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. Beth says:

    Your quilt looks so wonderful. I love the break down on how long each step took. I can never keep track all the way through. I love the dark grey background it does make the colors pop!

  2. What comes next? says:

    it’s a fabulous quilt – well done! I’ve never been happy with the puckers I get when using a walking foot, so always do my line work free motion. Like you discovered, it’s very freeing to be able to go in whatever direction you want!

  3. Jolly and Delilah says:

    I love the quilt top and your description of the design process. Good on you for actually timing everything. I don’t think I’d be game to. I tend to think of my quilting process in terms of days worked, but I never have the time to spend an entire day of it, so it’s really only fractions of days worked on.

    I too love Quilter’s Dream Orient. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?

  4. Quilt Paradigm says:

    I.LOVE.THIS! Beautifully done! The quilting compliments the top so well. I could look at this for hours!! You win the challenge, I just decided 😉 haha Seriously, this is all kinds of awesomely yummy!!

  5. Peg Gilham says:

    What was the length of your stitch. I like the length of the stitch and the thread weight. Looks hand stitched except for the perfect stitch length and spacing and it’s beautiful.

  6. Erin says:

    This is beautiful, Christa. And wowser! 82 hours. Certainly puts things in perspective. I mean, if you were to sell this, disregarding the cost of the fabric, you’d have to charge over $400 to pay yourself just $5 an hour… Good thing we do this for love 🙂 sorry, that sounds very mercenary, and I didn’t mean it to be, it’s just that I’ve never worked out the time so the “cost of the time to make” has been a fuzzy idea. Hope I don’t offend. I do think it’s beautiful and is worth every minute you’ve spent on it.
    E xx

  7. Becca says:

    Your challenge quilt is awesome! I didn’t do anything half as improvisational. I still ended up with a really big quilt, though. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  8. Nancy Angerer says:

    Sometimes it is better not to know the time. When we were refinishing all the painted woodwork in our home built in 1926, I kept track of the time it took me to remove the paint from one side of one doorway — 8 HOURS! I decided that I wasn’t going to keep track of any more time spent and just think of how pretty the wood was going to look when we were done:) Sometime it is nice to know the number of hours, but the important thing is that you enjoy the quilt whitch is beautiful! I love the effect you have achieved. You have really inspired me!

  9. Ellie says:

    I love the quilt I see another ribbon hanging on it soon!! Very creative Christa great job all around. Love the details you share too thank you. Inspiring for us in the box quilters.

  10. DuluthGirl says:

    Love this! Also love the time sheet. When I saw 6 hours for tying knots I didn’t feel so bad about how long it takes me to bury knots! Beautiful quilt!

  11. Angela says:

    I love it! I adore string quilts and I love that you didn’t use foundation paper or fabric! I am definitely going to try that!
    Thanks for sharing your gorgeous quilt.

  12. stitchinstein says:

    Love this Christa! So true how the quilting takes more time then the piecing, but love the results. I need to find me some of that batting!

  13. June @ QuiltQuest says:

    The first thing I noticed was the careful selection of colors and fabrics. You really have a gift to pick the right ones. Very interesting to see how you made the block and did the quilting – thank for you for inspiration again. Great work.

  14. dezertsuz says:

    82 hours doesn’t sound at all unreasonable to me. That’s still only a couple of weeks at 8 hour days and Sundays off. =) “The block is very similar to an oversized string pieced block, yet all of the angles are wonky, and no two blocks are alike.” That’s how my string blocks normally go! And I don’t use foundations, either. Great finish. I love the way the top moves and the alternating zigzag quilting with the straight lines. Beautiful!

  15. Amanda Best says:

    Oh my! I love all of your quilts, but this is beyond fantastic! It is so wonderful! I love the optical illusion effect and the quilting is as always splendid. Every one of the 82 hours is worth it. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, it!!! Great job! I showed it to my brother and he said “How about you take 82 hours and make me one?” I had to reply that I didn’t think so.
    No matter the challenge competition, I think you should win.

  16. Lori Smanski says:

    wow this is wonderful. I love the title, it is so perfect. I love the top quilting also. I cant seem to make improve blocks, I get all hung up on perfection. Argghhh I will work on other things for now. LOL. Thanks for sharing

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