I’m discovering that if there’s a way to intertwine the fibers of life with my love of quilting, I’m going to do it! Between the Milestone Quilt I made for my third child in 2015-16, the Summer Adventure Quilt I made documenting our summer adventures during the summer of 2017, and the tiny adventure blocks I made in 2019 (I may not have shared them here yet!), it’s clear I have a thing for documenting my days in the making of a quilt.
With my new love of running, and the start of a new year and decade upon us, I decided to pull inspiration from the temperature quilts people make to track the high and low temperatures through the course of a year and make a color-coded quilt tracking the miles I run or hike in 2020. Sharing this idea on Instagram, a good number of fellow running quilters expressed interest in joining the fun and making their own, so I thought I’d outline my thought process and plan here in as much detail as possible.
If you’re a runner, walker, hiker, cyclist, or any other active adventurer, I invite you to join me in the making of a quilt documenting your miles. I’m hoping that the thought of “earning” a quilt block will help get me out there running even short runs more consistently, as well as doing more cross-training between run days. Running helps me not only feel physically strong, but also helps me feel more mentally strong, fighting back that mean voice in my head to help assure me that I can do hard things on even the toughest days.
The Basic Plan – Color Coded Miles
The foundational idea behind my plan is to coordinate colors of fabric with a certain number of miles run or hiked. Years ago I cut up my Kona color card and attached magnets for easy use, and this was a perfect opportunity to pull them out and work on a color flow I liked. I am hoping to train for my first full marathon this year, so I knew I needed colors for 1-2 mile runs all the way through 20+ miles. I chose colors I liked the most for the lower miles, since I know that many of my runs will be between 2-6 miles long and I want a quilt that’s heavy in my favorite colors! I then built a color flow from there, working my way all the way up to 21+ miles. Here are the colors I chose in case you want to use the same:
Number of Miles – Kona Color by Robert Kaufman Fabrics
If you know you run more miles, you can make the allotted mile span longer to compensate, OR you could choose more colors to keep it going. For example, instead of each color representing 1 mile span, you could have each color represent 0-5 miles, 5-10 miles, 10-15 miles, etc. This would make the same color flow fit no matter how far you run, ride, or hike in a given activity.
I have decided that each color will coordinate with any run or hike’s whole number. So a 3.5 mile run will be in the 3 color, a 12.9 mile run will be in the 12 color, a 13.0 mile run will be in the 13 color, etc.
I will designate races with a Kona Citrus yellow top corner using the stitch and flip method of adding the corner. (I’m starting my year with a 5k race so I have that block ready to go for January 1st, as seen above).
If I get a PR in a race, I will add a smaller Kona Cyan corner on top of the yellow.
Each time I reach 50 miles, I will sew a 3″x3″ runner block from my Run Run Run pattern into the bottom of the block to visually show larger milestones. At the end of the year, I will easily be able to see where I hit 50 miles, 100 miles, 150 miles, 200 miles, etc.
I plan to count the miles we hike as well, since I want to encourage hiking miles as well as running miles, so for every hike, I will show that the miles were earned hiking by piecing a 3″x3″ Kona Kiwi tree into the bottom of the block. I will likely adapt a tree block from my Summer Adventure Quilt pattern for this.
Cross Training & Rest Days
In any training plan, cross training and rest days are essential, too, so I plan to mark those as well using Kona White and Kona Titanium fabrics. At first I was thinking that Titanium would represent cross-training days, but I think I like the aesthetic of the white better, so I may switch and make white the cross-training days to add motivation for me to do something–planks, yoga, push-ups, Russian twists, really any type of cross-training exercises–on days I don’t run. I’m going to see how the first week of the year goes before deciding for certain.
I will cut each run/hike mile block at 3.5″ x 9″, which means they will finish at 3″x8.5″. Initially, I was planning on cutting them to finish at 3″x9″ but by cutting to 9″, that will allow me to use smaller cuts of fabric (1/4 yard cuts and FQs) efficiently.
I will cut Citrus squares for races at 3.5″x3.5″.
Cross training and rest day strips will be cut at 1.5″x9″ since I want to mark those days, but emphasize the miles.
Tracking Miles on Paper
I will be tracking all of my miles on a Project Planner page in my Quilter’s Planner, and once a row reaches 60″ I will begin another row. I most likely will plan to sew a week’s worth of blocks (really, just color fabric strips) together at a time, and will cut a bunch of strips of each color in the beginning so that most of the time, all I’ll need to do is pull a strip and add it to my design wall. I like to set myself up for success and this is no different!
Buying fabric for a project like this is tough, since I have no real way of knowing how much I’ll need. For me, I know that the bulk of my runs will likely be in the 2-5 or 6 mile range, so I bought the most yardage of those colors (assuming 40″ as the WOF, 44 run strips can be cut from a yard, 22 can be cut from a half yard, 11 can be cut from a quarter yard, etc.). For miles 8 and above, I ordered 1/4 yard cuts since I can’t imagine myself going on more than 11 eight plus mile runs in the year. I guess time will tell, and we’ll see how it all shapes up through the course of 2020! I ordered my fabric from Fabric Shack since I know they have nearly all of the Kona colors and allow 1/4 yard cuts to be ordered. The one color they didn’t have (Honeysuckle) I ordered from Fabric Bubb, which is another good option for ordering 1/4 yard cuts of alllll the Konas.
Optional – Daily Run Temperature
I toyed with the idea of tracking the daily temperature as well as my running miles, but ultimately decided against it, since I know my sewing time is not copious, and I really want to make this project a fun and encouraging thing rather than a stress or burden. If you know you have more time to sew and want to track the high and low temperatures each day, that would be another fun bit of data to track along with your miles run. I thought about using smaller squares for the bottom corners to indicate low and high temperatures, or adding skinny strips to the bottom of each run block (cut to 1.5″x3.5″) for both low and high temperatures (you’d need to add 2″ to your rest and cross training days if you opt for this route), so those are two ideas if you decide to add temperature tracking as well.
Having this all mapped out, the fabrics chosen and partially cut, and a plan to track the miles on paper as well as just in fabric makes this feel like a fun and manageable project to add onto the many others I’m sure to want to finish and begin in 2020. You can follow my progress on Instagram @nightquilter under #my2020milesquilt where I will likely share weekly updates. If you want to join in and create a quilt tracking your miles as well, please let me know in the comments and let me know how I can see your progress, since if enough people are interested, I will create a Facebook group so that we can all cheer each other on and help hold us accountable to reaching our goals.
If you have any questions about this process, or there are details I inadvertently left out, please let me know and I will update this post with answers and more details. My hope is that my thought process is clearly mapped out so that you can decide which route you’d like to go with your own version.
Here’s to a fun year of getting out into the world, facing challenges head on, and stitching those experiences into a quilt.