Part 2 of my quilting story…
The process of getting done with quilting has been a long one – years long. It started with some realizations and some hard choices.
First I realized that quilting wasn’t particularly good for me.
I realized that a lot of my crafting drive in years past came from loneliness and a need for purpose, but too often the purpose was found in hunting down and acquiring supplies rather than in making things. I did make things (a lot of things), but often I bought supplies for stuff I had already “finished”, not realizing that I had already got what I came for – the fun of learning something new and making do and making it work.
The thrill of hunting, finding, collecting, figuring things out, is primal. I think we are all hunters and gatherers at heart, but I have decided to hunt new prey.
The thought of being finished and using up or giving away all of my remaining supplies is what has been motivating me these last few days, weeks and months. I hate having things stashed. I want to use things well. I want to finish things. I want to use the finished product – the quilt. Boxes of potential make some people happy, but I found myself sad and frustrated when I looked at my works in progress.
Figuring out how to get done was tricky. The first step was to go through my unfinished pieces and fabric stash and shed what I didn’t love. It didn’t happen all at once because I kept looking at things and imagining what they could be “if only…” But after a while I chose to keep what I really loved and I passed on the rest. Free to move on.
The last 5 quilts:
There was one finished quilt top that I really really loved – variously nicknamed the Mary’s Triangle quilt, Brave New World, and finally Very Kate. It’s a bright, batik, off center diamond radiating out on a mottled cream background… and it begged for some really awesome quilting. But… it begged for the dreaded machine quilting which I can’t do and don’t like. Hand quilting was not a good option – too many seams to navigate past, and altogether too much work. I couldn’t figure out a design to do it justice anyway…
So I kept it in a box in the closet.
The one day I realized I could use the batting and the batik fabrics I already had and I could have a finished quilt, if only I was willing to give up perfect. So I laid it all down on the floor and stitched big cotton stitches around one edge of each diamond and called it done. Now that quilt is in the living room and we use it and the colors make me happy, and who cares if it didn’t live up to its (supposed) potential? The perfectionist in me knows I could always replace those big stitches with real quilting some day. But for now, I love it.
I realized I could do the same thing with my 1930s reproduction fabric leftovers and the rest of the batting. I had made two quilts in these fabrics – the Egg Money Quilt in a Thousand Days, and a log cabin square kind-of-crib-sized quilt. Using the leftover fabrics let me keep them (because I am a hoarder at heart and they are so pretty!) and the quilt is perfectly nice with little cotton ties, even if a fancy quilting design might have been nicer.
2009 was a good year for finishing quilts. Egg Money, Very Kate, 30s Log Cabin. I even made some small gift quilts in delicious Kaffe Fasset florals.
2010 was mostly a year for deliberating. Or something.
January 2011 became the time to get it done. The last two quilts…
I started the tshirt quilt in 2005 but I had to gather enough tshirt designs before I could finish it. And I did. As the shirts wore out I stashed them away. I try not to think of the shirts I “wasted” in the past, but to enjoy the designs I have collected and the memories they trigger. I spent a couple of days (6 months apart) laying out the designs to get a good color balance, and then all I had to do was sew it all together and add a backing.
At the last minute I changed my mind about the Thrift Store Jeans Quilt backing I was going to use. Completed a year ago, the Jeans Quilt had been working quite well as a picnic rug, but it was going to be too heavy for everyday use on the couch. So with almost nothing left in my stash I went to the store and found just the thing – grey sweatshirt fabric! It’s a tshirt and sweatshirt quilt! And I added the backing with the fleecy side out, so that I can enjoy it’s softness when I curl up under it.
The Japanese “Turning Twenty” was based on a commercial pattern (that I actually followed!) and although it turned out well, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped. The fabric was awesome, but a little too busy for my tastes. And it was big! The batting and backing fabric was going to cost a lot (A LOT), especially if I chose a gorgeous Japanese fabric like the ones I used for the front. All that basting and binding… ugh. So I retrieved two indigo cottons I had bought yardage of (for long since abandoned projects) and I whipped up a big backing and I sewed it to the quilt, knife edged, with no batting at all. Call the quilt police! It’s not even a quilt. But it’s a lovely lightweight cover. And I love love love the indigo cotton.
I packed up the sewing machine and all my supplies and publicly declared that I was retired from quilting forever!
Until two days later I remembered the candy colored triangle quilt that used to be my favorite, hiding up in the closet, and the two crazy quilts that begged for a life outside a box…
Yes, quitting is a work in progress.