May 03, 2008
A Big Big Finish!
There has been a lot of excitement this week, and this quilt is no small part! I'm finally finished. The very first quilt I started, over four years ago. At points along the way I thought I would call it "A Holy Mess" or "A Very Bad Idea" but now we're past all that and its title is "Stars and Squares - Grandma's scraps".
When I first discovered quilting did not have to be boring and precise I was visiting my family and my grandma was showing me the vibrant quilts she was working on. We had just moved to Portland, I was finishing my prereqs for nursing school. Money was so tight. She lovingly sent me home with her scraps from recent projects. It included a lot of squares and triangles for a square in a square quilt she had made. I got some more material from cast off cotton clothing at the Goodwill outlet. I organized a fabric trade on nervousness.org (before it died and was later reborn). We each shared 8"x6" scraps. The green fabric with red dots came from someone in Europe. I used every square inch, I loved that fabric so much.
To make the most use of grandma's odd shapes I started sewing things together in a roughly square in a square pattern. I generally used a squareish shape in the middle, a little strip, then the larger square, and more little strips. I used incredibly small pieces in some parts. I got 24 squares that I mostly loved, of all different sizes.
Then I hit a wall. What next? After stewing on it for months I decided I would suspend all these squares on a blue background. I visited quilt shops and bought different blue fabrics, and then went about making the blocks fit together in rows. The scrappiness of the blocks was echoed in the background by much cutting and resewing and interjecting little colorful scraps as well.
I should point out here that the quilts I had seen were pretty much just my grandma's and a couple of quilts by Anna Williams. In retrospect I can really appreciate Anna Williams' influence. Somewhere along the way I realized that this quilt had gotten very long and skinny and possibly not that useful. I tried to use borders to beef the sides up more than the top and bottom, with only minor success. By the time I got to the borders I had checked out Gwen Marston's book from the library. That's the origin of the crazy stars.
I wanted to quilt the quilt myself, by machine. I took a machine quilting class from Kathy Sandbach, and loved it. But I was overwhelmed by the idea of quilting this big piece. So I set it aside, and made 7 or 8 other, smaller and simpler quilts. Now that I'm finished quilting this I have to say I don't know what I was so afraid of. It really wasn't that much harder than any of the baby quilts I've quilted. It's only 60 inches wide, by 86 inches long, so width wise I didn't have so stuff any more quilt under the sewing machine arm than I have before. This size is really not appropriate for any bed. But that's fine because I want it to live on the couch for all to see. Or maybe be our picnic quilt at the park this weekend.
I learned a lot by making this quilt. I keep trying to put it into words, but it's hard. But the lessons are there, in the fabric and the stitches. Resourcefulness, adventure, planning (or the lack of it). I'm a different person than when I started it. Thanks for letting me tell you the story.