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A Perfectly Penguin-y Table Runner

Our middle daughter, Melissa, loves to decorate her apartment for holidays and she loves penguins. A few weeks ago she requested a Christmas table runner with penguins to put on her table and I was very hopeful that I could make that happen. I had purchased a 1/2 yard of penguin fabric during the Panama Quilt Guild’s bus trip this past summer and was excited to have a reason to use it.

Once I determined that she wanted a table runner (a long rectangular quilt) and not a table topper (a square quilt), I went in search of a pattern. My go-to is always my collection of magazines and I found the perfect one in the April 2016 edition of American Patchwork & Quilting. With a name like Garden Fresh, you can imagine that it included a lot of flowery prints in muted colors such as turquoise, green, pink, and white. I switched up the colors to match those in the penguin fabric — blue, green, red, and white. Fortunately, I had all but 3/8 yard of a red/white print already in my stash, including fabric for the backing. I began by trying to substitute the blues for the turquoise and the reds for the pinks. When I decided to use a green dot in place of the pink dot, then that plan went right out the window. I then had to make sure that adjoining fabrics worked well together. By putting sticky notes marking the original colors on my substituted fabrics, I was able to keep the printed pattern and my choices straight for the most part.

With the fabric choices made, I set about cutting the fabric. When I began sewing I realized that I had cut the borders of the center blocks 1 5/8” instead of 2 5/8”. Naturally, I did not notice that it was wrong until after I had already sewn two of the borders onto two of the squares. Time to grab the seam ripper! Luckily I had plenty of fabric.

Next I used the Angler 2 to sew small blocks onto the corners of the larger blocks without having to mark the diagonal. That tool saves me so much time! If you haven’t tried it, I would highly recommend it! I was also able to chain-stitch those pieces — another time- and thread-saver.

In the center of this quilt there are two different blocks. I followed the colors on the pattern to stitch the side triangles to these blocks and the first block looked great. I realized, however, that the colors for the second block did not work at all. Too much blue!! So I reached for the seam ripper once again as I had to backwards stitch eight side triangles and re-stitch them to the other block.

Once the entire quilt was put together, there was just something that I did not like about it. I ultimately determined that the navy blue star fabric in two of the center blocks just did not look right and there was no penguin fabric in the center of the quilt.

So I replaced the star fabric with the penguin fabric and the top finally looked complete. I have to admit that I thought long and hard about picking up that seam ripper again, but was sure glad that I took the time to make it right.

The final step was to figure out how to quilt the runner. I had some initial ideas, but after referring to Amanda Murphy’s “Free-Motion Quilting Idea Book” I came up with a new direction. I even changed a few things as I was doing the quilting. My first decision centered on what not to quilt. I had already determined that I would not quilt the 1/2” border and then decided to leave the green dot triangles empty, too, because the white thread would have overpowered the green thread. I could have quilted those triangles with green thread, but did not want to have to change thread that much. I quilted hearts in the white blocks and center blocks. I would have liked to quilt a heart in each corner of the center blocks, but decided instead to quilt an all-over heart design because I do not have a marking pencil that works well on white fabric. I was hoping to stitch the entire outside part of the center without breaking thread, but the continuous curve in the triangle blocks prevented me from doing that. Overall, I was really pleased with my design choices. Check out this week’s Facebook post for more details on the quilting designs.

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