The story of this quilt, starts in the summer of 1980. I was just 13 years old! I was living in Huntington Massachusetts at the time in the foothills of the Berkshires. By that time I had been sewing by hand for about 7 years and by machine for about 3 years. My Aunt Laurie lived about 3 hours away in Pembroke Massachusetts and I wanted to spend some time with her before I started high school. So my mother, (her sister), and she agreed and I spent a week at her house in Pembroke. Now she lives less than a mile from me in Stratton Maine but that is another long story!
While I was there that week, I wanted to start a quilt. Since she made quilts, she helped me pick out the fabrics and decide what the quilt top was going to look like, well sort of, we picked the fabrics from her stash and that time, I didn't know that much about quilt making so I picked what ever fabrics looked good together to my eye. I didn't care what the fabrics were made from. Remember, I was only 13. I pieced mainly red and brown fabrics but they were not all cotton. Actually, I am not really sure if any of them were cotton. Perhaps mostly cotton/polyester and some were old. I think there was a loosly woven heavy red fabric that didn't really work well with the rest of the fabrics but I used it anyway because of the color. There were brown calicos and white with red cotton pieces as well. Part of my choices in fabric depended on how much of each she had. Well after choosing all of the fabrics, I got down to sewing them together in a court house steps pattern. I wanted one giant court house steps quilt. As you can see in the picture, this is what I ended up making. Kind of impressive for a 13 year old but under all of that coolness, were horridly wide seam allowances!
Once my visit was done at my Aun't house, I took it home with me and put it away until I could get some batting and backing which never did happen so I kept it with me with every move I made over the years. At 15, in 1982, I moved to Maine with my mother, and to make this story short, from 1984-2019, in this order, I got married, graduated from high school, had 2 babies, moved onto my current property, had another baby, then in 1995, my Step son moved in, all the while sewing off and on but never really working on that quilt. I made clothing for myself and my children, made a couple of baby quilts for relatives, then late in 1996, I started another queen sized quilt and got as far as quilting it by hand but put it away when I started my paper bead business in 1997 then the crochet pattern business in 1998. I still had my quilt I started in MA in storage. I kept it all of those years!
In 2002 we traded in the mobile home we lived in for 16 years and got ourselves a double wide mobile home, complete with a full basement, and put it on the same property. In 2004, we made a 12.5' x 12.5' craft room, in the basement, so I could keep all of my supplies in one place. In 2007, we added another room in the basement for my office, I got serious with the paper bead business and worked on crochet patterns, paper beads, paper bead jewelry and paper bead tools until October 2018 when I decided I wanted to start making sewn shopping bags for Christmas gifts. (I needed to do something different.) After making just a few of bags, I realized how much I missed sewing and was just kinda looking around my craft room, kinda just in a thoughtful moment looking at all of the stuff in my craft room when I set my eyes on the box that had that old quilt top folded neatly in it. It was like it was talking to me, begging me to pull it out and finish it!
I knew I was going to need batting if I were going to make this quilt and I didn't have any in my craft room at the time. then I remembered, I had a Shrink bag full of batting pieces that came out of little cardboard jewelry boxes. They were the boxes I used to package my paper bead rollers a the time before I stopped using them. I decided to use what I had in this quilt. I had so many of them, I used almost all of them for this quilt! The size of the little batting pieces were 8" x 2". I had to make them a little longer so since they were made with polyester, I flattened them, with an iron, and stitched them together with a zigzag sitch to make them the right size.
So I pulled it out of the box, looked at it and realized I didn't quite like the way it looked. Because of the odd fabrics that were not traditional cotton. I also noticed the seams were bad and not consistant. So I gave it some thought on how I wanted to approach it and keep the original integrity of the courthouse steps design. I took some pictures, of the quilt, on my bed, with my smart phone so I could remember where it started from before I ripped it apart. After a few days of agonizing thought and after taking careful measurements of each strip, I determined that what would be best is to make the majority of the new quilt with 2.5" strips. I also worked on a few design ideas with an online quilt designing software called prequilt to get a prelimiary design idea going. I knew I wanted to preserve the center piece of the quilt since the fabric was probably older than I was. So I started from there and made it about 5" x 6" in size and added the rest of the strips to it in the 2.5" width. I got as far as making the center panel of the quilt, I knew by then where I was going with the design as a whole, or so I thought. I was still unsure if I wanted a square or rectangle quilt.
While working with PreQuilt, I came across another quilt pattern designer that I could download on my computer. I really saw the value in this software and managed to scrap up enough money to buy it! It was not cheap but I did get a 20% discount for it. It's called EQ8. It stands for Electric Quilt 8. I never heard of it before but since it was EQ8, I figured it must have been around for a very long time. I am glad I bought it. It brought the design of my quilt to a whole new level! I was able to scan and import the fabrics I bought to go with the fabric from the original quilt so it made it fun to design my quilt with the fabric choices I had on the computer before I cut any pieces!
All the while, I was making videos on the steps I took to make this quilt but soon realized, this is too big of a project to post to YouTube and I had to take a break from it in May to make another quilt for my Step Son and his now Wife. They got married in July so I set aside this quilt to work on their quilt. It took me 46 days from concept to completion to make their quilt. By the time I finished it, I had another projects in mind that I new would take months to make so I didn't pull out this quilt again until February 24, 2020. There are too many reasons to mention. Suffice it to say, I had good reasons. Between Christmas and making bead rollers to build up my inventory, I didn't have much time to work on my quilt after the wedding.
On February 24, 2020, I started working on the quilt again, and I was at the point where all I had to do is add the last round of blocks and then the header blocks, and bind it, or so I thought. On March 10, 2020, before adding the binding to it, I laid it out on my bed and realized it's not big enough! I made the blocks 9.5" instead of the planned 10"x 10" so I figured out I had to add 3" borders all around it. So I put 3" wide rail fence strips together to make a border and sewed it to all 4 sides. I finished the borders and now it's big enough! 107" x 91". Now I can add the binding! I started making the binding on March 31, sewed it on, on April 1 and started hand stitching the back side down on April 2. It took me 5 days to hand stitch the back of the binding on the quilt mostly working on it about 3-6 hours per day.
Why is this quilt so special you ask?
Well I used a special technique to make the quilt. I am not sure if this method has ever been used before. Instead of the traditional method of making the quilt top, then layering it with batting and a large piece of fabric for the backing, or even using the newer traditional method of quilt as you go where you make the top in blocks or sections, then layer them with batting and backing for each block or section, then joining them with sashing.
Instead in this method, you cut all of your patches ahead of time, even the batting for your blocks are cut into the patches you need for your block. Then as you sew your blocks pieces together, you layer all 3 layers of each patch of each block before you add the next patch to the block. Then once the block is finished, it's already layered and quilted. You can add more quilting if you want to but it's not needed if your patches of your blocks are small.
Thank you for reading this far, I know this was really long but I really wanted to give you a sense of what this quilt went through to get completed. It was a 40 year journey for this quilt. I now consider it a family heirloom and my masterpiece. It is the largest quilt I ever made and the first one I started using this Quilt as You Piece method. It will be on the full sized bed in our guest room, instead of my own so that it won't get as much use on a bed that is slept in maybe 10 times per year.
One more note, if you are wondering what happened to the video, I decided not to post it. It was just too awful and long. I thought it might be a better idea to post videos of just the blocks indiviually. Since making that quilt, I have made that wedding quilt, I mentioned earlier, a quilt for my new Grandson and a throw quilt for my couch. The baby quilt was made in the Quilt as you go method since I did some applique on it. The throw quilt is a combination of Quilt as you Go and Quilt as You piece. In fact, there is already a video on YouTube, I posted in October of 2020, showing you how to make the rail fence block in this new method.