By Edie McGinnis
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but the NYC Mod quilters are having a Double Wedding Ring Quilt Challenge. You can read about it here.
Did you notice the challenge is open to all quilters and is international? One can make a very small wedding ring quilt using only one block. There’s a category for traditional quilters, with the expectation that the quilt pattern will maintain its traditional look and not stray too far from the norm. And, of course, there is a category geared to the modern quilter, where anything goes.
No matter what your style, I can give you a few hints on some things to avoid if you want to be a winner. And for illustration purposes, I’m going to use the quilt top I have named Olga. She has served me well as my “horrible example” at lectures I have given and classes I have taught.
The first thing you might want to do is look at the pattern and understand how it should be put together. This is especially true for anyone who would like to enter the traditional category. In the traditional style, the elements are placed in such a way as to form a ring. You may have noticed that the quilter who made Olga back in the 1930s did not adhere to convention. Instead of forming rings, she has stacked the ovals, one on top of the other, giving the eerie impression of a tower of eyeballs. Not every quilt judge would consider that attractive.
The quilter who hand-pieced Olga did not pay much attention to the grain line of the background fabric. In the center of the ovals, most of the fabric pops up out of the center. The problem doesn’t seem to stem from trying to “ease” too large of a piece into its appropriate place as much as it does from being cut incorrectly.
The problem one sees involving the center of the ovals is compounded by the curvy diamond-shaped pieces that connect the rows. The fabric pulls tautly and in the opposite direction of the center of the ovals. It looks as though this piece may have been cut on the lengthwise straight of grain. In this case, cutting the pieces on the bias could have been helpful because it would have allowed them to relax. It may have even corrected the whole issue one sees with the quilt. Maybe. Not likely, but maybe.
I can understand why the maker may not have tumbled to the fact that she might have had a problem when she stitched in the center pieces of the ovals. I am willing to bet that they laid fairly flat as she completed that portion of the block and stacked them up.
As I look at poor old Olga, I try to understand when the problems might have become evident to the maker. At the very least, I would think she would have noticed that things were going awry by the time she had one row done, if not before. Surely the problems had to be evident to even the most casual of observers before she added the border.
As you can see, the quilt was never quilted. I wonder if she laid it out and didn’t have the heart to tear out all those tiny hand stitches and fix it. Perhaps she laid it aside thinking she would come back to it another day. Maybe she simply couldn’t find her seam ripper.
It would have been a daunting task to take the quilt apart and redo it, and I’m glad she didn’t. When I look at this quilt top, I am mindful of the importance of good workmanship and knowing the basic rules of sewing.
Olga is embarrassed by her imperfections, but she is a wise teacher. She wants you to go forth and win this challenge now that she has taught the lessons she has to share.
Olga and I both wish you the best of luck!
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.