Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Acute Frog

Quilt No. 92
March 2013

I agreed to do a demonstration at our quilt guild on how to create a pattern suitable for appliqué.  This was sure to be the proverbial piece of cake.  I always have a couple of quilts of this type in various states of completion.  It would be a simple matter of collecting up all the constituent bits when the time came.  And that time was somewhere in the very distant future.   

Fall and Christmas ripped by like an uncaring tornado.  January, living up to its reputation with white and bitter cold, loomed up on the schedule.  Abruptly, it was less than two weeks until I was to do the demo.

My quilts usually involve scaling up my art work or existing drawings or photos into a pattern that I can then use to make the various shapes for the quilt.  I start with a drawing of a cactus, and I end up with a cactus on a quilt.  Plenty of stuff happens in between those two points. This is tedious work, suitable only for the not-easily-bored.  It involves creating line drawings, and transferring these onto acetate sheets, then onto freezer paper.  Ultimately it yields the pieces that are sewn onto the background. 

There’s always plenty of all those items basking on my quilt table.  Who could have ever predicted that my demonstration prep would fail to coincide with an in-progress quilt?  When have I ever had all quilts completed?  Never before had this situation occurred.  I can only surmise that some sort of conjunction of the quilting planets had aligned to conspire against me.  I was finished every quilt. 

A new project would have to be started, but I didn’t have enough time to jump into a major quilt.  I needed a minor quilt.  A cute frog would do.  But I had to hurry.  And I had to break down my process into steps I could describe, something I’d never before intellectualized. I usually just work in wordless surge of creation. This was more like deconstructing a recipe - taking the cake apart and coming up with the flour, eggs, and milk that were the starting point.

And so I picked a smiling red-eyed tree frog, taken from a calendar.  There was no time to get too original!  Whipping through my preparations, I realized that it had to be not so much a cute frog as an acute frog – according to medical terminology –  “brief and severe”. This episode was definitely that and the usual chronic process – “long and dragged out”– was a null option. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt

Quilt No. 90
March 2013

When I found out that there was Nancy Drew fabric, I simply could NOT believe it.  Sure, I expected to find Harry Potter fabric and Star Wars stuff, but... Nancy?!  Incredible! 

To me, Nancy is the most potent source of nostalgia in the universe – my introduction to actual “books” and the world of mystery!  Who knew there were mysteries going on that people – girls the same age as my sister – were out there solving!  Of course I pictured all this “mystery” as going on somewhere in the “United States of America”, known only to me through the mimeographed map from school – the one on which I’d laboriously printed all the states and all two rivers (Mississippi and Missouri).  Nancy lived in that wondrous, far flung place where each state was a different colour!  And there was more.  There could be hidden staircases!  Surely there was one somewhere in our tiny house – I just had to be diligent, and smart, and I would find it. 

This quilt was made for my friend Bill, a truly loyal Nancy Drew fan, collector, and expert on all things Nancy.  Bill never fails to take the adversities that life unfairly tosses his way and find his own silver linings.  I felt that this deserved some sort of reward.

And so... The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt came into being.  Why “Charmed”?  The Nancy Drew squares were purchased as pre-cut 5x5” squares, called “charm squares” according to official quilting terminology.  I went with a white background, and of course, yellow was a given.  It’s the colour I most associate with the covers of the classic Nancy Drew books.

As for the hidden staircase, I never did find it, but I haven’t given up looking where ever I live. I might just find it yet.

Quilt Notes

This quilt was quilted once, unquilted, and then quilted again.  My first attempts at machine quilting along the edges of the blocks, or “in the ditch” as quilters refer to it, were disastrous.  The skills I’d mastered for free motion quilting were of no help whatsoever.  Apparently ditching it is a whole different skill set.  My first lines meandered like a tired river, but as a testimony to my blind stubbornness, I just...kept...going.  My plan was to rip out what I didn’t like later because it would only be a few lines of stitches...I would master the skill any second.  Well, any minute.  Well, any hour.  Or maybe not.  The lines wandered around like drunken ants trying to escape the Raid factory.  And still I kept going, thinking - like so many fools in a bar - that my prize would look better in the morning.  

It didn’t.  

I decided to check out YouTube to see what I might be doing wrong.  Turns out - pretty much everything.  So I turned back the quilt clock by ripping out all the machine quilting.  I won’t say how long this took, but I did get  more than one movie under my belt as I sat there picking out the stitches.  My next attempt went better as I carefully folded the quilt prior to stitching so that it wouldn’t pull all over the place.  I shortened my stitch length, went slowly, oh so slowly, and used a super sharp Microtex needle.  

The results were far better, still not perfect, but as any quilter (believer or not) will tell you, only a Higher Power can make a perfect quilt. The rest of us can only give it our best shot.