You might be saying to yourself, this Judy Niemeyer quilt is a bit out of Sarah's typical repertoire of quilting projects. You would be correct.
Here are the two things you need to know to understand how I got myself involved in this situation:
1. I have friends
2. I make stupid statements
The pertinent-to-this-story-stupid statement went something like this: "This year I really want to become a better quilter, maybe even challenge myself with some more difficult techniques. Perhaps even take a class!" Sounded like a good thing to say at the time. Later that year, my quilty friends decided they wanted to take a class at our LQS where Judy Niemeyer's Glacier Star quilt was taught.
You can see where this is going right?
So about 6 months ago we started this journey - nay - Epic Adventure (capitalization for emphasis purposes - insert Lord of the Rings dramatic score please).
Summary of the Epic Adventure:
1. Buy 15 yards of fabric for the quilt top.
Sounds simple enough? Wrong. Some steps to not follow particularly if you are a Judy-Virgin (like myself) include but certainly are not limited to: choosing a fabric line that no one else has done yet (in this case Tula Pink's Fox Field), refuse to narrow down your color scheme (color-killers), large prints, pulling more than 100 bolts of fabric and laying them over your entire LQS (this is best done right as they are trying to close), and the classic "Oh, I have that print at home!" (which later leads to feelings of great sadness followed by extreme self-loathing and the desire to stab yourself in the eyeball with your machine needle when you realize you don't actually have that print in your fabric stash that could clothe most countries).
2. Ignore that you just bought more than 15 yards of fabric just for a quilt top that will only be 60x60 finished.
3. Attend the first of 6 classes.
This is where the real excitement begins. I lug in my sewing machine, quilty-related accessories, and the 15+ yards of fabric (refer back to Step 2 - you will soon understand how important Step 2 really is to a successful Epic Adventure).
Class begins. Grab a buddy and spend the next 4 hours cutting out templates and paper piecing patterns. This buddy system is quite genius. The gist of it goes like this: give your buddy pages 1-981 of your pattern pieces, she gives you her half - pages 982-1798, and then you can cut the whole thing out in half the time. See, Kindergarten wasn't a complete waste.
Even more genius than the buddy system is the Baggie System (which yes, deserves to be capitalized....in all seriousness, if there is a way to patent this system, it should be). The Glacier Star quilt is broken down into 5 techniques (each technique is a section of the quilt, like the feathered stars, the lone stars, etc.). Each technique is put into one 2-gallon Ziploc bag. Within each 2-gallon bag contains anywhere between 2 and 8 trillion smaller bags all clearly marked of their contents and purposes in life, containing all the bits and pieces for each technique. This is a very good even if a bit neurotic exercise because there is no way I could have ever remembered what fabric was supposed to go where. Seriously - I am now a bagger for life. I'm buying stock in Ziploc.
Then the real fun begins. Paper piecing. I think now is a good time to add that I have never really paper pieced before. I mean, the whole quilt can't be paper pieced, right? Right. Everything except the 300 y-seams to put the whole thing together (but I'm getting too far ahead of myself).
After a quick crash course on paper piecing (and I do want to take a quick second to point out and commend the teacher on quickly recovering from the shock of learning one of her students had never paper pieced before - she should be very thankful her face didn't freeze in that ugly, contorted, "what the crap is going on here I've got 20 other students I don't get paid enough for this kind of crap I'm a professional here a f-ing Judy Niemeyer-certified professional" look) I was well underway.
I only experienced setbacks every time I went to start a new block. There are only about 96 (this might be an actual number!) paper pieced blocks, so I got to experience the pleasure of unpicking paper piecing about 200+ times (it took me at least two tries every time to get going). This made a root canal seem like a luxury vacation.
This is where a college education really comes in handy. Without college, I'm not sure I could have perfected the art of all-nighters, procrastination, and the importance of study groups that this quilt truly requires.
5. Attend class.
6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 - a bunch.
Along the way, you can begin to pat yourself on your back. You may even end up taking and posting proudly on Instagram pictures like this:
Enjoy those feelings of satisfaction and superiority. It won't last. And you will need the memories and the warmth they provide to persevere through to the end.
7. Embrace the Judy Scrapnel.
At some point in your Epic Adventure, the fact that you bought 15+ yards just for a quilt top that will only be 60x60 will really set in (remember Step 2?). Here's some quick math so you can wrap your brain around this one a bit better.
A 60x60 quilt top is about 3600 square inches. One yard of fabric is about 1440 square inches, which means I bought about 20,160 square inches of fabric, which really means I had to buy 5x more fabric than I typically would for a quilt that size. I won't even translate that into dollars or any other form of accepted currency.
Here's a picture of the shrapnel that accumulates after just a few minutes, which I have not-so-affectionately dubbed Judy Scrapnel (patent pending):
The amount of waste that was generated throughout the entire Epic Adventure rivals only the Duggar household in the middle of a stomach flu pandemic.
8. Get to know your classmates.
Our class was conveniently split up into two tight rooms in a basement. This closed concept quilt class setup is specifically designed to flesh out the quilting cliques and the damaging effects they can have on quilters - essentially the Mean Girls of the quilting classes. Luckily, my group of friends nearly filled up one of the rooms and we were regularly joined by a couple of normal non-mean quilter types. But we frequently had visitors from the other side and these visits shed some insight into the shenanigans happening in the next room.
Highlights include two meth-looking quilter types who came over to complain about their quilty neighbor who apparently was guilty of humming...humming what they were certain were church hymns. The nerve! Later that class, we were visited by a woman who just needed a break from these two crazy ladies who were talking trash about everyone they had ever known, so this lady thought she would hum some church tunes to 1. drown out their gossiping and 2. to save their blasphemous souls.
9. Get it together...a tale of y-seams.
So, you have all your techniques done, all the blocks are ready, and you have everything cut out...the LAST step! Yay! Remember those photos you took and posted along the way and the feelings of satisfaction and superiority they gave you in Step 6? Channel them! Here's where you need them. It took me two days to put this thing together. No joke. After 6 months of steady work, I was expecting to be done and only spend a couple of hours putting it together. After all of this time and money, I half expected it would put itself together. Wrong. I entered the hell known as y-seams. There are at least 7 million y-seams in this thing.
This is probably a good time to mention I had only done a y-seam on one prior occasion, and I'm pretty sure my mom helped - which is code for my mom did it, but I'm sure I was in the same room! Sure of it! That had to count for something. After yet another bonding session with my seam ripper, I got the hang of those Y-iley devils. In the end, they weren't so bad. I now feel like a y-seam ninja master.
Well kids, that's about it.I hope you enjoyed this lengthy explanation of how my the Glacier Star quilt class became known as the Epic Adventure. Tune back later to see how the sequel - The Epic Adventures of Quilting the Glacier Star - goes!
For legal reasons, I'm supposed to say some of this story was fabricated, or at least stretched the truth. My lawyer wanted me to specifically point out the quilt instructor was really nice, the LQS has plenty of space, and the whole experience was actually kind of alright...I think I'd do it again. But not now, I still feel like I'm going to throw up every time I think about this quilt top.