Ali Wilkinson

Hanging Out with a Gypsy Wife (part 2)

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Welcome to part 2 of my Gypsy Wife project report. Last time I talked about making the blocks and the tips I learned while doing so. Today I am going to cover off the assembly of the quilt.

As mentioned last time my most invaluable tool in the whole process was the spreadsheet which listed all the blocks in the quilt. I used that spreadsheet for keeping track of which blocks I had done and which remained to be completed, and also for ensuring colour balance. About halfway through the making of the blocks I changed method and sorted the spreadsheet by section. I then used the section list on the spreadsheet to compare with the section diagram in the pattern book to work out which size filler blocks I needed to make for that section. This was especially important for the square in square and courthouse steps blocks which came in different size versions. I used knowledge of the size of named blocks and strips to work out the sizes for these filler blocks, and I marked these sizes on the section diagrams. Here is an example:

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I have included a full set of photos of those marked up sections at the end of this post in case they are useful for anyone. Just a small disclaimer – although I am sure that I amended any errors and mistakes, using these charts is at your own risk!

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Bit by bit I completed each section and pinned the blocks on my design wall. On the photo above you can see the photocopy of the quilt I had pinned to the design wall where I was highlighting the blocks I had completed – I always do this with quilts and find it gives me a good sense of progress even though I have the actual blocks on the wall right next to it! Note that I didn’t add ribbons at this stage – all ribbon strip adding was done during the sewing assembly.

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And so the time had come to sew it all together. Of course, at this point in a regular quilt you are pretty much at the home straight and running for the line. But not with Gypsy Wife! Oh, no! Because there are soon very many blocks and all those ribbons and bits of ribbons, you are only now reaching the halfway line!

One of the key features of this quilt are the ribbons which run vertically and are only broken by the blocks they pass so they run from top to bottom. This effectively trains your eye to view the quilt as less fragmented and scrappy and they provide cohesion and a framework for the design. I quickly realised that the easiest way to tackle this aspect would be to work on multiple sections at a time and to work left to right or right to left. I chose to start at the left as there were two long and vertically thin sections adjacent to each other which sat above a single section on the lower part of the quilt. This lower section also had the advantage of having many long ribbon strips and not so many blocks in the way.

I used the colour photo on the inside cover of the booklet to refer to when I had any doubts as this photo allowed me to check if the same fabric actually did flow top to bottom where I thought it did. I marked this photo across the bottom with the alphabet – one letter for each ribbon. I then marked the same letters on the section layout diagrams, starting from the left.

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The ribbons are cut at 1.5″ wide, except for a few which are cut narrower and are shaded grey on the diagrams. It is important to note that ribbon K from my photos above is 1.5″ wide for most of its use, but does get used at 1″ at the right of the Old Maid Puzzle block. This difference in shading on the section diagram threw me at first and that was when referring to the inside cover photo was very helpful as I could follow the ribbon from bottom to top by checking the design.

I chose ribbon strips and cut the shorter sections from remaining fabric first rather than cutting into long strips. I worked in groups of ribbons of the same length and groups of ribbons which were sewn together in blocks, usually making the ribbon block then sewing it to adjacent pieced blocks. I always worked on both the upper and lower section at the same time, so that the quilt was completed from left to right.

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My sequence went:

  1. Section 9 and left of section 10
  2. Section 8 and right of section 10
  3. Sew 8 and 9 together
  4. Sew 8/9 combined section to section 10 – you now have the entire left of the quilt complete
  5. Section 5 and left of section 6
  6. Sections 3, 4 and middle of section 6
  7. Left of sections 1 and 2, right of section 4 and right of section 6
  8. Right of sections 1 and 2 and section 7
  9. Sew sections 1 and 2 together
  10. Sew 1/2 combined section to section 3
  11. Using unfinished seam sew section 4 to section 6, sewing from right side of the sections
  12. Sew 4/6 combined section to section 7
  13. Sew 1/2/3 combined section to 4/6/7 combined section
  14. Sew section 5 onto the mega section made in step 13
  15. Complete unfitted seam to join section 6 to sections 4/5 – you now have the entire right of the quilt complete
  16. Join right and left sides to complete!

Yep, I know, it was a mind bender and I think all up cutting and sewing the ribbons and assembling sections then the quilt took a good 3-4 solid days of work.

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Once I had my quilt top complete I went for a massage! Kidding, but I really could have done with one! Instead I chose my backing and used this last end of bolt remnant of an old Kaffe Fassett design, which fit the bill entirely as it is so gypsy like in colours and those bold roses remind me of canal narrowboats from my childhood in England. Unfortunately it really was the last I could find anywhere and so I had to surround it with a lilac shot cotton, but once I got it made up I realised how perfect it was to be framed like that.

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I had it edge to edge long-arm quilted by my friend Suzet Pont with a baroque rose type design, which I feel fits the bill perfectly.

These photos don’t show it with binding. I used an Art Gallery oval elements print in a grape colour that I had used throughout the quilt top. (I love oval elements, which I nickname the “fried egg print”, and have used it in many of my quilts.) I am so satisfied with this quilt. It was such a lot of work piecing and aiming for precision points throughout. The pattern did a great job of providing the basics but I have to admit I was disappointed that an awful lot was left to the quilter to either know already or work out for themselves. I would hate to have tried this as a beginner as I think it could be quite off-putting. However, I feel like not only have I triumphed in actually completing the quilt, but I have learned from the experience and found a dozen new quilt blogs and resources through my online search for assistance and inspiration in the early months. In fact, my aim of posting this post and the previous one is to assist anyone else who is embarking on (or in the middle and frustrated!) making their own Gypsy Wife.

If you have made the quilt, or make it in the future, I would love to hear from you and see links to your renditions of this design. And if you read these posts and find them useful (or more confusing!) I would very much like to hear your comments and feedback. Good luck, gypsy wives!


PS. Did anyone spot my own mistake? I was following the diagram for the star block without checking the corrected diagram in the errata and I ended up not with a star but with something a bit different. I quite liked it so decided to leave it. Can you spot it?

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19 thoughts on “Hanging Out with a Gypsy Wife (part 2)

  1. got the book, want to make it, just sort of intimidating to start. Your blog posts are building my confidence, I think I can do it! Thanks for giving me direction for organizing this big project!

    • Hi. I would be thrilled if you did get started on this quilt! I hope the two posts help you in the process. I understand that feeling of how intimidating it is. Just take the first step! And come back and tell me ho you get on.

  2. Saw the pattern online and fell in love! We have about 500 bolts of Kaffe Fassett in the shop and knew this would be the perfect venue to use them! I am slowly working my way through the blocks. Have the main blocks completed and working on the filler blocks. Thought I was on the downhill slide until I got to the one where you have to make 23 of them in one size. Realized I have to get the finished blocks up on the design wall to help with color choices. Plan to use this as our next project in our Kaffe Fassett Club, so have to get moving! Will keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks for all your research. It should be very helpful.

    • Hi Nancy. Wow, it sound like you are really hitting a deadline! Try making foundation paper patterns for those repetitive blocks – it really speeds things up! I look forward to hearing more about your club project!

  3. Wow – your gypsy wife quilt is everything a quilt with that name should be. Jewel toned, bohemian, bright and clashy. Love it – probably one of the best I have seen.

  4. Wow! And thank you!
    I am part of the Flickr group and couldn’t have done it without them; and you.
    Just completed all my blocks and now trying to figure out the layout and strips. the pattern says to cut 2″, so wasn’t certain if the 1.5 was cut or finished.
    Like many others I fell in love with pattern at first sight, however wish I would have had all these great suggestions ahead of time as I’m a new quilter ( longtime dressmaker).
    I did mine in full gypsy and used scraps with just a few purchased fat quartes to pull something’s together. It was fun using fabric from friend/family.

    Thank you, again for this finish up help!
    My Flickr page:

  5. Triumph, indeed. This is absolutely stunning. I read through both of your posts and can imagine how useful these posts would be to someone working through this pattern. But I immediately came to the conclusion that this quilt is beyond me at this time ! I remember innocently asking about this book at a quilt shop in a distant city about a year and a half ago and they hadn’t heard of it yet. Thank – god !, I probably would have bought it.

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  7. I just love your blog and really wish I had found it before I started putting the whole quilt together. I love Jen Kingwell’s designs but her instructions both before and even after all the errata, are terrible. I am an experienced quilter and really struggled with putting the whole quilt together after making the blocks. You don’t say here but did you have problems with the ribbon lengths? I found once I had the top together, I had to cut a good 2 inches off across the bottom. I found the lack of measurements of the blocks in the assembly diagrams frustrating too. It just made the whole thing a lot more difficult than it needed to be. I think if I hadn’t been finishing this at a quilting retreat, I would have thrown the whole thing in the corner and it still wouldn’t be done! I don’t have a website but my quilt top is on Instagram here:

  8. Hi there…..I am a beginner quilter and chose this as my first big project — CRAZY, I know, but I really fell in love with it on a website that was doing a BOM with it. So we are getting the fabric in sections each month. I had to sit down and read the whole pattern book about five times, and read stuff online about the quilt, including your blog before I even attempted the first block. Needless to say, I had to become quite the detective in figuring out this puzzle, especially when it wasn’t clear which block was what finished size in each section, since she doesn’t really specify and we weren’t supplied with much info other than just the fabric pieces for section 1. I finished all the blocks in section 1, and am now figuring out the strip pieces. I’m wondering if I should even try putting the strips together and completing the entire section 1, or just lay everything aside until nearer the end when I can make sure I have all the strips running consistently throughout the quilt? Thanks again for all your insight, and the link to the invaluable spreadsheet!

  9. Great job in thoroughly detailing a very challenging quilt! I’ve only just gotten the pattern and, after reading through the woefully inadequate directions, am so glad I found your generous assistance before starting. Thanks so much. Love your version! Just beautiful.

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  11. Hello from Canada. When I saw this quilt, Gypsy Wife, I fell in love! But reading all the trouble experienced quilters were having with the pattern I thought “maybe it’s beyond me.” But then I found your blog! All those helpful hints and the charts and photos make me think “I can do this!” Thank you. I have a question about fabric. I don’t have a large stash, especially WOF pieces, do you think that if I bought two jelly rolls (around 30, 2 1/2 inch x WOF per roll) and a fat quarter collection ( 10, 15, or 20?) that it would work for this quilt? Love Kaffe Kassett and am thinking of the collective for the jelly rolls. I will pull what I can from my stash of course…but I’ve only been quilting for a couple of years and mostly quilts for the grand kids, (this quilt would be ALL MINE!) not too many of the fabrics that I used for the kids would be considered gypsy-like, LOL. So I need to go shopping (oh darn, LOL)

  12. Hi Ali! Thank you so much for posting all of this information! I’m hosting a sew-along for this quilt shortly and it’s been invaluable in helping me get things together. I’m going to be pimping your posts as much as I can because they’ve been so helpful for me! THANK YOU!

  13. Ali,
    Thanks for sharing. I have the booklet/pattern. What your post has helped me grasp is how I will make it cohesive (less chaotic) but still embrace the ‘gypsy’ of it. It’s those ribbons that will bring that together. I appreciate your detailed explanation of how this went together for you.

  14. I LOVE your Gypsy Wife Quilt! The backing is just perfect, too. Your quilt is just gorgeous!!
    Thank you for listing your order for joining the sections together. For some reason,
    I couldn’t figure where to put the partial seam and what order to join sections 4-7.
    I hope to be attempting the quilt assembly this week.
    I am also thankful for past bloggers sharing their lists , diagrams, and spread sheets !

  15. I just discovered ‘Gypsy Wife’. Your blog and directions are great. I’ve been searching for the least expensive way to purchase the pattern. It looks so confusing I am wondering if anyone know of a BOM I could join.

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