Riley Blake MQG Challenge Quilt Post #3 – The Finish

I have finished my entry for the Riley Blake/Modern Quilt Guild challenge.
It’s called Spiraling Out of Control and it finishes 70″ x 70″.

Modern Quilt

Spiraling out of Control by Christa Watson

I love the explosion of line and color against the charcoal background. The fabrics were fun to work with and I enjoyed every step of the quilting process. I quilted the background areas with “industrial” straight lines, and I quilted the rays of color with free-motion ziz-zags in matching colors of Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread.

Quilting Detail

Spiraling Quilting Detail

I tried several experiments while making this quilt which were fun to explore.

The block is very similar to an oversized string pieced block, yet all of the angles are wonky, and no two blocks are alike. The inclusion of background fabric between every other strip really helps the colors pop. I didn’t want to paper piece it or use foundations so I pieced them improvisationally, then used a ruler to square them up.

Improv Block

Trimming the Improv Blocks

It took me awhile to finalize the layout. Because of the movement of the blocks, there are a variety of designs that could be created. I had the toughest time deciding if I should contain the boxes formed by the rays or let them stick out on the edges. My gut said to go with “points out” as I call it rather than “points in.” I think that added to the “out of control” look and feel of the quilt!

Points Out

Points Out

Points In

Points In


I tried basting spray which I really liked. No pesky pins to remove while quilting! I also used Quilter’s Dream Orient batting for the first time and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s a mix of silk, bamboo, botanic tencel and cotton. The quilt is so soft even with a ton of quilting on it, and it drapes very nicely. I think this is my new favorite batting!

basting spray

Use basting spray outside or in a well ventilated area with open windows.
I sprayed the top and bottom of the quilt rather than the batting.

Another experiment I tried was quilting it entirely with my free-motion foot, including stitching in the ditch. While it was more work to push through the machine, I liked the freedom of movement and I didn’t get any of those puckers that often happen along intersecting seam lines.

Quilting Detail

Quilting Detail

I quilted the negative space with closely spaced lines using the edge of my foot as a guide. I didn’t mark any of the lines or worry about making them perfectly straight, which was also a nice experiment in letting go of perfection!

Loose Threads

Loose Threads to Tie Off Later

My next experiment, which was a little crazy, is that I tied off all of the starts and stops from the colored threads. (Not for the backgrounds though – I didn’t even want to go there!) I did this mostly to see if was an insane idea or not. While it took a long time and I thought I would hate it, it was actually very relaxing.

Aurifil Threads

Aurifil Thread Colors Used

I finished the quilting and left long tails of colored threads until the end. Then I used a needle and a thimble to basically hand quilt one stitch of every stop and start, made a knot and popped it into the batting so there wasn’t a mess of thread on the back. This gave me the chance handle the quilt quite a bit. I can now see the value of hand work, but only if you are not rushed! I also finished stitching the binding by hand.

spiraling_back

Quilting Detail on the Back

A final experiment is that I timed myself during every step of the process to see how long it would actually take from start to finish. People are always talking about how many weeks or months it takes to make a quilt, but that never makes sense to me because I don’t know how many hours a day they spend quilting. The number cruncher in me likes keeping track of these things!

Here’s a breakdown of the time:

  • Prewashing fabrics – 1.5 hours
  • Starching, pressing and cutting – 7 hours
  • Sewing the blocks – 14 hours
  • Starching and squaring the blocks – 1.5 hours
  • Deciding on layout of blocks – 2 hours
  • Sewing top (including pressing) – 3.5 hours
  • Piecing the back – .5 hour
  • Basting & smoothing – 2 hours
  • Stitching in the ditch – 1.5 hours
  • Quilting the negative space – 22.5 hours
  • Quilting the colored strips – 12 hours
  • Tying off knots – 6 hours
  • Sewing binding to the quilt – 3 hours
  • Finishing binding by hand – 5 hours

It took a whopping 82 hours to make this quilt! I guess you could say the time spent creating spiraled out of control. 🙂 However when comparing it to quilts where makers sometimes spend hundreds of hours on their competition pieces, I didn’t feel so bad. After all, it was an experiment!

Modern Quilt

Spiraling out of Control by Christa Watson

Final Stats:

  • Spiraling Out of Control – 70″ x 70″- designed, pieced and quilted by Christa Watson
  • Riley Blake Basics fabric in aqua, navy, yellow, orange and grey
  • Riley Blake Basics Charcoal Solid for the background, backing and binding
  • Aurifil 50 weight cotton thread for piecing and quilting, in colors to match
  • Quilter’s Dream Orient Batting
  • An insane 82 hours to create
  • A joy to make from start to finish!

For more in-process shots, see challenge post #1 and challenge post #2.

Thanks to Riley Blake and the Modern Quilt Guild for hosting this challenge!

99 thoughts on “Riley Blake MQG Challenge Quilt Post #3 – The Finish

  1. Casey says:

    Christa, I’ve loved this quilt since you posted it, yet somehow haven’t made the time to come over here and tell how fantastic it is!! And now it’s a finalist–congratulations!!! Best of luck, and fabulous job!!

  2. Linda H. says:

    I sure enjoyed this post! You’re a quilter after my own heart. I understand the extra effort involved with burying thread tails, which is why I haven’t yet done it! Aurifil is so forgiving when it comes to taking short stitches to secure, and then going along the merry way. Now if you use a rayon thread… well, let’s just say that from experience, it’s a completely different story. I learned about Fray Check on that quilt! I’m a huge fan of Quilter’s Dream batting in any type or form! Haven’t yet tried Orient though, so I appreciate your review of it. Actually, I’m expecting an entire roll of QD Poly to be delivered to my house tomorrow. Guess you know what I’ll be using for a good, long while! As for keeping track of your hours, good for you! It’s very revealing to see how our time is spent. Though I’ve been asked countless times, “How long did it take you to make that quilt?” I’ve never been able to give an answer, other than a rough estimate. Your Riley Blake Challenge quilt is a winner, Christa! I truly hope you get something for this one. And now, are you taking on the Michael Miller Challenge too?

  3. Lisa Kavanaugh says:

    I love it Christa, amazing creating. I adore string blocks on paper- yet HATE the paper removal part. Thank you for showing HOW you did this – you method is now on my do list…after I finish tearing the paper from my blocks for yet another string quilt in progress.

  4. Lesl says:

    This is a fabulous quilt, Christa! It must have taken a great amount of time to change colors on the top. Did you do all the pieces of one color and then move on to another color? I like the background fabric idea an awful lot. For a quilt of so many colors, it makes a wonderful resting place. Just beautiful!

  5. Tiffany says:

    Wow, so many things I could say about this post. First of all – this is my FAVORITE MQG challenge quilt so far! The color palette of the original pieces just wasn’t intriguing to me and I knew that it would be difficult for people to create something that I really liked. I think the way you used the navy solid, and definitely your design is what really makes this quilt. I LOVE it!
    I’m super impressed with your straight lines and even stitches, I can’t believe you FMQd the whole thing! Also – it’s good to know that FMQing is one way to avoid the puckers I get all the time from straight line quilting.
    One more thing – 82 hours? WOW! It’s a good thing we love this hobby so much, isn’t it?

  6. Cheryl says:

    I am in love with this quilt. I appreciate how you give the time break downs in your process. I think most of us really underestimate the amount of time to make quilt (even a simple quilt). I can’t believe that you free motion quilted the straight lines in the dark gray section, the lines are so straight and the stitches are so even!

  7. Kathy hassig says:

    Christa, if I understand you correctly, you did not knot at the beginning and the end of each start and stop.. You left long thread tails then knotted manually and then pulled that knot to center of quilt. Is that right? I just finished a quilt and have hundreds of start stop threads ( knotted) that look horrible and come undone if not careful. Feedback please?

  8. Suzanne says:

    Super quilt. Love the string blocks. Frugal, innovative, modern, traditional, whatever you call it the results are always striking no matter how you look at it. Quilting was great too!

  9. Ann Marie says:

    Great modern piece! I hope you receive some public recognition in the challenge. I appreciate the “data” report as a recent retiree returning to quilting agter many years of project management. Your blog is very helpful to my transition!

  10. Darlene M. says:

    Absolutely LOVE this quilt and fabrics. Thanks for the how-to ins and outs and great closeups.
    The closely quilted straight lines really enhanced the overall look. Taking the additional hand stitch before tying off is another great idea.
    Question – It appears on the quilt back you used the same color thread to match each top fabric instead of bobbin thread to match the back. Can you please explain?

    • Christa says:

      Yes, I did. I always like to match my thread colors in top and bobbin. It prevents those little “pokies” of color from showing up on the top or back, no matter how good your tension is. Also, it makes the backs more fun when you can see the stitching!

  11. RobinSue says:

    Very eye-catching quilt! Love it. I really love the variety in the quilting. Spray basting makes FMQ so much easier – I tried pins on a few quilts – so much starting and stopping! The variety of thread colors makes it even more interesting.

  12. Ronda Trepagnier says:

    You took it to the next level again, Christa. I love that quilt! It’s so bold and chaotic. One of those things it’s hard to look away from… I think you have a winner there too! 🙂

  13. Ashley says:

    Christa, I truly cannot tell you how much I love this quilt. I am so impressed with this. It’s my top 3 quilts I’ve seen in this challenge! (I won’t share the 1,2,3 😉 ) Amazing!!!! Job!!!!!

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