Monday, September 19, 2011

Blue Collar

Quilt No. 77
September 2011

If nothing else, this quilt is a testimony to my tenacity. It spent just under two years “stalled” in one phase after another, passing through an almost infinite number of iterations – some good, some bad. Almost every piece was added on and then taken off - two, three or more times. I left the whole thing suggestively close to the garbage can more times than I’d like to count. And yet, finally, the end result did emerge.

The song Blue Collar, by Bachman-Turner Overdrive was the starting point for this quilt. While this song is much less well known than their iconic Takin’ Care of Business, it is my personal favourite from their repertoire. It’s an unusual rock-jazz fusion, or at least that’s my guess – I’m not exactly an expert on music genres. Perhaps it’s Fred Turner’s lyrics rather than the music that makes Blue Collar such an intriguing theme.

In the song, a blue collar worker on night shift implores daytime workers to withhold judgement of his world - a world they have never experienced. While the daytimers are snoozing, and maybe even looking down their noses at the blue collar workers who toil at night, they're missing out on the mysterious beauty of the city at “four in the morning.” To that end, I’ve tried to create a night time city scene that celebrates the world of this blue collar worker. He sits on a park bench with his lunch pail at his side. Fish frolic in the fountain, and flowers and trees are bathed in the lights of the fountain and surrounding city. A full moon in a “diamond sky” overlooks an array of tall buildings and trees.

Quilting Notes

The buildings have an odd, fanned-out perspective that differs from the perspective of the objects in the park. This was quite challenging and meant that I could not add in objects between the park and the buildings since these would have required yet another perspective. Much too crazy/impossible!

Two fabrics were used for the buildings. One was a silk tie patterned with blue oval shapes. When taken apart, a neck tie has a much larger quantity of fabric in it than you might imagine. It was kind of tricky to find a fabric for the solid coloured buildings, but I eventually settled on a placemat that Fabricland was selling for practically nothing – I could see they were desperate to get rid of it. I machine quilted the placemat buildings with blue thread to harmonize them with the tie fabric buildings.

The blue trees near the buildings also came from a single silk tie, yielding two shades of blue by using both the back and front of the fabric. This tie was a freebie from my Quilt Guild. It was intended to be used in a bow tie block . When I went to cut the tie for this block, I could tell that the material was too thin to use in a bed quilt – but, gee, didn’t it match the Blue Collar colour scheme perfectly. Happily, I was able to jettison all my previous unsuccessful tree attempts, including the ones I had to already sewn onto the quilt. So that no one at Quilt Guild would be any wiser, I substituted another tie to make my bow tie block. So far my husband hasn’t noticed...

The roadway started out made of denim fabric. My original concept called for an actual blue collar to be used in the quilt, but after a very long series of unhappy experiments, I concluded that collars are pretty ugly on anything other than clothing. Better to stick with a metaphorical collar than an ugly quilt.

Next came the park. Almost every object you could ever hope to find in a park was tried and/or considered. The bench was going to be the park’s focal point, but no matter what size I used, it looked, well, foolish. It needed something to go with it. I hesitated to attempt a fountain – it seemed like an impossible challenge. I spent about three months looking at pictures of fountains on the Internet. Nothing else seemed to be feasible. I went into my “what the hell” mode. Of course, fountain number one did not work out - after being thoroughly bonded onto the quilt. It had to be coaxed off when I decided to change the road and replace the grass with a different fabric. I found that I had barely enough of that one irreplaceable piece of specially dyed sparkly fountain fabric. It didn’t help that while Blue Collar was “stalled” I had used up most of that piece for the Lodestar quilt.

The whole time I was completing the quilt I was smug knowing that I would not have to struggle to figure out how to quilt the sky. Diamond skies? Are you kidding? A nice straight-forward cross hatch pattern would yield great diamonds. But... it made the sky look not like diamonds, but like the inside of a winter coat. This threw the quilt into yet another stall, and every new idea for quilting lines only made it look worse. Finally, in a frenzy of “less is more” I simply followed the perspective lines of the buildings and decided to go with machine quilting instead of hand quilting. I added Jolee’s Jewels (crystals) to the sky. Elsewhere in the quilt, glass beads and metallic threads in sliver and copper helped to further develop the sparkly night time look.

While I pretty much ground down most of my teeth into nubs trying to get through this quilt, I am, at very long last, satisfied with it. And I’m immensely grateful to BTO for this inspirational song. I hope I have done it justice.

View the Video: Blue Collar - Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Close Up of Fountain

Lyrics to Blue Collar - Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Fred Turner 1973)

Walk your street 
And I'll walk mine 
And should we meet 
Would you spare me some time 

'Cause you should see my world 
Meet my kind 
Before you judge our minds 

Blue collar 

Sleep your sleep 
I'm awake and alive 
I keep late hours 
You're nine to five 

So I would like you know I need the quiet hours 
To create in this world of mine 

Blue collar 
Blue collar 

I'd like you to know at four in the morning 
Things are coming to mind 
All I've seen, all I've done 
And those I hope to find 

I'd like to remind you at four in the morning 
My world is very still 
The air is fresh under diamond skies 
Makes me glad to be alive 

You keep that beat 
And I keep time 
Your restless face 
Is no longer mine 

I rest my feet 
While the world's in heat 
And I wish that you could do the same 

Blue collar 
Blue collar 

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