When Life Gives You Lemons You Make a Lemonade Picnic Quilt & Insulated Cooler Tote

Sometimes things don’t go exactly as we planned…

I’ve had this lemon themed jelly roll in my stash for several years. I had planned to make a cheerful summer picnic quilt with it, but somehow I just never found the right pattern for it. Over time I came across fat quarters that coordinated in color and tone, and put them aside to add to the future quilt.

Fast forward: My self proclaimed mission for 2024 is to quilt my way through as much of my fabric stash as possible. I’m allowing myself to buy fabrics to help me use something up, but no new ‘just because it’s pretty’ fabric. With Garage Sale happening, I decided now was the time to use the lemon jelly roll! I decided to go with the Cool Waters pattern, which simply has you make strip sets alternating light & dark fabric. Otherwise it’s pure chaos, ahem, spontaneous. Something that isn’t always my strong suit, but that I want to try embracing.

Since I had 10 Fat Quarters (about 2.5 yds fabric), plus all the jelly roll, I wondered if I could get two whole quilt tops out of the fabric, but refused to do the quilt math. I just went about slicing and dicing, then partnering fabrics as randomly as possible to try to embrace the spontaneity. One of my jelly roll fabrics was a stripe that read as both light and dark, so I put it aside to use as my binding.

I soon realized, that since I was using FQ’s, I wasn’t going to get 5 blocks cut per strip set, as the pattern indicated, and would at best get 4, with some scrap. Oh well. One happy picnic quilt for the Garage Sale! Onward!

I ended up with enough block components to make 18 full blocks (15.25"), and lots of 2.5" strip bits. The pattern called for a layout of 3 x 4 blocks, but since I had extra, I made it 4 x 4. The quilt top came out to 61" square. Now that I had the chaotic, vibrant top done, I went looking for backing. I found a dark blue option on Joann’s website, and thought it would be a great way to hide grass stains. I ordered it for curbside pickup, and forged ahead!

Or, I tried to. I could not get the backing fabric to lay flat. I ironed it and laid it out on my dining room floor as usual, but it just wouldn’t lay flat! I tried cutting off the selvage edges, but no dice. This fabric was wonky deep down in its soul. I would simply have to do my best with it.

Next, I decided to try using my walking foot for some straight line quilting, rather than my usual meandering stipple pattern. Simple, effective, spontaneous!

When I do free motion quilting I usually get 2 or 3 small tucks in the backing somewhere, but on large projects I tend to get a few more tucks with my walking foot. No big deal, just a few tiny tucks. But friends, this was a lot more tucks than I expected. This quilt is lovely from the front, but gnarly on the back. If this were a wedding gift, I’d be ripping out stitches and buying new backing fabric. But I was supposed to be forging new paths on my road to embracing spontaneity. I was supposed to be using things up and making the best of what I had on hand! What’s a quilter to do?

Obviously consult craft-besties and deliberate over my options. After a much needed pep talk, we had a consensus: go forward. It’s a picnic quilt, not a world peace treaty. If there are imperfections on the back, so what?

Now I had a finished quilt, and a pile of fun scraps. I decided to make an insulated cooler bag to go with them. For one side I used most of the spare quilt block, and on the other side, a scrappy patchwork of 2.5" squares.

I used most of the rest of my binding as handles. Inside are two pockets, one of 2.5" squares (8" x 6"), and the other used more of the chopped up quilt block.

The bag was mostly improvised, and contains a layer of regular cotton batting as well as a layer of insul-brite to keep things cold. I used the Open Wide zippered pouch technique for the zipper on top. It measures 15" tall, 10" wide, and 5" deep.

To use up the last of the quilt backing, I made a set of 6 napkins, each 10" square.

After that, I still had a piece of scrappy 2.5" square patchwork left, so I turned that into a bottle coozie, to keep your bottle of wine, lemonade or mineral water cold on your picnic. It’s adjustable to fit a wide variety of bottles, and measures 6.5" x 16.25".

To be honest, I’m thrilled with the cooler bag which has nary a stitch out of place, and felt it more than made up for my frustration with the quilt backing. Instead of looking at the project as a quilt with a bonus cooler, I decided to look at it as a fantastic quilted cooler bag, with a bonus okay-quilt.

What I learned on this project is something that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time:
Things don’t always come out as we planned. But when life gives you lemons, sometimes you make imperfect Lemonade quilts, and enjoy the picnic anyway.

But since it is imperfect, I had trouble coming up with a price for it in the Garage Sale. Therefore, I’m letting you all decide what it’s worth! It’s been listed as a 3-day auction, so go forth and bid if you wish!


Ooooh, someone’s going to LOVE winning this! A picnic quilt is going to be imperfect after it’s first day on the job, most likely, so this one is perfect for the job!


The entire project is fabulous! I love that you have embraced imperfections and spontaneity! Not sure I would use a quilt if it weren’t a bit wonky in some way…why bother making something handmade if it doesn’t have a kink or two?

The bottle cozy is interesting to me…never saw one like that before–adjustable!


I love everything about all of it!


Everything looks so great! :yellow_heart: :blue_heart:


Such a fun & sunny project! :yellow_heart: :blue_heart: :yellow_heart: :blue_heart:


Who are you and what have you done with Jennie?!

Haha…kidding and quilting “lemons” aside, this is a wonderful set of projects. I know the quilt is not up to your standards but I think I said something like “that looks like my quilting” when you shared the imperfections. :laughing: But, really, it’s still a million times more amazing than anything I could quilt. When quilting gives you lemons, you still turn it into something wonderful. Truly magical, my friend. And perfect for a picnic. :blue_heart:


What’s that quilting saying? “If you can’t see it from the back of a galloping horse it’s probably fine.”
This all looks fantastic, love the bag & all those thoughtful accessories. The quilt is such a star tho, really lovely, cheerful & fun.


Everything looks amazing. It’s such a bright and fun package, and you really used every scrap of that fabric. Way to think creatively. It’s AMAZING!


Love this set! The fabrics are so cheery, and I love the randomness of it.


I love it!
You did an amazing job. The wrinkles on the back wouldn’t bother me. It is beautiful!
And so are the accessories.


The quilt is so bright and cheerful! It’s a lovely set.


Sew bright and beautiful that when used outside, the sun will hide behind the clouds because your quilt has outdone it.


I love you imperfectly perfect picnic quilt and all the extras. The fabrics are so pretty! And while it sounds like quite the odyssey, the end result is well worth the effort. Yay for spontaneity and stash busting!


I’m so very obsessed with this set! I see no imperfections whatsoever. It’s stunning!

Such cheerful hues! What a beautiful set!

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Wow; your “imperfect” quilt is absolutely perfect to me! It’s gorgeous, and I love the diamond shapes with the rectangular ones inside. The colours are gorgeous, too. And the bag and everything else! Such a lovely package and you must be feeling so great using up all that stash!

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Summertime lemo sde. It’s a delicious quilt and package.


I love it so much and the winner will adore it