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Simple is not Always Easy

Ha - the joke is on me. I finally got my hands on some Jennifer Sampou Earth Reflections fabric. And if you haven't seen it in person, yes it's quite gorgeous. It's luminous, actually, and the colors are absolutely swoon-worthy.

I bought quite a bit - a yard plus of each color, because I have several ideas I want to try out using the Earth Reflections alone and I also want to do a combination piece with both Earth and Sky. But because I'd been working on a pretty intense project and needed a break from it I decided I would go with my simplest idea first - a quilt made completely out of triangles.

Easy, right? And I figured I'd finish it in a couple of days. How hard could it be to cut a bunch of triangles and sew them together?

I've been working on the thing for over two weeks! I discovered that just because something was simple, that did not mean it wasn't challenging. In fact, I learned (or re-learned) quilt a few lessons from this piece, which I'm kindly going to share with you , just in case - so you won't have to learn or re-learn them.

First lesson: Think before you cut. I decided to cut the triangles while sewing with friends. I used a 9.5 inch triangle template (made by Martelli - highly recommend. They have a kind of material on the back which allows them to grab the material, and you can place your hand on them and spin them around to each side to cut. So I gleefully (and thoughtlessly) cut my 9.5 times the width of the fabric and proceeded to cut the triangles with the the fabric doubled - two at once. - so fast and easy! But this proved to waste some fabric, as you'll see below.

Second lesson: Have a plan. I didn't really, except to cut the fabric into triangles and sew them together in a breathtakingly beautiful arrangement that shows off the ombre'. Okay, its only sort of a plan, but the moment I had cut them, I realized i didn't have a clue how to do this and I hadn't really studied the fabrics and their movement, I had just "ooohed" and "ahhed" over them. And although the fabrics are quite lovely, there are a lot of different saturations and hues... I should have at least really looked at the fabrics before i cut them. But alas, I did not. Instead, I joyfully cut a bunch of triangles and then got a panicky feeling when I realized I had all these triangles cut and didn't have even a smidgeon of an idea how I was going to put them together. So I just stuck em up on the wall in color groups. It was rather a mess. Below are just a few of the iterations I tried...

Eventually I pinned the leftover fabric pieces it to the design wall so I could see the colors in their entirety and then spent quite a while arranging them in a tentative color order and then putting the triangles in the same order on the wall. It took some time....and space, just to figure out the first arrangement. After that, I spent another amount (somewhat large) of time refining it - I think I tried 10 different color orders alone. Finally, I had to fussy-cut colors that had gaps because of the haphazard way I had cut the triangles in the first place, so yeah - I wasted some fabric (see lesson 1) which I don't like to do .

Third lesson : triangles have a lot of bias. Sure - I knew that going in, but did I starch the fabric ahead of time? Of course not. So after cutting all the triangles, and then realizing "Oops!" I had to go back and individually starch each triangle. (Not entirely bad, because I use Flatter by Soakwash, and it smells so good, it makes ironing an actual pleasure - well - almost). But still - it further complicated and elongated the process. As I was sewing, I decided to really take my time with each seam - using steam and a clapper to keep it flat...and if you're thinking right about now "Oh no Carrie! You can't use steam on a bias cut piece." Yeah. I may know that but still, I did it. Can anyone say "misshapen?" I can.

Forth lesson: Just because all the pieces fit together nicely and you carefully pick them up in order, doesn't mean you are going to sew it correctly. I spent three hours stitching, then unstitching two rows yesterday because I kept getting them backwards and sideways! I thought I had a system, but the best thing to do is check and then recheck as you sew. By the time I had those two rows together, I had seams on all three sides of the triangles! (the good news is that it gave me a chance to practice my zen. But do I really need THAT much practice in a day? Guess so.) Finally gave up and stopped for a few hours. But I went back to it after dinner. I'm nothing if not persistent (and by that I mean obsessed).

So now I have all the rows sewn together, and am ready to finish the simple (but NOT easy!) triangle quilt top. In the end, I am very pleased with it and I don't really regret the time spent on it, or the lessons I've (re-)learned. I'm just kindly sharing them with you all so you won't have to practice your zen quite so much.

Here it is, only a little sewing and trimming the sides and the top will be done! Aren't the colors GLORIOUS?!


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