Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Way

As I sit here inventing what to do next to finish this quilt, it strikes me that I have taken on many projects over the course of my lifetime having no credentials or even track record. I can’t say they have all turned out perfectly, but I have managed to invent a way to get them from start to finish.

When my son was in Anna’s 2/3 class at Burgundy Farm, Anna asked me to lead a workshop on basket-making when the kids went to the mountain campus at Cooper’s Cove. I pleaded that I had never made a basket before and didn’t know where to begin. Anna just smiled and said, “I’ll bet you can figure it out.” And so I did. I bought a book on basket-making and bought reeds in multiple sizes and dye in my favorite colors. After spending hours dying the reeds in hot water in my back yard, we packed them all up and headed off to the Cove.

The children and I experimented and quickly learned how to make baskets. Since no one ever did anything the same way at Burgundy, their baskets were all unique. The real fun was after the children were (supposedly) asleep when the adults gathered around the fire in the lodge and we all made baskets together. This is the sort of activity that lets you discover a lot about people. You learn who the real perfectionists are and who the creative ones are, all the while gossiping about things that had happened at the Cove in years past. The baskets in the picture are what remain from that and subsequent trips to Cooper’s Cove, where I was forever known as the basket expert, for whatever reason.

Some other teacher asked me to work with the children to make a quilt for the annual auction, because handmade class projects often set off bidding wars. So each child decorated a square using fabric markers and I managed to put them together into a quilt appropriate for a child’s bed. Of course I had never before made a quilt, but I naively thought, how hard can it be? It sold for something like $400 as people with money went up against each other.

A more sophisticated version a few years later included embroidered squares from the 6th graders. The mothers got together with me to crudely quilt the resulting product of their children’s efforts. Once again, not perfection, but once again an even higher price for a memory of Burgundy.

Two more quilts – one for the GDS kindergarten class as an auction contribution, the other for a colleague of mine as she became terminally ill with melanoma.

But not until I started the current quilt did I have the least idea about how it was supposed to be done. I followed the directions explicitly until I got to the end of the second Xeroxed page. Then I started ad-libbing as my friend still had the book describing how to make the quilt. So I bought batting and a backing fabric, put them together with the quilt face, and then put on the binding, not once but twice as I didn’t like the first attempt.

It was when I went back to G Street to buy quilting thread that I realized what a mess I was in. Martha, the senior quilting guru on the staff there, had nothing but wonderful things to say about the way I had pieced the quilt face. But then she told me the binding is supposed to go on last after you have already done the hand quilting, so the quilt face would be taut and smooth. She advised me to take it all apart and start over with the batting and backing, leaving a margin of both around the exterior.

But when I got home, I realized that what she had recommended would not work because of the design of my quilt, which had the equivalent of a picture-frame border, which would not allow fabric to be moved outward.

So at that point, I decided how I would finish it off, attempting to hide all manifestations of a sagging quilt face. I put basting threads through at 4-inch intervals in both directions.

Then I did a decorative wavy stitch on the 3-inch blue border (the picture frame), following the design my friend had sketched out for me at Teaism the other day.

I am now in the process of quilting in all the “ditches”, as Martha had called them – that is, the intersections of the various pieces on the quilt face. I am also stitching around the big designs, like the peacocks and flowers. This had turned them into proud peacocks, as my birds now have inflated chests.

I have since gotten the book back, but have been reluctant to open it to find out what I am supposed to be doing. My way will just have to suffice.

It’s a long process, not one I will do in a day or two. But some day soon, my peacock quilt will be done and ready to hang on our bedroom wall. I guess I will have to invent a way to hang it, maybe using a dowel to keep it taut on top? But that’s for another day.


Blogger Ruth D~ said...

I share your creative approach to problem solving, and often find expediency-- moving on with the quilt, rather than starting all over-- often surprises you with the outcome. Maybe someday in another century people will admire the style quilt you crreated, and will emulate your technique.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Colette Amelia said...

rules who needs stinking rules?

Bravo! creativity and problem solving and not being scared to try!

10:48 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I'm not surprised you like to wing it. That's exactly how you cook, too.

You know me. I would have waited for the book before continuing to work on the quilt. Probably would have become uninterested and quit halfway through.

Your quilt is beautiful (I saw it). Bravo!

8:42 AM  

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