gorgeous pattern that sort of matched, but wasn't in the quilt top. Although I almost changed my mind once again when I realized I'd have to wait for the new backing fabric for several days (when I'm really inspired I want to do the work NOW, and if I can't, I suffer from awful waiting-frustration), but I'm so glad I exercised some patience and waited, because it turned out to be my favorite part.

The backing fabric, which I love, love, LOVE it!
Image source: my Instagram

The sheer hugeness of this queen-sized project really added another dimension of difficulty to the process, compared to the baby-sized quilts I've made previously. It was difficult to piece. It was difficult to pin. It was extremely heavy to constantly lift, pull and shift as I worked on my small craft table. It was difficult just to maneuver the massive volumes of fabric through my machine. I was paranoid about wrinkles, or that I would accidentally sew big folds of the quilt together, and kept obsessively checking to make sure I didn't. I used safety pins as I quilted, and it made the biggest difference! A I'll-Never-Quilt-Again-Without-Safety-Pins kind of difference. And not just any safety pins. Good ones. I learned the hard way (don't get Singer brand safety pins - they suck!).

Pinning the entire quilt took forever,  and I had to use my dining room table to do it, but was SO worth the effort. 

The quilting itself was a complete nightmare pretty tricky. So far, the actual quilting has been my least favorite part of quilt-making, and this time was no different. In fact, it was worse.  I believe I compared it to "maneuvering a dead body rolled up in a rug through a tiny maze built for bunny rabbits" on Twitter, and that pretty much sums it up. This was just so much quilt, the sheer volume, and even more so, the weight of it all, made an already difficult process SO much harder. And I'm talking tounge-out-of-the-corner-of-your-mouth-in-concentration, grunt & sweat kind of difficult, that included many-a-discouraged-breaks slumping dejectedly over my machine, worrying that I might die before I finish.

Overly dramatic? Me?
You're kidding.

The bunny-sized maze & body-rolled-up-in-a-rug party. Fun times.

Holy exhausting, Batman! I kept wondering how frail old ladies pull this off??? But I really wanted it finished so I couldn't stop. I can get a bit obsessive while in the midst of a project, if that wasn't already obvious... I'll confess that the morning after I quilted the entire piece, I could barely lift my arms over my head because my neck and shoulders were so sore (pitiful, I know). I guess that should teach me not to quilt an entire queen sized quilt in one sitting (or, the importance of weight lifting).

Initially, I had planned to try a simple double line grid following the diamond pattern on top, but since some of my diamonds were not lined up perfectly (ooops),  I scrapped that idea as I thought it would accentuate the shift in my blocks in a bad way. Instead I decided to quilt inside each diamond, a 1/4 inch from the seam, which created this beautiful lattice pattern that I love, love, LOVE.

Close up of quilting pattern - I found it quite difficult to really capture, but I tried. 
In person, it is really beautiful! I can't wait to try it again, without the shift.

While it turned out absolutely gorgeous,  it was a total royal pain the in ass to work through the machine! Turning the entire project 3 turns in each diamond, was crazy difficult! After a few diamonds, I figured the easiest way of achieving this look would be by stitching half the diamond at a time, doing only turn per seam. That made maneuvering this humongous lump through the machine a little easier, but don't get me wrong. It was still a total PITA, but so worth it. I really love the look of it!

I did the binding on my machine as well, using a pre-made bias cut binding. Although it does match some of the fabric in the quilt top, it clashes with a lot of them too. I had wanted a watermelon color binding, which I think would have looked better, but couldn't find one, and didn't want to buy fabric to make it myself. This one goes so well with the back fabric, I'm pretty happy with it, in spite of the clash in front. Usually I do make my own binding, and I've never tried the store bought version before, but I actually found it easy to work with. The binding is where I noticed the biggest improvement in my technique. I can see a clear progression with each quilt I've made, and seeing that progress in such a tangible way is really rewarding.

Binding, and label.

I started this quilt a week ago, but between waiting for finishing materials, and you know, having a life, I reality worked on it for 4 days; 1 day for the top, one day to assemble and pin the quilt sandwich, 1 day for the quilting, and a couple of hours the next morning to complete the binding. Compared to my previous baby-sized projects, making a quilt this big was a completely different animal. It was a lot more challenging, but also really rewarding. Rewarding enough to not turn me off from making another. While it isn't perfect, it's certainly my best work so far. I learned SO much while making it, including quite a few more things Not To Do Next Time. Overall, I am very, very happy with my quilt.


Quilt top:
1 x Seafoam Symphony Poetics Fat Quarter Bundle Pat Bravo for Art Gallery Fabrics
1 x Meet Me at Sunset Fat Quarter Bundle Dear Stella Fabrics
1 x She Loves Me Not Petal Pusher Fat Quarter Bundle Dear Stella Fabrics
1 x Glamour Lark Fat Quarter Bundle Amy Butler for Westminster Fibers

8 yards x Tradewinds South Pacific Empress Yardage Lily Ashbury for Moda Fabrics

Pre-made bias cut binding

Ready for my next nap.


  1. Beautiful!! I love the colors! You're going to want to get one of those long-arm sewing machines if you keep up the machine quilting.... My mom loves hers.

    1. Thank you! I'm jealous! I looked at those, but they are so EXPENSIVE, and since I'm just learning I figured it was overkill. Maybe some day, if this is something I'll continue doing...

  2. I adore it! It is your best quilt yet and I'm so glad it was for you.

    1. I'm glad you like it. I've learned so much with each one, so this one is definitely the best one yet :D

  3. It's gorgeous. You're so inspirational. And the fabric on the back? Just ridiculous. In a good way. Absolutely amazing work!

    1. Thank you!!!! <3
      I LOVE that print too!