The Crown Royal Bag Quilt – aka The Beast

On November 18, 2016 something happened that would put me on the path to questioning my existence in Craft World.  Something that would test the limits of my skills, patience, sanity, and even the stability of my marriage.  It all started with a simple text.

Sister: “Hey sissy?” (even at 47 and 41 she still calls me that)

Me: “What up?”

Sis:  “Got a question?  If someone was to provide you with a whole bunch of Crown Royal bags, would you be willing to make a blanket for one of my friends for Christmas?”

Me: “That depends.  How big and does she want it quilted?”

Sister: “Queen size and yes.”

In hind-sight, one of many I would have over the next 2 months, I should have said no.  If I knew then what I know now I would have said “HELL NO!”  But I’d always wanted to make a quilt and the notion of making one of Crown Royal bags seemed like a really cool way to make one.  Therefore, I lost my senses and said…

Me:  “Sure…but this late in the year I won’t guarantee by Christmas and it’s not going to be cheap.”

I did some research and came up with a $500 price tag.  I was pretty sure I was never going to hear back from my sister when I told her that number.  But much to my surprise…

Sister:  “She says okay!  She’ll bring you the bags this weekend and you can talk about it.”

Cue an “in hind-sight” moment.  If I’d have known better, that $500 would have become more like $750 – $1,000.  Especially after meeting with the customer and learning that she wanted it double-sided, meaning she wanted it to look the same on the front as on the back.

So there’s one small quilt-making hurdle I must leap.  One miniscule, tiny hurdle.  I’ve never made a queen size quilt before.  HA!  In fact the largest quilted piece I have ever made was some placemats ohh so many years ago!!!!  Double HA!  My forte, as is evident by the name of this blog is of course crochet.  I can tell you what sc, ch, dc, dtr, cluster, etc. mean in my sleep, but sashing, binding, basting….ummm..what?  Sure I know how to sew fairly well.  I’ve made my fair share of Halloween costumes, clothing, etc.  I would say my sewing skills are at the intermediate level.  So why would I think I could make a queen size quilt?   Because you see…I’m a victim of my own delusion.  The delusion that I am an allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom.   I know the general quilt making process…this should be easy. Right?  WRONG!!!

In the next week after this text convo with my sister I watch as many how to quilt videos as possible and I begin to hear this voice in the very back of my brain that says “you may have bitten off more than you can chew” but the allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom silences it.  I should have listened to that voice.

Fast forward to December 1.  The customer drops off two garbage bags full of Crown Royal bags and we decide on a completion date of January 15.  Cue IHS moment again.  I should have given myself more like 2 months…maybe even 3.

Here is where my tale of woe and misery truly begins.

I’d done some research so I knew that I would need to wash the bags before I started cutting them open.  I spend 2 days turning them inside out, inspecting them for holes, cuts, etc.  No sense prepping something unusable right?  Final count – 293 bags of various size and color.  (I wonder what this person’s liver looks like).  I always thought it was just purple bags but little did I know they match the bag to the flavor. Purple for the traditional Crown Royal; black for the higher proof version..i.e. more bang for your buck;  green for Crown Royal Apple; cream for Crown Royal Vanilla; brown for Crown Royal Maple.  The majority of the bags in the customer’s stash were black and purple so I decide not to use the green, brown or cream colored bags at all as there just wasn’t enough of them to really do much with.

I ended up with a final bag count of 257 bags after subtracting the other colors.  I spent 2 days washing them because  my daughter and I are playing tug of war with the washing machine, which is a usual event at our house.  It continues to amaze me how a 22 year old girl, her fiance’ and their 2 year old son can accumulate 30 loads of dirty clothes in a week while my husband and I make maybe 3?

Thanks to Youtube and the brave and courageous people who have ventured down this highway of hell before me I knew what I needed to do next…go to the craft store and get all the cutting supplies so I could pretend to be an expert quilter!

  • One 12×18 self-healing cutting mat (IHS – should have gotten a bigger one)
  • One clear plastic normal size ruler
  • One clear plastic 8.5 inch square ruler
  • One rotary cutter and extra blades

I commence to cutting open the bags.  It was a relatively simple process and aided in feeding my delusion that I could do this without much heartache.  It took me one full week to cut open all of the bags.

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Now that I had all of the bags cut I moved on to designing.  Thank you to http://www.mywebquilter.com, which is a website where you can design up to 3 quilts for free, for helping in the design.    The website has pre-designed squares and you choose the square you want from their selection, which is plentiful, how big you want your finished piece to be, colors, etc.  It even gives you an approximate estimate on how much fabric you’ll need. For a novice I thought it was a good website and was very easy to use.  After just a few hours I came up with a design the customer would like and that I felt would be simple enough for thequeenofthecraftroom to do. IHS moment…Should have gone with something simpler.  My design incorporates 2 additional colors of gold and cream, as I discover that I don’t have enough purple and black fabric to only do it only in those colors and it would be too difficult to match up the exact shade of purple and black that the bags are so I make a run to the fabric store for the additional colored fabric.

One week and 2 days in to this project I begin measuring and cutting the pieces and parts into usable pieces and parts.  The logo’d pieces get cut down to 4 inch squares with the logo centered.  The back of the bag also gets cut down into 4 inch squares and the sides of the bags get trimmed down to 2 inches strips.  It takes me 3 full weeks to do all of this cutting, along with a few ounces of blood.  IHS – should have gotten a few stitches!

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I work a full time job and Christmas fell right in the middle of this time period, which I think is why it took me that long but I’m finally ready to start sewing.  But before I do that there’s one very important thing I need to decide…how am I going to quilt this on my little bitty sewing machine.  I could attempt to shove a queen size quilt through the arm of the sewing machine.  It’s doable.  I’ve seen people do it on Youtube and if they can do it surely the allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom can do it.  Or I could quilt it as I go, which basically means you quilt each square and then attach the quilted squares to each other or to sashing, which frankly would have been the way I would have done it had my sashing not been 2.5 inches wide. From what I was seeing in the videos, quilt as you go, can leave rather bulky seams as you’re also sewing in the batting. I didn’t want that.  After much deliberating, and much watching of many different Youtube videos, I decided to assemble the whole thing and then quilt it

January 1, 2017 and out of the closet comes my sewing machine, which hasn’t seen the light of day since Halloween 2015.  It takes me a couple of minutes to familiarize myself with it’s intricacies again, but it’s kind of like riding a bike, it comes right back after a few minutes. I’ve got 15 days to piece this together, quilt it and bind it.  I’m all pumped up!  Let’s do this!!!!

Day 1: All purple logo’d pieces get sewn to their black borders.

Day 2: All black logo’d pieces get sewn to their purple borders.

Day 3:  All purple logo’d with black border pieces get sewn to their cream border.

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Day 4: All black logo’d with purple border pieces get sewn to their cream border.  Moving right along now!!!! I’ll have this done well before the 15th! Delusion is still going strong!

Day 5:  Disaster strikes!  The sashing.  For you (us) inexperienced quilters, sashing, also known as lattice strips, are used to separate quilt blocks. Here’s how it works. A quilter sews a strip of fabric to each side of a quilt block. This frames each block and helps it to stand on its own. Simple enough right?  Well it is simple if you’ve cut your strips the right size!  I realized when I went to sew on my sashing that I totally miscut my pieces.  They were too narrow and if I’d have sewn them on, my finished project would not be as big as needed.  Off I go back to the fabric store for a repurchase of the sashing fabric and another day of measuring and cutting.

Day 6 and 7: Here is the moment when I realize that I just don’t have enough room on my sewing table and I really need some kind of extension because as the quilt gets larger it is going to pull down and distort if I can’t keep it level.  I research purchasing an extension table.  The ones I find for my brand sewing machine run between $50 and $200 depending on the size.  That’s more than I want to spend.  I research DIY extension tables and end up making my own with Styrofoam boards purchased from Lowes, duct tape and a vinyl shower curtain.  It cost a total of $26 and took about 20 minutes to make.

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All of the vertical sashing has been sewn on to the blocks.

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Day 8: All of the horizontal sashing has been sewn onto one side of the quilt (remember it’s two sided) and the border which is the same gold color as the sashing has been added.  I’m still under the delusion that I can get this finished by the 15th.

Day 9: my design calls for a 3.5 inch border around the entire quilt using the remaining logo’d squares and matching color fabric squares.  I have enough logo’d squares, but when it comes time to add the matching color pieces I’m short by roughly 1/4 of the total length needed.  You know all of those expletives you heard ringing loudly through the air at approximately 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon?  That was me.   There was nothing I could do that would give me any more fabric.  I wasted practically a whole entire day. My delusion begins to unravel.  I look at what I’ve done so far.  One side is about 90% complete.  I still need to add on some kind of border and assemble the reverse side, quilt it and bind it.  I have 5 days left.  I start to question whether I can get this done in time.

Day 10: I don’t get much done other than sewing all of the border pieces together.

Day 11: I get nothing done as I work all day at my normal job and then attend a Bridal Show with my daughter.  Long nights and early mornings, while working a full time job has finally caught up with me. I am physically exhausted and barely make it through the Bridal Show.

Day 12: The delusion is completely shattered and I make the call to the client and inform her that I’m not going to meet the January 15th deadline.  I tell her that I need at least 5 more days.  Much to her credit she is perfectly fine with the delay and isn’t in any rush to get it back.   While she isn’t upset, I am.  Meeting a deadline is one of my most important issues when it comes to my work.  I take them very seriously.  Failing to meet one has never happened to me before.  I am extremely disappointed in myself and the fact that I am also physically exhausted has me on the verge of tears at any moment.  I’ve been staying up to midnight and getting up at 5 a.m., while working my normal full time job, trying to get this beast finished.  I am on what really feels like my last leg both emotionally and physically, but I trudge on because I am the allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom or at least I pretend to be.  I get the redesigned border sewn onto the quilt.

Day 13:  All of the horizontal sashing has been sewn onto the reverse side of the quilt. I am forcing myself through this.

Day 14: My husband is mad at me because I backed out on plans to go RV shopping with him.  We sold our old RV, affectionately nicknames “Baby Huey”, in October and hubby has been chomping at the bit to buy “Baby Huey II” and it has to be a specific one which means a 40 minute drive out to the RV dealer, an hour, maybe more talking to the salesperson, a 40 minute drive back.  Oh wait…I forgot about the requisite stop at Waffle House for breakfast that hubby insists on doing anytime we take even the slightest of road trips.  I just can’t afford to lose roughly 3-4 hours of sewing time and tell him that I can’t go.  He pouts for the next two days and barely speaks to me but hey…all borders get sewn on.  Now I enlist the help of my daughter in laying it out to assemble the layers and set up to do the basting.  For us inexperienced quilters (notice how I’m now including myself in this group) basting when referring to quilting is the method of temporarily attaching your layers together.  A quilt is basically made in a sandwich type method.  You have your backing, laid pattern side down, your batting aka padding, and your quilt top pattern side up, layered on top of each other.  There are several different basting methods to hold the layers together.  You can use a basting spray which is basically a washable glue that is lightly sprayed on each layer.  You can use safety pins.  You can hand sew very loose stitches.  What you are trying to do is keep the layers from shifting too much during the quilting process.  Due to the size of this beast I chose the safety pin method.  It takes about 3 hours to get the entire quilt basted.

Day 15:  Quilting.  Lord help me.  I really should have done the quilt as you go method.  Trying to move The Beast through the arm of my sewing machine is a feat that is nearly impossible.  I fight with it, I twist it, I roll it up into a log.  I try every conceivable method I can think of to make it even slightly easier to quilt as a whole.  Now I know why people pay other people with huge free standing quilting machines to do the actual quilting.

Side note:  I am using invisible monofilament thread, something I will never do again!  It absolutely sucks.  I test it for about an hour on a test sandwich and finally think I get the tension down right.  I shove the beast into my machine and start quilting.  Everything is running smoothly for about a quarter of the quilt and then I run out of thread on that spool.  I change the spool and suddenly my machine starts acting up.  The thread is jamming up and I end up breaking 3 needles within 1/2 hour.  By this time it’s 11 p.m.  I have been quilting steadily since about 10 a.m.  I am exhausted and call it a night.  I will get a good’s night sleep and tackle it tomorrow.

Day 16-19:  I have decided after inspecting the quilt and the bundle of mess on the reverse side from all of the jams that I just don’t like this invisible monofilament thread.  It’s prickly in places, which I know is due to my tension problems, but it’s also a bit reflective and I’m not liking that so I decide that I want to spice things up and really have some fun.  I decide to rip it all out.  If anyone ever asks you to help them rip quilting stitches out of a quilt, don’t just tell them no.  Tell them absolutely no way in hell no.  Do you know how long it takes to rip out 1/4 of a queen size quilt’s quilting stitches?  A HELL OF A LONG TIME!  3 days to be exact.  It’s an extremely tedious job and you end up covered in pieces of thread, which in turn get all over your project.  *sigh*  Have I mentioned yet how much I regret agreeing to make this quilt?

Day 20:  I start quilting again, this time with a dark purple thread.  Tension is perfect and I am liking the contrast of the purple thread on the lighter colored strips.  Here’s what a quilted section looks like with the invisible thread and what it looks like with the purple thread.  You can see clearly how reflective the invisible thread is.

quilt1
Invisible Monofilament Thread
quilt2
Purple thread

It takes me 2 days to do all of the quilting.

Day 22:  I’m 7 days past my deadline and it’s time to bind it.  Binding is the act of closing up the edges with another border.  It’s a relatively simple process and you can find hundreds of how to videos on Youtube.  But of course we can’t finish without one last mishap.  There’s a reason why quilts typically have one solid side and one patterned side.  When you quilt, the fabric shifts.  Things get out of line slightly.  Having one solid patterned back makes that shift invisible.  When you have a reversible quilt, i.e. the same pattern as on the front, you have to be extremely diligent about making sure your back side stays lined up with your front side otherwise when you’re done quilting you might find that you have 3/4 of an inch extra on one side versus the other side.  What are you going to do then?  Are you going to toss your allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom crown into a burning pit of fire and call it quits? Of course not.  You’re going to cut off the extra and roll with it because your brain is so frazzled that you just can’t think of anything else to do.  Yeah one side doesn’t match the other exactly..but at this point…who really cares.

Cue another disaster.  My machine won’t load the bobbin with thread.  The thingamagiggy the bobbin sits on is spinning but the bobbin itself is not spinning and no thread is going on it. I am dumbfounded.  I am THIS close to being done and I completely lose it and scream in frustration.  I am practically in tears.  Then my wonderful husband tells me I am still his  allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom and he tries to help me fix the problem, even though when I asked him to help me bast he asked if we were having turkey for dinner.  He means well but has no clue about the inner workings of my sewing machine.  I know he wants his wife, not to mention his den back but there’s really nothing he can do so I thank him for trying.  I spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure out what’s wrong with my sewing machine only to realize that it’s not my machine that is the problem, it’s that specific bobbin.  For whatever reason my machine doesn’t like it.  I toss it and put a new one on and my machine is back.  We’re rolling again.

It takes me the rest of the day to prep and do the binding. And then there it is…the moment.  That all important moment of glory when you look down at what you have created with your own two hands; that moment when the craft gods cheer and deliver unto you a brand spanking new allpowerqueenofthecraftroom crown.  All is right in the Craft World again.

the-beast

I did it!  I made a queen size Crown Royal bag quilt!  It took 52 days from start to finish.  I came and I conquered, but not without casualties.  Along the way I sacrificed a few ounces of blood and the side of the pointer finger on my left hand; I gained about 1000 gray hairs; shed some tears; I didn’t buy a new RV; and I received a reality check of my allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom delusion.   I learned the valuable lesson that I should stick with my crochet.  It’s what I’m best at.

To those brave and courageous crafters who have completed a Crown Royal Quilt and lived to tell the tale…you have absolutely earned your allpowerfulqueen/kingofthecraftroom crown.  I bow to your greatness.

To anyone currently working on a Crown Royal bag quilt…I have no advice other than to say…Bless you.

To anyone considering doing a Crown Royal bag quilt, for the sake of your sanity, think long and hard about it and be prepared…it’s not going to be an easy project!  In other words…don’t do it unless your allpowerfulqueenofthecraftroom delusion is much more than a delusion.

I’m now going to sleep for a week, recuperate and prepare to start my daughter’s wedding dress.  Why?  Because I am the allpowerqueenofthecraftroom. Don’t you see my crown?