The Country Threads UFO ‘game’ or how to turn an unfinished wallhanging into a cushion!

This year, Country Threads Quilt Shop in Iowa (see useful links) is running a ‘game’ via their blog. At the beginning of the year one had to select 12 UFO’s and number them 1 to 12. Every month Connie from Country Threads draws a number and then you have a month to get that UFO finished. Mary posts the number at the start of the month and keeps blog readers apprised of the progress of the Country Threads staff (who all have a healthy pile of UFO’s). What a fun challenge! The only problem is that I am not much of a UFO person: I always have several ‘active’ projects on the go, but it is rare for me to have a half finished project that has just landed in a drawer.  I went hunting and found…one.  How could I take part?  I decided to play by the rules, so assigned my UFO a number at random by putting the numbers 1 to 12 in a hat (yes, really) and drawing out a number with my eyes closed. I drew number four, and sat back and waited for that to be the UFO number of the month. At the beginning of June number four was drawn by Connie, so I got going on my project, and I finished it today, so here is the story of my Country Threads UFO game!

An ex-UFO

An ex-UFO

The UFO came about because we moved house at the beginning of 2012. In our previous house, many of the walls were sloping (very cute, but not great for hanging stuff) so I developed a series of what I called ‘door quilts’: just inside our front door there was a closet with a plain door. I hung a decorative hanging rod on the door and proceeded to make a number of quilts that could hang there: one for Christmas, one for birthdays, one for spring, one for summer…you get the idea. The width and length of the quilts was determined by the width of the closet door and the hanging rod, so they were all 24″ wide or less. The length was more variable, but to keep the proportions looking good, there were limits there too. I enjoyed making and changing these little door quilts (and I can recommend this as a method of displaying quilts if space is limited), but when we found our new house it was clear that there would be no need to limit quilts to hanging on a door: lots more wall space! So the wall quilt I had in the pipeline never got finished, and that was my UFO.

The pieced UFO

The pieced UFO

I had pieced the centre of the quilt: a design of half-square triangles made of many coloured leftover country style fabrics (some with small touches of metallic gold). The inspiration came from Karen Costello Soltys’ book  ‘Bits and Pieces, 18 small Quilts from Fat Quarters and Scraps‘  published by Martingale. The original quilt was called Flags, and was higher than it was wide. I decided to turn the pieced centre 180 degrees and turn the mini hanging into a big cushion.

Before I had abandoned the wall quilt I had already selected a fabric for the border, binding and back: a fairly large scale red floral print. After cutting border pieces and auditioning them round the pieced centre I decided to stay with my original choice: the red fabric gave warmth to the whole and the larger scale was a nice contrast to the slightly fussy small plaids and calicoes that made up the centre.

Auditioning the border fabric

Auditioning the border fabric

So I sewed on the borders, made a quilt sandwich with Hobbs cotton batting and a muslin back and basted everything together. I know it is received wisdom to pin baste if you are going to be machine quilting, but for small projects, where the quilting pattern is not to complicated, I prefer to baste with thread. I use Gutermann basting thread, that breaks really easily and so is easy to remove, even if one has stitched over it in the course of quilting. For this project I had decided on diagonal quilting with a cable in the border, so I thread basted.

The borders are attached and thread basting is complete

The borders are attached and thread basting is complete

I didn’t need to mark the diagonal lines: I just stitched 1/4″ from the seam line, but I did need to mark the cable. I did that using a lozenge shaped template from June Tailor and a Roxanne silver pencil. I like the Roxanne pencil because it is easy to remove any remaining marks with a fabric eraser after quilting. I started in the middle with the lozenge and worked towards the corners: of course it didn’t meet at the corners, so I drew a mini lozenge there to bridge the gap.

A close up of the single cable in the border. Here the dark triangles have been quilted, the light ones not.

A close up of the single cable in the border. Here the dark triangles have already been quilted, the light ones not.

I quilted diagonally 1/4″ from the seam line along the diagonal side of the triangles. For the multicoloured triangles I used a variegated YLI thread from Luana Rubin that had most of the colours of the triangles in it: red, blue, purple and deep yellow. For the cream coloured triangles I used a variegated thread from the same range, but with light sandy colours.  I used the dark thread to quilt the simple cable in the border.

The quilted cushion front, ready for assembly into a cushion cover

The quilted cushion front, ready for assembly into a cushion cover

The back of the quilt sandwhich (the inside of the cushion) showing the quilting design

The back of the quilt sandwich (the inside of the cushion) showing the quilting design

Once the quilting was done I removed the basting and made a double fabric thickness cushion back (see the Blackford Beauty blog entry for an explanation of this technique) and gave it an invisible Velcro fastening. I also made a quilt label and sewed it on the back. I called the cushion ‘ Vlaggetjes’ which is Dutch for ‘Little Flags’  as a reference to the Karen Costello Soltys original.

The back of the finished cushion, with label

The back of the finished cushion, with label

The finished cushion is now sitting on the daybed in my studio, and I can proclaim, with my hand on my heart: “I have no UFO’s!!”. Thank you Country Threads for a great idea!

The finished cushion, sitting on the daybed in my studio

The finished cushion, sitting on the daybed in my studio

One response to “The Country Threads UFO ‘game’ or how to turn an unfinished wallhanging into a cushion!

  1. Hi, Fiona!
    What a great article about your one and only UFO! I wish I could say I had only one but alas, I cannot.
    Thank you for your condolences – we will heal but we are very sad, too. We love Izzy and she just couldn’t help it.

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