Modern Quilting · Quilting

My first self-designed quilt: The Riley Blake Challenge

"Follow The Riley Blake Road"  Designed, sewed & Quilted by Christine Slaughter
“Follow The Riley Blake Road”
Designed, pieced & quilted by Christine Slaughter

Last year The Modern Quilt Guild announced The Riley Blake Fabric Challenge. It took me a couple of weeks to decide if I wanted to sign up.  I had never done anything like this before, only having made quilts with other people’s patterns, or with Block-of-the-Months. Finally, I decided that it was time to stretch myself as a quilter.  A MODERN quilter.

In the Individual Group on The Modern Quilt Guild community, a question was recently asked about how we each go about our design process. This post is an explanation of my process in creating my challenge quilt.

First of all, I procrastinated on this quilt for two months.  I think that’s probably the best way to start a project, no?!  Sheesh!  In my defense, I had a crap-ton of Christmas sewing to get done before I could get started.  Although, I did have this project constantly swirling around my mind.  In January, I sat down with some graph paper and started to fill in squares.  That seems to be the only way I can visualize quilts.  Also, the squares are EVEN on all sides, and my math-challenged brain appreciates the simple math of “each square is either 1 or 2-inch squares”.  In this case, I chose one inch squares. Then, I grabbed my colored pencils and started filling in the rectangles I drew.

Old Skool. Graph Paper, Pencils & eraser.
Old Skool. Graph paper and pencils.

I liked what I came up with, with the exception of the odd ball rectangles in the top-left and bottom-right corners.  When I looked at the paper as a whole, I realized I basically created a Percent sign (%).  Not. Happening. After erasing the offending “percent” parts of the design, I decided I needed to see the pattern better… without all the lines or the erased areas.  Call it OCD if you like.  I spent the better part of an evening on Libre OfficeCalc (Ubuntu’s version of Excel) recreating what I drew on graph paper.  Then I typed out ALL the pieces that needed to be cut from each grid square.

No eraser marks!
No eraser marks!

After cutting and piecing the quilt top, I needed to design the back of the quilt.  I didn’t have enough of the aqua chevrons to keep the fabric in the same direction, so I decided to cut it into 10.5″ squares and rotate the chevrons every-other-square.  I pulled out my trusty graph paper, drew and colored in the design, and listed the pieces to be cut.  Annnndddd…. at about 75% of the way through cutting out the squares, I realized that I had cut them to FINISHED size: 10″ instead of 10.5″.  ARGH!! I grabbed the graph paper and decided to add in a 3″ white vertical stripe and 3″ white horizontal stripe to make up the difference in lost inches.  I think it broke up the all of the aqua in the back of the quilt and made a nice design element! *Whew*

Again with the graph paper & pencils.  Also, not all mistakes are bad!
Again with the graph paper & pencils. Also, not all mistakes are bad!


The completed back with the not-planned-for white stripes.  Love this "mistake"!
The completed back with the not-planned-for white stripes. Love this “mistake”!

After creating the back and basting the quilt, I needed to decide how to actually QUILT it.  I figured all that white space would be a perfect area to create a negative of the colored rectangles.  So, I grabbed the computer, went back to the Libre OfficeCalc worksheet, and started outlining rectangles.  It was a perfect way for me to see how the quilt design would look overall.

WM Riley Blake screenshot

Next came the task of actually marking the quilt.  I realized that I probably should have noted in the boxes how many inches each rectangle was.  Since each square is one inch, I just started writing the numbers in the boxes on a printout of the worksheet.  I didn’t print grid lines, so I definitely needed the extra help in noting how big to mark the rectangles pattern to be quilted.  Also, marking with a yellow chalk pencil on white fabric sucks.  Especially when it’s time to quilt.  So. Hard. To. See.  I didn’t want to use a FriXion pen, because they have a tendency to not disappear all the way. It was a struggle getting this one quilted… But it got done!

Inches and Inches... and more Inches!
Inches and Inches… and more Inches!
WM Marking quilt
Looks nice and bright here… Yeah, not really.

The quilting took me about a day and a half to do, then the binding was another day’s work.  I got the challenge submitted with about 5 days to spare… Probably a record for me.  As I was quilting it I kept thinking, “Follow The Riley Blake Road”.  I had kicked around several names for the quilt, but after hours of that phrase being repeated in my head, I knew that had to be the name.

I completely enjoyed this challenge.  And, for me, it WAS a challenge.  Big thanks to The Modern Quilt Guild and Riley Blake for the fabric and the opportunity to participate!  The top 10 finalists were posted today, and they are FABULOUS!  If you’d like to see them, you can find the post HERE.  Congratulations to the finalists… your work is awesome!


12 thoughts on “My first self-designed quilt: The Riley Blake Challenge

  1. Awesome Quilt! I love that you’ve shared your journey! I have oodles of graph paper in different sizes that will come in handy for the next challenge.
    Once you mentioned the % I started laughing, hard. So, thanks for sharing your quilt, and for a good laugh.


  2. I love it! Especially the quilting of the negative rectangles.
    Thank you for sharing your design process, I always find it interesting to see how other people work and make decisions along the way. I use the same kind of pencil to mark my quilts, I’ve got a green and pink one, I think both would be better visible on white fabric.


  3. Congratulation on designing your first quilt Christine. You did a great job with the challenge. If you are like me, before long you will only want to quilt your own designs. Now on to Michael Miller! Kay Stephenson (aka Stitching Times)


  4. I love this quilt and I agree with Andres about using a spreadsheet- totally rad. Also, you should invest in a Hera marker for marking lines. You don’t have to worry about the color not coming out because it creases the fabric and the creases are easy to see. I just used mine for the first time on my RBC quilt and I will never use a marker again.


  5. Thanks for sharing your process. This was so fun to read! I still love this design – it’s so original and clever. It will be fun to see more to come from you! Your piece back is so awesome too. Sometimes “happy accidents” are the best!


  6. Christine, I love your quilt and your process. After seeing the entries, I don’t know how they decided on the final ten. So hard to find only ten to make it to the finals.

    You inspired me. I finally got out my Numbers on my MAC and am loving it. I still love my graph paper, but this is a good tool to work with it.

    Congratulations, Christa. Your beautiful quilt made it!


  7. So glad you shared your process of designing this quilt. Our chat thread was a great place to start the conversation and this blog post provides the detail. Thank you, thank you!


  8. Lovely design and execution Christine! But I really appreciate that you share your whole process of idea, trial, design, and method along with the finished product. This has made me consider exploring some computer design tools myself. Thank you!


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