Grandmother’s Fan Wedding Quilt Part 3: Quilting the Beast

You’ve made it to part 3 of my Grandmother’s Fan quilt story! If you’re puzzled about what happened till this point, see part 1 and part 2.

Quilting Taught me A Lesson in Humility

In mid-July I planned a sewing weekend in hopes of getting a lot of quilting done on what I was now calling “the beast.” It was the largest quilt I’ve ever attempted to quilt. I packed up all of my gear and headed to my in-laws’ house, as they were out of town and I could work without kids underfoot.

The following quilt was my muse and so I got to work outlining the fans (stitching in the ditch around each section) and would do the fill in part (the off white/background) after.

PrairieMoonQuilts fans

I had already spent many days trying to sketch and create the perfect pattern to trace onto the quilt for the background loopy part. It was not coming along well so I ignored this small problem and dove into quilting the fans.My quilting attempt on the fans

It was hard. Really hard. I am not skilled at free motion quilting (FMQ) so I was using a walking foot and was trying to use one color thread on top and another on the bottom and it was just…no. I was especially disappointed because I had this beautiful new Juki that CAN do this kind of work. I was the problem!

Panicked, I contacted Backporchquilters, the guys who do all of Dana at Old Red Barn Co’s quilts. They do fabulous work and I needed help. Even though a job like this would cost over $300 to do the fan part (no borders) alone.

Russ and I went back and forth but ultimately, because I had already started quilting this, he could not load it onto his big long arm machine and I was on my own again.

I reached out to my quilty friends for encouragement/help/guidance. Because this is unacceptable:

Fan quilt bunching

Should I tear out the hours of work I had put into this already? Soldier on and hope the puckering would go away? Hire it out?

My friends said that I had worked too hard on this to let it have puckers. My friend Amber, who does beautiful FMQ on her home machine (not a fancy long arm), offered to quilt this fan quilt for a very reasonable rate.

So I let her. I spent hours ripping the seams out of probably a dozen fans (leaving the center and 2 other fans quilted) and then mailed it to Colorado to let her work her magic, and she did. She sent me snippets of her progress and I was so excited. My brother and SIL’s quilt was getting the treatment it deserved.

Are you ready for this??

Ambers quilting on fans

She came up with a better solution for the background quilting. She said that the original loops wouldn’t work in the space–which probably explains why I couldn’t get it to work myself!

Ambers quilting on fan circle

I felt guilty for not doing it myself, because the whole point was that I was making them a gift. But I also had to let pride take a backseat (or maybe even get out of the car altogether) because I am not skilled enough for this kind of quilting. I need way more practice to get to Amber’s level and she is also way faster than I am. She turned that thing around in a week! That would have taken me like 6-8 weeks!


This gave me hope that I could finish my brother’s gift by the wedding. I had Amber leave the off white side border unquilted because I had hoped to do some cool nod to Poland with my quilting job and also wanted to do at least some of the quilting myself. Greta’s Polish heritage lies in the Kurpie region, where they are known for beautiful paper cut designs like this:

paper Kurpie design

I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

I ended up quilting a simple crosshatch because the Polish ideas were too intricate to replicate. But they are damn cool.

The wedding was in less than a week and I was too busy prepping for it to finish the quilt. (My house had 2 flower girls, 1 ring bearer and an officiant participating in this gig.) It would have to wait till they returned from their honeymoon, as luckily, they were flying into Grand Rapids before making their big trek home to Texas.

After finishing the crosshatch, I only had the binding left. The final part! Greta had really liked the navy fabric that I used in the quilt and of course, I didn’t have enough left over. And of course it was not carried by any of the indie quilt shops that ship immediately. I had found it at originally, and while this is a great source for fabric, their shipping times are immensely slow.

Since I had little time, I turned to Etsy. Found the fabric. Ordered it. Was told a few hours later it shipped. We were cooking with grease!!

Until the post office lost my package. Or lost tracking. Something crazy. There was no tracking info and I swear I heard crickets chirping every time I opened the tracking page. The package was never received by carrier. My brother was returning in less than a week and I had no binding!!! The seller was apologetic but had no answers.

Then a miracle happened and the package appeared on my doorstep a week after it shipped. This still caused me to scramble but I made it.

Binding Roll

That is a lot of binding! About 5 inches all rolled up.

The night before my brother and his new wife landed in Grand Rapids, I tied the last knot on the binding thread.

IMG_0591 Dog with Quilt

My pretty little friend here kept offering to help, but the needle and thread was just too awkward between her paws…

I had wanted to do an urban photoshoot with this quilt but I only had a few hours to get it done and with ArtPrize 7 invading downtown Grand Rapids and three young children underfoot, I was unable to give this quilt the photoshoot of my dreams.

Instead, I let the kids and the four dogs I was minding run wild and free at my in-laws’ while I hung the quilt on the side of one of their barns. Here it is….the REVEAL!!! (Warning: many pics to follow.)

Fan Quilt Main Shot

Amber is a FMQ animal!!

(Do you know what Free Motion Quilting means? It means this was all done freehand. She basically drew all that stitching onto the quilt by guiding the fabric through the machine. She stitched around each fan blade without the thread showing on the fans. No marking, no special tools. Freehand. Badass.)

Quilting Detail Fans

Seriously, Amber quilted the heck out of this and it turned out amazing. She did this all on a regular machine!

She brought this piece to a whole notha level. I’m not even joking. Here’s a closeup of the 3 different sections. Amber did a ribbon style on the plaid, which was nice and simple. She used a King Tut brand pink thread here, instead of the usual King Tut gold we had used on the rest of the quilt.

Border Quilting Fans

The whole back was quilted in gold.

Fan Quilt Back

Navy binding for the win! I always love my binding pics. They’re just cool.

Binding closeup Fans Fan Quilt on Grass

It felt sooo good to have this “lifetime achievement” quilt finished. And it felt so good to have collaborated with someone on this. It was a joy to work with Amber and fun to see someone else’s vision for the art I had started.

My brother and his new bride came back to town and after over nine months of toil, I could finally give this gift away.

Quilt Recipients

They liked it. I had told them that I’d have to visit them to add the label and Greta got a sad look on her face. “But I want to take the quilt home with me!” she said. I assured her that she could, and that I’d bring the label separately and sew it on sometime. Her reaction confirmed that she liked the quilt. :)

I dream of the day when I have more time to quilt. I really enjoy doing it and have many quilts that I’d like to make! But I also have kids at home and a job and a husband and a house that needs updating and upkeep. So the quilts have to wait.

Often when I dream of heaven I dream of unlimited quilting time. I think that God would find the making of beautiful things to be an appropriate form of worship, don’t you? Until then, I’ll toil away here, just very, very slowly!

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