You win some and you lose some and it all works out in the end!

Thanks to all of you for your kind words and good wishes on my Spiraling out of Control quilt. As I said previously, no matter how the competition turned out, I was happy to be a part of the challenge and thrilled that someone would think my quilt deserved to be among the top 10 out of hundreds. Besides, now I have a finished quilt ready for the next show!

Be sure to click here to see the top 3 winners. They are all amazing and kudos to their makers! They are all truly deserving. 🙂

Modern Quilt

Spiraling out of Control by Christa Watson

As I’ve said before, I absolutely love entering challenges and competitions, even if I don’t win. It helps me become a better quilter, and it allows me to share my quilts with a wider audience. Besides, if I didn’t have deadlines to strive for, I wouldn’t get anything done, LOL!

A couple hours after I read the final MQG challenge results, I got a notification from AQS that my Colorful Chevrons Quilt has been juried into Paducah. That made my day!

colorful_chevrons_finished

Colorful Chevrons by Christa Watson

So you know what they say – on to the next quilt!

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!

Riley Blake MQG Challenge Quilt Post #2 – The Blocks

Over the last couple of weeks I had a chance to work some more on my Riley Blake Challenge hosted by the Modern Quilt Guild.

Post #1 for this quilt was about block design. This week I finished sewing my blocks and I’m pleased with how the quilt is starting to shape up. I may just make that February 17th deadline yet!

Riley Blake Challenge

Riley Blake Fabric Pull – it took me 3 tries to get the right shade of grey I wanted!

I had originally chosen a grey background for my improv blocks and it took me several tries before finding the right shade (I can be a little finicky like that).

Riley Blake Challenge

Original Design Sketch

However, once I made up a sample block it wasn’t really speaking to me. Then on a whim I decided to go with a much darker background – the Riley Blake Charcoal solid included in the original challenge bundle.

Fabric Audition

Auditioning a darker shade of grey – Charcoal solid by Riley Blake

I pulled in several more Riley Blake Basics in coordinating colors, then cut out a bunch of different length strips and sewed them together in an improv way (so fun – even if it does waste a bit of fabric). Using a large square ruler, I trimmed the blocks to size. I was going for the effect of a foundation string pieced block – without the pesky foundation part!

Riley Blake Challenge

Improv Strips Sewn Together

Now I’m starting to like how the blocks are coming together.

Riley Blake Challenge

Riley Blake Challenge Blocks

I timed myself while working and it took a total of 21 hours to starch, press, cut and sew a total of 36 – twelve inch blocks (not including prewashing all the fabrics first!) That seems like a long time for me, but I sewed them together just a few blocks at a time to make sure I knew what I was doing.

Improv String Blocks

Riley Blake Challenge – Improv String Blocks

This is my first attempt at an improv design and it was very liberating. As I finished each block, it was fun to see the wonky, graphic design emerge. I may rearrange them to balance out the colors and I’m toying around with adding a border of dark charcoal around the edges to make the whole thing appear to float. We’ll see.

I can’t wait to sew the blocks together and then start on the super fun part – the quilting!!

Riley Blake MQG Challenge Quilt Post #1 – The Start

For Sew and Tell today, I’m excited to be participating in the Modern Quilt Guild’s upcoming challenge focusing on these Riley Blake prints:

Challenge Fabric

Riley Blake MQG Challenge Fabric

Each of the challenge participants received a fat 1/8th of each of these fabrics. We can add any other Riley Blake fabrics to the mix to create any type of quilted item we wish. Finished projects are due by February 17th and if I know me, I’m sure I’ll be finishing right under the wire. 🙂

Since I’m not hosting any new Quilt Alongs for awhile (here’s why), I thought I would share some of my in-process quilts as they happen. I’m not sure how many blog posts it will take to complete this quilt, but I invite you along for the ride.

I started playing around with this block that I had designed a few months ago – parallel lines. I blogged about it here (including a free paper pieced template to make it).

Parallel Lines

Parallel Lines block by Christa Watson

What if I added additional lines, sewed them more randomly, and filled them in with color? I thought it would be fun to piece a few improvisational “string” blocks and leave a little negative space to add extra machine quilting texture (my #1 passion)! I’m thinking maybe light or dark grey for the background negative space. What do you think?

Improv String BlockImprov String Block


I started by doodling a few improv blocks in EQ7 and cutting out some strips. (Anyone else get the irony of planned improv blocks?) I’ll be back next time to show you how they are shaping up!