Finish: Modified Bento Box 70

Back yonder in my earlier years (read: almost 2 years ago), I was but a lowly grad student, trying to slog my way through my dissertation. My bestie and I spent hours procrastinating by visiting nearby (and not-so-nearby) quilt shops and collecting fabrics for “the quilt we will make when our dissertations are finally done.”


I collected fabrics in blues, greys, and greens, because I wanted to make a Quilt To Keep, and I knew that’d go with the colors in our bedroom.


At some point I laid them all out and realized I’d collected over 96 different fabrics for this “dissertation quilt” and the quilt didn’t even have a pattern picked out. Oops!


So I sent Eli to my flickr favorites, and told him to pick a few that he liked, so I could figure out what to make. I thought he was going to cry when he’d spent probably 30 minutes picking some favorites and I told him that was only page 1 of my favorites… So I let him stop there. He had two strong favorites, the modified bento box and a drunkard’s pathΒ design.

Me: Wow, I’m really impressed by your choices, these are very modern designs!
Eli: Yah, I thought those had enough going on that when the cats threw up on it, the stain wouldn’t really show.
Me: …

Pragmatic, that one.


I wasn’t comfortable with curves at the time, so I decided on the modified bento box by Film In The Fridge, and began cutting. And cutting. And cutting.

And then I put all the pieces into baggies and they sat for a good year or so.


Eli and I began making jokes about how the cobbler’s children have no shoes, and how we were never going to have a quilt of our own. And at some point I started feeling a bit guilty about it, and I started working on it again. But I’d fallen way out of love with the fabrics, so it was quite the slog.


But I dutifully started bringing the blocks to sew days and quilt conferences, and working on it in small bursts. At Sewing Summit in September, I put on 3 sides of the last border, and managed to finish the squares at our guild’s next sew day. At this point I realized I might be able to finish it by Christmas.


Once the squares were done, I rather liked the design and was tempted to stop there instead of cutting them apart. However, I had seen a blog post where someone else had done that and I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to see what it looked like cut apart, and also I knew I couldn’t stop here because the squares weren’t nearly chaotic enough to hide possible cat spit-up stains. And y’know, this was really for Eli. So cut it up I did!


During our guild retreat, I managed to get the quilt top done, and I was so happy I’d gone ahead and cut up the blocks! Overall I was quite pleased with the quilt, although very, very, very sick of it at this point.

During Sewing Summit, I had a very eye-opening discussion with Kelsey @ Everyday Fray. I told her I was dreading quilting this thing because a) it was huge and b) I was SO sick of it. She suggested I send it out to be quilted. That way it’d go away for a month, come back almost done and I’d have fresh eyes to appreciate it more.


Um wow. Why hadn’t I thought of that?! So that’s exactly what I did, and I continue to be very pleased with that decision! I sent it to Bonnie @ Fabric Hart along with my dad’s Urban Lattice quilt. She quilted it with an all-over wave design, except for one strip which she did in right-angled lines and bordered leaves. It’s lovely!

And Kelsey was right. I liked the quilt so much better now that it was back!


At this point, Eli had no idea I’d been working on the quilt because I’d always worked on it at events outside the house. As far as he knew, the quilt was still existing as strips of fabric in baggies. At one point when we were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, my mom asked about the quilt with Eli in earshot. (Hi Mom! It’s okay, I love you!) I freaked out that he had overheard and now he knew I was making him a quilt.

Soon after that, he mentioned that maybe in the future, I should only work on 1 quilt during Christmas time. And he stopped responding to my jokes about how we didn’t have a quilt. Crap, he knew.


Well, I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of seeing the quilt box under the tree, so instead I put it in a flat rate mailing box, made a shipping label from Santa (including a graphic of a North Pole postmark) and put it on our front porch the night before we opened gifts. And then freaked out all night that someone was going to steal it off our porch.


The next morning, we opened gifts and we got to the end and I thought “Take that! No quilt! Now you won’t be expecting it!”

He went out to check mail and found the box, and somehow I managed to keep a straight face while he opened it. When he saw the quilt, he looked at me confused, and I explained what it was and why I’d chosen that method of delivery. We were both cracking up by the end, and he was super happy about the quilt!


The best part? He had no clue. I’d done all that extra work and freaking out for nothing. The reason he wasn’t joking anymore about having no quilts is he was starting to actually get sad about how we didn’t have one! Thank goodness I managed to nip that in the bud!


Eli: Why are you taking MY picture? You’re not going to post that, right?
Me: Right.
Eli: I don’t believe you.
Me: Smart man.

So there you have it. I am so thrilled every time I see the quilt on our bed! And good news, no cat spit-up yet.


Dimensions: 76 x 88″ (I wish I’d made it a bit bigger so it was a true queen, but I cut the pieces before I knew better)
Pattern: Modified Bento Box by Film In The Fridge
Fabrics: Everything and the kitchen sink
Back: Joel Dewberry – Picnic Plaid in Pond + Kona Aqua strip
Quilting: Bonnie Degase @ Fabric Hart
Binding: Interweave Chambray in Cobalt
Time to make quilt: 2 years and 1 dissertation


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70 thoughts on “Finish: Modified Bento Box

  • prsd4tim2

    Beautiful! I really love the colors! It is very hard to work on the ones we fall out of love with, isn’t it? I managed to do a few last year, and hope to finish my WIP pile this year so I can really start fresh in 2015. Maybe. If not, the only thing to do is slog through it. And send it out to be quilted. I hadn’t thought of that particular reason before (so far, I’ve only sent out the king size too-large-to-quilt-on-my-home-machine ones) but I love it. Genius!

    And I’m so glad your guy was excited (and surprised) by the finish. Way to go!

    • anne Post author

      In a way, it was very similar to writing a dissertation. lol By the time you hit dissertation writing, you’ve fallen way out of love with your project, and it’s just slogging through it and being stubborn about it that gets you through it. Well, I say “you” but I mean “me” and I don’t know that it happens to everyone, but it definitely happened to me!
      Seriously, that reasoning behind sending out a quilt was mind blowing to me. I have a feeling I’ll be doing it quite a bit more in the future. πŸ˜‰

  • Pat (Sparky's Mom)

    Said it before and say it again. Beautiful quilt. I so enjoyed reading the background on this. Ninety six different fabrics!!! Woo Woo! I had to resort to a Bento Box Swap in order to get a variety of fabrics and even then I had a hard time getting enough different ones for the measly nine blocks I made. Now I know what I have to do if I want a bigger quilt – I have to collect fabrics for a year or two.
    Love the Santa/North Pole delivery story, too. That is just too funny.

    • anne Post author

      I think more ended up in the quilt by the time I was done, but it’s something like that. πŸ™‚ To do one that is more colorful, I’d definitely want to do a swap! It gives you a lot of nice variety that’s hard to get on your own.
      Also you in NO way need that many fabrics. In fact, I had enough fabric for probably 5 of these quilts, it was ridiculous. I was just buying fabrics as a way to pull myself through dissertation writing and to give myself something to look forward to. And I WAY overbought. lol

  • capitolaquilter

    Scrappy enough to hide cat spit up – a quilt after my own heart. Love the back story and little details that I didn’t know. How much would you have hated me if I’d dropped by and taken it off your porch as a joke?

    • anne Post author

      Hahahaha gotta love Eli’s reasonings! I think I might have died if that box had disappeared. Holy crap. :O I had to sneak it out before Eli got home from work the night before, and I barely slept that night. hahahaha I’m such a huge dork!

    • anne Post author

      It definitely has the chaos, in spades! πŸ˜€ There’s also a lot of fabrics I threw in that are very us. Dogs and cats and video games. πŸ™‚

  • sarahschraw

    I love it. A good lesson in “stick with it.” It’s such and interesting and unfortunate phenomenon that looking at something too long changes the way we see it or stops us from seeing it at all.

    • anne Post author

      Seriously, right? Like I knew I still loved the dragon quilt, but even by the end of that one, I really wasn’t seeing it anymore. It’s definitely interesting how that happens.

      I did think it was a fitting metaphor for the entire dissertation process though. I started super excited about my dissertation direction, and then by the end it was just through sheer stubbornness that I finished the actual document. lol

    • anne Post author

      Looking back I can’t imagine NOT cutting up the blocks, but at the time it was REALLY hard to make those cuts. Of course part of that was because it’d been a year and a half in the making up to that point, and here I was going to slice them up! lol
      They’re really fun quilts when they’re done, I love the chaos, movement and secondary shapes you get from the pattern!

    • anne Post author

      Thank you, Shauna! It wasn’t easy to make the first cut, but once I got going, it was fine. πŸ˜€ And fortunately it went back together very quickly! And I agree, I like it much better cut up than before!

  • Diane

    I love this quilt! You took a ‘that’s nice’ kind of quilt design and made it super fabulous!! I did a bento box quilt for my friend’s daughter a couple of years ago, and to tell the truth, I didn’t love it, but I would have it if I would have though to cut all the squares up like you did!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Diane! It’s emotionally a little difficult to cut up something you’ve spent so much time putting together, but I really do love the effect! I can’t take credit, though, I go the idea straight from FITF’s tutorial. πŸ™‚ It changes the feel of the quilt so much, it’s really surprising!

    • anne Post author

      You can do itttt! Do you have a pattern in mind? I find once I’ve chosen a pattern, that gives me enough momentum to get started, and that’s usually what I need the most help with. πŸ™‚

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! πŸ˜€ Talk about making something far more complicated than it needs to be and giving yourself a minor ulcer in the meantime, though. lol Eli spent a good 5 minutes just laughing at how ridiculous the whole thing was (in a good way). πŸ™‚ He was very appreciative of all the work that went into it as well, which is always great!

  • Jenny

    Great story, great quilt. I am glad you chopped the blocks. They are fabulous like that, even aside from the whole vomit issue.

    And I’m glad you have a Quilt to Keep. I don’t, but I think that should be one of my goals for the year.

    • anne Post author

      I am also so pleased I went ahead and chopped the blocks! I like the final outcome so much better. πŸ™‚
      You really should do a Quilt to Keep!! There’s something so satisfying, warming, and exciting about seeing this very useful and pretty thing and thinking “I totally made that!” I think I might actually try to make another Quilt to Keep this year. πŸ˜€

  • Erin

    Awwwww! You two are just the cutest. I love that it was actually delivered by Santa. And poor Eli, missing his quilt. πŸ™ and your mum almost giving away the surprise!!! Can you tell I’m a little in love with your story. πŸ™‚ I am so glad Eli likes it and that there’s no cat sick on there yet.
    Ha ha ha, thinking you only had one page of favourites… I’m going to laugh about that all day!
    E xx

    • anne Post author

      Hahahaha it was a tumultuous time on that quilt, that’s for sure! And not being able to share it with Eli actually was really hard! Not that he is a huge quilt nerd like me, but I enjoy being able to chat with him and discuss that stuff. πŸ™‚
      Oh man the flickr thing. It was before the flickr UI revamp, so there were fewer pictures per page. But he very carefully looked through them, and sent me links to the ones he liked. And then I said “That’s page 1, there’s more if you click the page numbers at the bottom.” and I swear I heard him whimper. lol Poor guy.

    • anne Post author

      I agree, I like the secondary patterns and dynamic feel of the cut up version! I mean, I do like the squares version as well, but I am very happy I cut up the pieces. πŸ™‚
      We don’t have a fireplace, so Santa has to resort to the US Post Office for our house, apparently. πŸ˜‰

    • anne Post author

      Thanks, Rachel! I definitely don’t regret cutting the blocks even though in the beginning I was afraid I would! πŸ™‚

    • anne Post author

      Haha thanks Carmit! I love how every quilt has a story that goes with it. πŸ™‚ It makes them much more special! And I totally agree, thank god for blogs!

    • anne Post author

      Oh wow, that’s high praise, thank you!! It’s been quite the tumultuous relationship with this quilt, but I’m glad I got to keep it in the end. πŸ™‚

    • anne Post author

      Hahah well thank goodness I got exactly that many fabrics, then! πŸ˜€ It was technically my “dissertation quilt” so having to work through the pain seems incredibly fitting somehow.. lol

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Leanne! Some of the fabrics I have since used up, so it’s strangely comforting to see them in the quilt and know I still have them. πŸ™‚ Maybe this will help me use up some of those fabrics I’ve been saving for “something special” but never used..

    • anne Post author

      Happy New Year Liz! And thank you! πŸ˜€ I’ve decided I could get used to this making Quilts to Keep thing. πŸ˜‰

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! πŸ˜€ Cutting up the blocks isn’t something I can take credit for, though. πŸ™‚ It’s part of the tutorial I was following. But after spending 1.5 years making blocks, I had a pretty strong psychological barrier to cutting them up!

  • Pippa

    I LOVE how this turned out! So glad you had the courage to cut it up πŸ™‚

    I’m in the process of hand quilting my queen/king quilt atm… I think that’s going to take 2 years in itself. You made the right choice to get the quilting done!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Pippa. πŸ˜€ I’m glad I convinced myself to cut up the blocks too!

      I am so impressed you’re hand-quilting such a big quilt! It’s going to be wonderful when you’re finished, though, and definitely an heirloom! I have a lap sized quilt that I was supposed to hand quilt and I can’t get into it. I think part of the problem is that I lack a good frame or hoop for it.

    • anne Post author

      I tried taking my normal on-the-fence photo and it was just way too big for that. I told Eli we needed a bigger fence, and he said that maybe a step ladder would be enough. Pfft.

  • jayne Willis

    You have the best stories about your quilts! I think that perhaps thats what makes them even more special! This is one of my favorites. I will sound like a broken record, but one day I want to make one too!

    • anne Post author

      Awww, thank you! <3 I've definitely had a tumultuous relationship with this quilt, but I'm glad I got to keep it in the end. πŸ˜€ I'd love to see you make one! But I say that every time. lol I just love seeing everyone's different interpretations of quilt designs. Each one is so personal and unique!

  • Jeifner

    Such a great story. And I love seeing some of those fabrics, you can’t find them anymore and they’re beautiful. But I do understand the close proximity fatigue πŸ™‚

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! πŸ˜€ A lot of my favorite fabrics went into the quilt (at least if they were in the right color way) and I really love re-finding them again. There’s also a few fun nods to our family, like the space invaders fabric (we’re both gamers), and prints that incorporate dogs and cats (we have a dog and 2 cats). There are others as well, and I’d forgotten a lot of them. πŸ™‚ Sending it out for quilting definitely helped with the proximity fatigue, I’m so glad I did that!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Rachel! It was the first time that my partner and I had a Christmas celebration on our own, instead of combining it with the family’s, so it made for some great first memories. πŸ™‚ Probably now I’ve started some tradition and I’m going to have to put gifts from santa on the porch every year. πŸ˜‰ Since we don’t have a place to hang the stockings, I suppose that would work okay!

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! πŸ˜€ It was a lot of fun to finally gift the quilt after working on it so long! And of course it was nice to gift the quilt but still get to use it every night. πŸ˜‰ Now he’s probably going to expect a box from santa EVERY Christmas. πŸ˜‰

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! It was quite the epic journey with that quilt, and I’m really happy with the final outcome. πŸ™‚ I’m ready for a fast finish now, though! lol

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! It makes me happy every time I see the quilt, and part of it is the fun experience of the gifting that goes along with it. πŸ™‚

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! And yes, I am really happy that the quilt came together in the end, and the delivery went as smoothly as it did. I was trying to figure out how I was going to go check the mail (normally my job) and keep a straight face about a box from Santa. So when he went to check instead, it just worked out perfectly! πŸ˜€

  • Amanda

    Amazing!! I love how this turned out and that it made it in time for Christmas. Good on you for cutting it up. It looks so much better and I would have been much too chicken after seeing those gorgeous blocks at sewing summit. Wonderful finish!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks Amanda! Knowing that it needed to double as a cat yuck hider made it easier to cut up. πŸ˜‰ I was nowhere near as productive as you two were at sewing summit and beyond, but I’m relieved I made the deadline! πŸ˜€

  • snips

    This looks amazing Anne! I’m glad you went through with cutting them up and sewing them back together, the finished quilt is fantastic!! It must be so nice to finally have a quilt for your own bed, i’ve yet to finish one for ours… someday!

    • anne Post author

      Thanks, snips. πŸ™‚ I’m really glad I went through with the cutting as well. At the time it seemed kinda insane, but in retrospect it seems insane not to. Funny how that works!
      It’s definitely worth it to take the time to make one for your bed! It makes me so happy every time I see it. πŸ™‚ Do it! You’re worth it!

    • anne Post author

      Thank you! Hopefully I can use the lesson I learned here and apply it to my other WIPs that I’ve fallen out of love with. πŸ™‚

  • Ompompali

    I had to laugh heartily when I read your post! I think your quilt has turned out beautifully and besides you have helped me make a decision. I’m going to make a modified Bento Box quilt now too!

    • anne Post author

      Yay!! I’m so glad you’re going to make one! It is such a great pattern once it’s all done. And a GREAT scrap buster! I’d love to see photos of yours as you go along if you don’t mind sharing. πŸ™‚