Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Happy Nine Patch

Quilt No. 82
February 2012

In the fall of 2011 our quilt guild president announced this year’s challenge. We were to do a nine patch quilt. Apart from that, there were no limitations – it could big or small, conservative or wacky, or any variation of the nine patch we wanted – whatever suited our personal styles.

Challenge quilts are kept secret until we do our “reveal”. Our guild has a variety of quilters, who do every possible type of quilting imaginable. That’s the great thing about quilting – you could go on for a lifetime and never come to the end of the permutations of what can be done with a pile of fabric and a sewing machine, or a needle and thread. It’s like composing music – the possibilities will never be exhausted. I actually used to worry that this could happen when I was a kid – that musicians would finally come to the end of every conceivable combination of notes. I speculated that by the time I was ten years old, no new songs could ever be created again. I would have to listen to the Beatles singing about wanting to hold my hand in perpetuity - maybe not such a bad thing but there was the outside chance that it could get tiresome. Thankfully, creative pursuits are by their very nature unlimited.

Quilters are interesting creators because they can “think” in blocks. They can take shapes and break them down into clever components and come up with the pieces that will yield a perfect square representing anything from a flower to a compass to a cow. It’s something I have no talent for whatsoever. But I do like to take a concept, or an idea, and express it with fabric.

I decided my “nine patch” would be different. Traditionally a nine patch is a grid that is 3 blocks high and 3 blocks wide. The most common nine patch you’ll see is a tic-tac-toe game. Nine patch blocks can be re-arranged or re-cut to form an endless number of quilt variations. The previous summer I’d done a nine-patch quilt, and to save myself from embarrassment, let’s just say it was a less than happy experience. This time I wanted to have a happy nine patch experience - without the blocks. I just wanted the nines.

And so...the Happy Nine Patch was born – a group of cheery numeral nines cavorting on a lawn that is composed from a single silk neck tie. With a little creative piecing, I was able to make the borders from the same tie. The sky is a hand dyed piece, machine quilted to enhance the clouds. Additional machine quilting on the borders keeps the Happy Nines in their place.

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