Saturday, 1 March 2014

Civil War Journals quilt

In August 2012 at the Festival of Quilts at NEC, I signed up for a twelve-part Block of the Month programme to make this quilt in Marcus Civil War reproduction fabrics.  The patterns were from Homestead Hearth and the BOM kits were sent out by Pat and Mark at Totally Patched in Worcestershire.

I was fairly good at keeping up with the monthly blocks until I got to Months 7 and 8.  They each have a LOT of little pieces.

I had been pretty happy with my accuracy on the previous months' blocks so rather than making a test block I just steamrollered through, chain piecing as I went (what a surprise!), only to find that my blocks for both months were all half an inch too big.

I was so horrified that I put them to one side and did other stuff for a while, but eventually I knew I had to address the problem.  I could not immediately see where the inaccuracy lay but I decided that it might help to identify the sizes of the individual components of the block, the flying geese and half square triangles, and see what size they should be before they were joined together.  The block pattern did not give this information but I was able to work it out from the size of the cut pieces.  Then, having disassembled a block into pieced sections, I measured the sections and found that I was consistently 1/8" out.  Over the whole 9" block comprising 78 pieces (!), this small error added up to a whopping 1/2".

Because the blocks butt edge to edge without sashing and with many of the piecing lines lining up, there was absolutely no wriggle room when it came to joining the blocks.  There was nothing for it but to take all 28 blocks apart into their original pieces (remember 78 pieces in each Month 7 block and a mere 57 in every Month 8 block, 28 blocks in all - yes, of course I want your sympathy) and re-stitch them correctly.  I measured at every stage as I re-stitched: no point re-making the flying geese if they weren't perfect this time because they would make the section of the block they were joined to incorrect again.

  • What did I learn from the experience?  That a scanty seam allowance can cause just as many problems as one which is too generous: a too big block is as bad as a too small one.
  • That the more pieces there are in a block the more critical it is to have the piecing as close to perfect as possible.  And that I shouldn't rush through complex piecing the way I can with simpler designs...
  • That it is surprisingly satisfying to face a problem, tackle it with head and hands, and sort it out.
  • But that patterns which give sizes of individual parts of a block are much more helpful, so you can check as you go, rather than get a nasty surprise at the end of the process.

I must admit this does not feel like a recent finish as I completed all of the piecing before Christmas 2013, not too far behind my 12 month target, and sent the quilt off for longarm quilting early in January.  However I did finish hand stitching the binding yesterday.  I do feel justified in having it longarm quilted as it is such a big quilt (84" x 102") and there are MASSES of seams, and I am really pleased with the result.

So that's three large quilts all longarmed and bound since the beginning of the year - I guess that's my highlight for the year so far, so I'm linking to Lily's Quilts today and the small blog meet hosted by Lynne whose quilts I always admire.

Time for me to get on and quilt a few of my completed (smaller) quilt tops myself, as well as playing with piecing.  I hope to report some progress next Friday.  Have a good week.


  1. this is an amazing achievement. so beautiful! I hope you have a special home in mind for it!

    1. Thank you, Kelly, so nice of you to comment. I will certainly be keeping this one! I think only other quilters would appreciate the work involved. I did love making it, though - most of the time...