Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Quilt Wrangling

Quilt Wrangling

Quilt assembly feels like a competitive sport.

On-point quilts are harder to put together than straight-row quilts. For one thing, they need setting triangles to make the edges of the quilt straight. Triangles have bias edges with a tendency to stretch, requiring a lot of starch and careful handling. And because the rows are put together diagonally, not horizontally, the middle rows of an on-point quilt consist of some really long seams.

This is not my first rodeo. The first Ritzville quilt that Margaret and I did was set on point. I gathered up all of my white and cream fabrics yesterday morning with the intention of getting the setting triangles cut out. I am freelancing a bit, having enlarged the blocks to 12” square from the original 8” squares called for in the pattern, so I also needed to figure out the sizes of the setting triangles. Fortunately, a Google search pulled up this very helpful website where all the math had already been done. Even better, the sizes given were for squares large enough to be cut into fourths, not halves. As a result, the setting triangles would have their hypotenuses on the grain of the fabric, not the bias. The bias edges would be the side edges that get sewn to the blocks. (I could draw you a picture, but the website has some fine illustrations.)

Even though the bias edges would be stabilized once they were sewn to the blocks, I starched the daylights out of the triangles with some Best Press. The rows start out easily. The first block gets a corner triangle and two side triangles. The second row is made up of three blocks sewn together with a setting triangle on each side. That row gets sewn to the first row. The third row consists of five blocks with a setting triangle on each side, and so on and so on.

I am not a pinner, generally—my cutting and piecing are so accurate that I don’t need to—but when the rows start to get longer than a couple of feet, I start pinning just to make sure things line up the way they are supposed to. I got up to the seven-block row and stopped:


I will do the other half of the quilt up to its seven-block row, and then do the middle three rows of nine blocks, eleven blocks, and nine blocks. Once I have those three sections, I’ll sew them together. Assembling the quilt that way is still going to require some muscle, but not as much as trying to do it all at once. Vittorio—my beloved black Necchi BF in the photo, above—is doing a fine job. And he is a 70-year-old machine!

[Yes, it’s kind of messy in there.]

It’s hard to see the setting triangles in the picture because my design wall is a white flannel sheet. I am using white and slightly off-white fabrics for the setting triangles. I didn’t want them to be all white, but I didn’t want some of them to be as dark as some of the background fabrics, either, because I was worried those would stick out like a sore thumb. I think I have a good combination. The setting triangles provide a nice frame for the overall design. (I will note that I cut my setting triangles about an eighth of an inch larger than specified because I want to make sure that when the binding is sewn on, I don’t slice the tips of those blue triangles off.)

It’s lovely to see this coming together. I am glad I didn’t do all white for the backgrounds. I think the combination of cream and white background squares does give the design some depth.

The goal was to have this top done by the end of January and I’m awfully close. Whew.


I got a job notification yesterday for a surgical tech opening at the hospital in Kalispell. I’m not qualified to be a surgical tech—I would have to go back to school—but I have a friend who used to be a transcriptionist and she transitioned into being a surgical tech and loves it. I am qualified to be a scribe in a doctor’s office, but I don’t want to get a job in town. The husband says it gives him a lot of peace of mind to have me here during the day keeping an eye on things. I’m not giving up on the search for some freelance work I can do from home, but I am learning to ignore that voice in my head that keeps yelling at me that I am a functioning adult who should have a paying job. The husband says I should think of it in terms of being paid by the construction company to be the resident bookkeeper and security system. It’s amazing to me, though, how loud those voices can be if we let them. Fifty years ago, no one would have thought that a woman who didn’t have a full-time job outside the home was odd. The irony is that people in the homesteading groups I belong to are actively striving to create for themselves the very lifestyle that the husband and I have, and I am over here feeling guilty about it. How screwed up is that?

Some of the bloggers I read—and people I follow in my Twitter feed—have been having conversations recently about how “retirement” is a concept that developed in the middle of the twentieth century and is quickly becoming unattainable. People didn’t used to “retire”—they worked their entire lives. (The husband is eminently suited to that kind of lifestyle. I can’t imagine him not working.) For many people, it’s a financial issue. They simply can’t afford to retire in the traditional sense. And Millennials aren’t interested in buying houses. It’s kind of mind-boggling, sometimes, when I stop to think about how different things are now than even when the husband and I were first starting out. Our kids are facing much different challenges than we did.

[A listing for a property up the road popped up in my Facebook feed the other day. It’s a modular home on 2.5 acres with a garage/outbuilding. The asking price is $325,000. I don’t know of many jobs in the valley that provide an income sufficient to pay for a house in that price range. What good does it have you to have a house that no one else can afford to buy?]

I have a lot of thoughts swirling around inside my head these days. We do live in interesting times. I think they are only going to continue to get more interesting.

Part of Something Larger

Part of Something Larger

A Sampling of HSTs

A Sampling of HSTs