The Story of the Tongan Escape Quilt

Quilt kit curated and sold by Missouri Star Quilt Company in the summer of summer of 2019.

Alright, so this is a fun one. I had just completed two quilts and I was feeling rather confident. I mean, what’s to a quilt. Cut some fabric, sew it back together. Bam – instant blanket. I mean quilt. Because as we all know, quilting a quilt is a very different thing than piecing a quilt.

So, I said to myself, I can handle it. I can do something more than just a strip quilt. So, I went looking and after binging a few tutorials from Jenny Doan I found myself on her Missouri Star website and what do y’all know – they have monthly quilt kits!

Yes! A match made in heaven. I love mail. I seriously get a little giddy going to the mailbox, which is usually then followed by disappointment because there’s usually nothing special there. But that’s another story.
Also, I love subscription kits! And I love having the work of coordinating quilt fabrics already done for me. It lets me get to the fun stuff faster.

And in looking at this quilt, it was going to be sew easy, it said. It was just going to be seven simple shipments a month and at the end of them, prest-o-change-o…QUILT TOP!

Y’all!
What did I get myself into? I did not realize how much work this quilt would be, because – remember – I had only completed very simple strip quilts before this. What did I know? But this is where I found myself, with the ingredients for the quilt coming to me steadily every month and me steadily putting them high up on the shelf where my kids couldn’t reach it and I didn’t have to see how much progress I wasn’t making.

It wasn’t until the whole shut down happened that I really just forced myself to sit down and finish this quilt. My kids were still pestering me, but gosh darnit, I was going to get this thing done. Each of the focal blocks took me at least an hour to cut out and then at least an hour or more to piece together. I don’t even know how long the background took me. My sewing space looked like the aftermath of a three year old’s birthday party.

And in finishing the quilt, I accidentally cut one of the background fabrics wrong. *sob* Luckily, it was just the final outside border, so it didn’t prevent me from finishing the rest of the top. I could have gone with a slightly smaller outside border, but I was just loving the idea of the chunky outside border.

So, I go back to the shop to order more and I died a little inside when I saw that the border fabric was not only out of stock, but discontinued! I was so frustrated with myself for having waited so long to finish this quilt that I couldn’t get same fabric.

Thankfully, we live in the age of the internet and after some digging I was able to find a similar fabric. It wasn’t easy, however. I thought it would be rather easy to find a brown batik fabric with blue accents, but they were all slightly off except for one.

So, I went ahead and ordered it before something happened to that fabric too! When it arrived I think I checked my ruler and the instructions five times before every single cut, because I didn’t want to make that same mistake again.

Quilt top before I add the final outside border.

Quilt top with the final border on, that I had to substitute in.

From there everything was fairly straight-forward. I got some complimentary fabric for the backing in bright blue batik along with the batting. I normally use Warm & Natural for my batting, but this time I wanted to test drive Quilter’s Dream Wool. I may talk about that more in another post.

Using a quilting ruler to create some straight lines to help frame the focal blocks on the quilt.

This quilt was testing the limits of my little machine. It was approximately 70 – 90 inches which is just on the edge of what I think my machine can accommodate in the throat space. If you’re familiar with long-arm quilters, they will quilt – often – from the top down. On a sit down domestic machine you want to quilt from the center out, to avoid the fabric puckering and bunching and causing frustrating folds/ loose spots in the quilt.

Before I began to quilt, I printed off a black-and-white picture of the quilt to doodle on so I could get a rough idea of what I wanted to do and where. I decide to frame out the focal blocks and do something unique as I came to each one, and in the general open areas and the outer border I did swirls, the side triangles got some feather work, and the corner triangles were treated with some sweet wishbones.

A quilt and her binding. A love story.

I took a long weekend to power through and get it finished, and I have to say, binding is one of my favorite parts of the quilting process. The actual task of creating and attaching the binding is extremely boring and mundane, BUT seeing those raw edges disappear under a clean and tight binding that perfectly sets off the quilt makes my little organization heart soar. I might just be a little picky about tidiness. Just a little . LOL. It also just heightens the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at another project completed and done.

So, despite all the ups and downs that were wrapped up in this quilt, I am so glad I did it. I think quilt kits are going to be one of my new favorite things. I choose this quilt simply because I absolutely loved the blend of the rich blues and browns and the use of the batik fabrics, which also take me back to my childhood in Asia.

It’s also rather ironic that batiks are some of my favorite fabrics now, because I distinctly remember telling my mom, when I was between 10 and 12, that I did not care for batiks. But again – that’s another story.

However, by simply choosing this quilt based on that final product, I did not look too closely at what was required to piece it together and therefore it really became a learning experience for me. Maybe not always a fun learning experience in the moment, but one I can look back on with pride to see that tried out some new piecing techniques and grew in my skills and knowledge as a sewer and quilter.

I wasn’t always interested in sewing, but now I take great pride in my skill and often smile when I think about how it connects me with people in my family who have passed.

The completed Tongan Escape Quilt.

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