Project: Jimmy Carter Quilt

This summer, El Guapo surprised me with the weirdest, most amazing surprise trip.

from withsummerlove

He grabbed and filled our water bottles (we’re hydrated people), bundled me up into the car, and wouldn’t tell me anything about our destination.

from joshrank

Well, he told me a lot of things, but none of them were true. At one point I was convinced that we were driving an hour to go to a different Kroger.

from willblogforfood

Hey, I’m gullible.

Once we were dead in the middle of the nowhere, also known as The Watermelon Capital of the World, we turned left and pulled into a parking lot that was adjacent to nothing.

from mycrookedpath

By now, I was truly perplexed, because El Guapo isn’t exactly what you would call an “outdoor guy.”

from askmen

Hiking through strange, bug-ridden, briar-filled country probably appeals to him about as much as counting beats per minute appeals to me.

from allposters

Confused, I tagged along behind him as we walked down a road, again seemingly going to nowhere.

We turned a corner, and THERE WAS A BIG BLUE TRAIN.

from thewritingspider

I started screaming quietly (no need to make a scene) and excitedly started peppering him with questions. Where are we going? Wait, we’re getting on the train, right? Wheee! It’s like we’re in an Agatha Christie novel! Did you say where we’re going? Why not?! Are there snacks? How long will we be gone? Where are we going? Should I have brought clean underwear? Where are we going?

I can be a pest.

from ayay515

We got on the train, and it looked like a set of Murder, She Wrote if the series was filmed in Branson, Missouri.

from gotriangle

But I didn’t care, because we were on a train!

Here’s the synopsis:

  • The train, called the Sam Shortline, is actually a rolling State Park (as if it couldn’t get any better…).
  • It goes approximately 2 miles an hour (we had lots of time for conversation and for close examination of the leaves on the trees as we chugged by).
  • They do, in fact, serve snacks (the salted pretzels go fast–you better be aggressive).
  • The train runs from Cordele, GA (Watermelon Capital) to Plains, GA (home of Jimmy Carter).

So after a 2 hour train ride (47 miles), we puttered into the station in Plains, GA.

from plainscitydata

There are two vital pieces of information about this trip that you need to know:

1. This was the day of the Georgia Barbecue Association’s Plains Pig Pickin’ barbecue cook-off.

from twitter

2. This was the hottest day of the year, and we had just headed deeper south.

from aloroba

Both were totally coincidental.

Because it was frightfully, devastatingly, breathtakingly hot, we chose to mosey around inside the stores located on Main Street while we waited for Jimmy and Rosalynn to show up and award BBQ prizes.

The stores were air conditioned.

from thesuburbanjungle

We bought some peanut ice cream, a couple of glass bottles, a blue mug, a picture of Billy Carter, and this beautiful, unfinished lap quilt.

I was drawn to this quilt, for some reason. Since it was 100+ degrees and everything may or may not have been a heat mirage, I can’t exactly explain the draw. But I bought it. And when I got home, I fixed the broken parts and finished it.

the quilt

As I was staring at it one day, I started thinking about the pattern. I’d never seen that pattern before, but golly, it looked kind of easy–if tedious–and I started to wonder how it would look in different colors…


So I dug up some fabrics and plunged in.

from emmabagladee

Like many (okay, all) quilting projects, this one took an eensy bit longer than I thought it would. But now I’m done with it, and in honor of that sweltering, sweat-dripping, ice-cream slurping, train-riding, wonderful day, its called The Jimmy Carter Quilt.

from usgovinfo

If you, too, want to make yourself a Presidential Quilt, it’s really not that hard.

First, begin by figuring out your main colors. I chose brown and blue. Then gather every fabric you’ve got with those colors in it. Doesn’t matter if they actually go together–that’s the beauty of quilting.

from domesticblister

If you’re new to quilting, there’s really only one rule: you must become a hoarder.

from cnn

So pull out all those tiny scraps and old dresses and little rectangles of fabric you’ve been stashing, and start cutting.

I began by cutting out two sets of identically sized triangles. You do this by cutting out a lot of squares, and cutting them long ways.

I did 3″ squares, which gave me triangles that look like this:

3″ on the equal sides

3” on the long side

These were my big center triangles. I needed twice as many small triangles so that each big one had two little ones. So I cut out twice as many this size:

small ones

I had a lot of triangles.

lots of triangles

Note: you can make your triangles any size. Quilting should be personal, not formulaic. Treat any quilt pattern like a starting point and then go from there.

Now you go to your sewing machine, and start sewing the little triangles on to the big ones. Settle in, because this’ll take a while.

Your end result is this:

end goal

I like to conserve thread by sewing lots of little ones onto big ones in a row, without cutting the thread. Then I snip the connecting threads and do the same for the other side.

string of triangles

It makes for nice garland.


Okay, once you’ve sewn the little triangles onto both sides of the big ones, you should have lots of these:

lots and lots

Now, you want to figure out how long you need each strip of rectangles to be, and sew that many together.

The secret to more precise quilting (I am not a precise quilter, so anything helps) is to iron each block after each seam.

You should end up with something that looks like this:

strips of rectangles

Once you’ve sewn as many strips of rectangles as you need (quilting is all about 3rd grade math: lots of addition and subtraction and a little bit of multiplication), begin laying out all the pieces of the quilt.

This includes the backing, the batting, the strips of fabric that go between your strips of quilt blocks, and, of course, your strips of quilt blocks.

all laid out, sans strips

Then begin the assembly!

solid strips sewn to quilted strips

Remember–iron each seam before progressing to the next one.

And don’t forget the top and bottom strips!

top strip

Here’s my finished top:

finished top

Then I laid all three layers (backing, batting, top) together again and pinned them, then sewed the edges.

sewn edges

Keep the corners nice and neat, if possible.


Iron your edges and then you can either (1) quilt it by hand (2) machine quilt it or (3) hand tack it.

I typically choose the hand-tacking method because of time and the fact that I don’t treat quilting like rocket science–I need to wiggle room for mistakes, and hand tacking provides the most leeway.

Beginning the tack.

beginning the tack

just tacked

Once it’s tacked, you’re done!


It’s not huge, but it’s a nice size for laps.

suck it, martha.

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Categories: Projects


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3 Comments on “Project: Jimmy Carter Quilt”

  1. Wonder Woman
    October 29, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    You make it seem so easy 🙂

  2. Earth Momma
    January 24, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    I missed this post! I LOVE my JC quilt. I love love love it!

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