Saturday, October 3, 2015

A "First Christmas" Wall Hanging and a Few Lessons

fIt's been a year of exploring new ideas and experimentation. The latest "first" is finally complete.

"First Christmas", 17" x 23 1/2"

It seems like I've been working on this project for months, and in some ways I have been.

Last year, on one our quilt shop hops, we happened upon some stained glass quilts that were different from any I'd seen before. Making and working with the narrow bias tape needed for curved shapes on stained glass quilts is a daunting prospect that scares many on us away from these projects. The curved and detailed shapes of these quilts, however, were outlined with ready made fusible 1/4" bias tape. The seed for this wall hanging was planted that day. And it grew and grew.

I spent most of my spare time in September working on the design for this quilt and locating the right fabrics. The actual construction went surprisingly fast, but, oh my goodness, did I wind up doing things the hard way! It was a new experience for me, but that's how we learn. Every new step is a lesson, and those missteps become the greatest lessons of all.

New Learning

Lesson 1: Sometimes it's best to forego the nonstick applique pressing sheet and fuse appliques right onto the fabric.

I'd thought that it would be so much easier to center my applique onto the gold background oval if it was all in one piece. Normally that's very true, but lifting a large applique in one piece when it's only held together with thin strips of bias tape is just a wee bit tricky. More than a wee bit, in fact. More like almost impossible.

I've written the pattern to show an alternate, much easier way to get everything nicely centered. It involves folding the gold fabric in quarters and pressing light fold lines to guide the placement. Those folds coordinate with guidelines in the pattern. Next time I'll start out this way.

Lesson 2: A rectangle of fabric with a big hole in the middle doesn't like to lay flat.

I didn't want the dark blue fabric behind the gold to alter its color. I had found a perfect piece of soft, golden yellow batik in my stash, but it was barely large enough for my needs. My local quilt shop didn't have anything similar that I liked, so I was being super careful.

Instead of trimming the blue out from behind the gold when it was attached, I decided to cut the oval out of the blue in the first place and then lay it over the gold. But the blue became totally misshaped when I laid it on my work table with that big hole in the middle. In the end, I adhered it to a muslin foundation with quilt basting spray, then I tucked the yellow behind the blue fabric. The double thickness of fabric was too much, but I couldn't remove the muslin until I'd finished stitching the bias tape down. Again, I've written the pattern with an easier option for construction.

Lesson 3: If I ever make this quilt again, I'll either leave the darker blue decorative free motion stitching off the sleeve or I'll add it in with a machine stitch.

Mary and Joseph lived in an area of the world that has always been known for beautiful embroidery, so I thought it might be appropriate to show a bit of embroidery on Mary's sleeve. I'm afraid my level of skill and a dull needle on my sewing machine didn't allow me to accurately reproduce my vision of the embroidery in free motion quilting. It's just "okay".

Lesson 4: Taking a risk and experimenting with a brand new idea was not a mistake!!

Once again, I find myself promoting a product, but this 1/4" fusible bias tape is really excellent.  It molds easily around even small curves. I was worried about fitting it smoothly around the baby's head, but it worked beautifully with practically no effort at all.

This isn't available in my local quilt shops, but I found it easily on eBay.
Once the tape is fused with a hot iron, it needs to be stitched in place. A straight line of stitching on the edge of the tape looks great, but I chose a machine hemming stitch.

Black thread on black bias tape doesn't show in photos, so here it is on regular yellow bias tape.

Will I make another stained glass quilt? 
I've just ordered two more spools of fusible bias tape, so I am prepared. 
Just in case.

My hubby has decided that this is my "masterpiece". He's such a devoted fan. He's even chosen a special place to hang it so he can admire it every day.  Have to love that man. 


  1. This is gorgeous! I'm hoping to make it for our church. I also love it for everyday!

    1. Thank you. I'm so glad you like this little piece. I think a church would be a perfect place for it. I gave the original to my neighbor. She's been extremely helpful to me over many years, and she's very religious. Items like this belong with people who really appreciate them.