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Block Party Quilt

Posted by Jim Rice on Feb 8th 2021

Block Party Quilt

I just finished making this quilt using C&T Publishing’s Quick & Easy Block Tool.

And how did this come about? It began 35 years or so ago. My wife, Janis, was a serious runner – a 10K (6.25 miles) nearly every morning for 20 years. She also ran weekend races, marathons, and relays - then decided she wanted to make a quilt to display her favorite t-shirts from those many events.

During her years of quilting, Jan had asked me to help her figure out confusing quilting patterns and instructions. I also helped iron fabric, blocks, and seams, as well as calculate or confirm measurements, but was not really trusted to cut fabric.

I was encouraged to perform more “important” tasks, such as snip loose threads and rip out seams that had misbehaved. I got so good at it that I had a special t-shirt made to designate myself a “Professional Seam Ripper”! A lady at the Houston quilt festival saw my shirt and told us her guild calls that frog stitching – you know, “rip it, rip it, rip it”!

Jan was the seamstress and artist, but I was the “math and computer guy”, so she asked me to help her design her race t-shirt quilt.

We used to RV every summer with our two granddaughters. They helped me select t-shirts to buy at memorable tourist stops, and there were many.

Fast forward to spring of 2015. I was proud of myself for deciding to clear out excess and donate my travel t-shirts. As I had neatly folded them and was on my second trip out to the car to head to the donation center, my sweet wife says: “Hey, I have an idea. Wouldn’t it be neat if you made quilts out of your t-shirts for the grandkids?”

A “monster” was born right then and there. Little did I know for my first venture into quilting how difficult cutting, stabilizing, and sewing t-shirt quilts was and would be.

But I was finally going to get a rotary cutter in my hands, and I was determined!

For Christmas gifts that year, the two granddaughters and our grandson each received one of Poppie’s travel t-shirts. And since I had enough shirts left, per Jan’s wishes, I made a fourth quilt for us to keep.

My new “addiction” progressed rapidly. I was officially caught up in the underworld of quilting. I tried my hand at piecing, applique, and paper piecing. While interesting, I did not particularly enjoy the latter two. So, I started making sampler quilts – lots of different patterns, colors, fabrics – then cutting and sewing back together.

Of course, as part of my journey, I started going to the Houston Quilt Festival with Jan, her sister, and their many quilting friends. We went to a few other shows in the area also, plus I was introduced to …….….. quilt shops and fabric stores!!!

In recent years, when we went on vacation trips, we sought out and visited all area quilt shops – mainly in Oregon, Arizona/New Mexico, and Arkansas.

We visited northern Arkansas for our 54th wedding anniversary in May 2018. When we returned home, we each had follow-up doctor visits. Within a shocking and devastating two-week period, we learned that I needed open heart surgery and Jan, the healthy runner who never smoked, had stage-IV lung cancer. She started treatment at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in June 2018, and when her treatment schedule finally permitted, I had triple bypass heart surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in December 2018.

In the early 2000’s Jan had bought the C&T Publishing Block Tool at the Houston show. Over the past few years, I had enjoyed thumbing through it and studying the variety of blocks, sizes, and measurements.

I finished my “Tonga Sangria” quilt before surgery, and in the spring of 2019 was looking for something different and more challenging. I searched many patterns during my recuperation, but none excited me.

Then I had an inspiration - design my own quilt to showcase all 102 blocks, in various sizes, using the Block Tool! I had to use 17 patterns twice to complete my design.

Jan named my design “Block Party” and that describes it well. Making one or two blocks most days, it took about 4 months from start to finish to make all 119 blocks. I only used a couple of fabrics more than once (by mistake); otherwise, each block contains unique fabrics. Block sizes include 3”, 4”, 6”, 8”, 9”, and 12”.

The finished quilt size: 60” x 66”. Only after I was done did I decide to count the pieces in the quilt …... 2,898.

These are some of our favorite blocks.

In early 2020, after what (for perfectionist me) was surprisingly little agonizing and minimal rearranging, I sewed them all together.

And what did I learn?

C&T Publishing’s Quick & Easy Block Tools are easy to use, they work, and prevent a lot of agony.

The Block Party quilt is unique, unusual, colorful, and challenging; but fun to design and make ……. and a great way to practice point matching, cutting, and sewing accuracy!

When laying out the design, I should have used blocks with large numbers of pieces for larger size blocks. For example: #84 - 4” Spools has 52 pieces, #27 - 6” Darting Birds has 52 pieces, and #25 - 6” Cross Variation has 73 pieces. These would have been easier to make in larger block sizes placed elsewhere in the quilt as necessary.

Would I do it again? You bet (but only after a lengthy recuperation break)!

* * * * * * * * * *

Janis lost her determined 17-month battle against cancer in November 2019.

Despite the dark cloud over us, she was a cheerleader and collaborator throughout the process.

My Block Party quilt is lovingly dedicated forever to her memory.

Jim Rice

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