Coronavirus Crafts: Triangles and Patterned Back

You know when you have an idea for a project and it’s great on paper, then you start working on it and run into problem after problem? Yeah, that’s how this quilt played out. I saw triangle quilt after triangle quilt on Pinterest and they were all so cute. Luckily, I have a friend that is due to have a baby boy any second now. Hello, perfect baby gift/reason to try a cool, new quilt pattern. 

Rather than try to find quilting cotton to make the quilt, I decided to try out using receiving blankets. I picked out Gerber Raccoon Receiving Blankets from Target. They come in packs of 4 which is the minimum necessary number of unique patterns I would need to ensure no two touching triangles were the same. Side note: if you’ve never heard of or read about the 4 color problem, you really must. It’s actually related to graph theory and map coloring but is directly tied to quilting (hint: the quilt pattern is your map).

I hurried to order a triangle ruler and excitedly waited for it to arrive. Now, something I didn’t realize in all of my searching was that the triangle quilts I was dreaming of making were all made with equilateral triangles (all sides the same length). What I ended up purchasing was an isosceles triangle ruler (two sides are the same length and the third side is different) . Hello, first should-have-been-but-wasn’t-anticipated problem.

After cutting all of my isosceles triangles thinking they were equilateral, I got down to the business of laying out and sewing my rows together. It wasn’t until I finished sewing all of my first row that I realized something wasn’t right. My triangles lined up perfectly, but I had no seam allowance. If I were to sew two rows together, I would have ended up with very ugly trapezoids instead of triangles. After taking apart the entire row assuming I had messed up the seam allowances, and resewing a couple triangles, I ran into the same problem. I was quite frustrated at this point. I was doing everything right, where was my seam allowance going? Rather than try for a third time, I turned to trusty Dr. Google. There, I found a couple of tutorials doing exactly what I had done and they all had seam allowances for the top and bottom of their triangles. So, what the heck was going on?! After about the third sewing triangles tutorial it hit me: my triangles were isosceles. Honestly, for someone with a degree in math, you’d think I would have noticed sooner. 

This did leave me with the question of why isosceles triangles were any different and honestly, I still don’t know. I found this tutorial written by another poor woman ready to burn her triangle quilt. Luckily, she had the answer: stagger the triangles about an eighth of an inch. 

Staggering the edges of the isosceles triangles about an eighth of an inch yields a quarter inch seam allowance at the top and bottom of the row of triangles. It works. I don’t know why.

With the proper offset identified, I was able to assemble the quilt top with relative ease. It was somewhat tedious since each seam needs to be pressed open after sewing which meant many, many, many trips to the ironing board. Luckily, I got through it with a little help from my friends the Kardashians (judge away, haters!).

Finally, with the quilt top finished, I could move on to the back of the quilt and binding. I purchased an extra package of the receiving blankets with the intention of using one for binding and one for the back of the quilt. This is where the second should-have-been-but-wasn’t-anticipated problem occured. I knew going into the process my final quilt would be 35 x 40 inches. The receiving blankets are each 30 x 30 inches. Why exactly I thought I would be able to use a single receiving blanket for the back, I’ll never know. 

This left me with two options: break the shelter-in-place order and run to the store to pick out a solid piece of fabric large enough to be the back, or put together a pieced back (something I’d never done before). Ultimately, I decided a quilt back wasn’t a good enough reason for a trip to the store and a pieced back was going to have to do. I spent the better part of a day looking up different pieced backs and trying to come up with ways to make the 3 remaining receiving blankets cover the entire quilt top. Finally, I came up with a patterned back for the quilt that ties in all 3 of the remaining blankets, isn’t too busy and thankfully, is large enough. 

Wait. Just kidding. That’s not how that played out at all. The third should-have-been-but-wasn’t-anticipated problem of this quilt was that the receiving blankets have rounded corners. Well wait, Kayla, why does that matter? It matters because the patterned back I designed and pieced together is barely bigger than the quilt top. The sizes are so close in fact, that the corners of the quilt top stick out over the rounded edges of the quilt back. After an exceptionally long sigh of frustration, I arrived at the quickest solution possible: I cut 2 inches off of the side of the quilt. *gasp* Yes, yes I did. And you know what? It worked. So my quilt is now 33 x 40 inches and if not for this post, nobody would ever know that it was once slightly larger. 

With my now smaller quilt top and perfectly sized quilt back, I assembled my quilt sandwich and prepared to start the actual quilting process. Initially, I had intended to quilt parallel lines on each seam so it would appear there was a smaller triangle in each triangle. The problem with this is that there was no guarantee my triangles would align with the squares on the back and I worried about what that would look like. After some back and forth with my husband, I abandoned my idea and went with his hexagon idea. Instead of the triangles, I quilted the offset hexagons in each row. From the front of the quilt, you can barely see anything (triangle quilts are inherently busy), but the back looks awesome. Since the hexagon shape is so different from the squares, it doesn’t make much difference that the seams don’t line up. 

I can’t even count the number of times I almost threw this quilt in the trash. I think all-in-all I spent the better half of 3 months with it as a work-in-progress. It certainly isn’t my favorite quilt, but I can appreciate the lessons I learned (even though I really shouldn’t have had to learn them). That being said, I’m quite relieved this quilt is a gift and I don’t have to have a daily reminder of my inability to plan. So long, triangle quilt with a patterned back. I think it’ll be awhile before I attempt another one of you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *