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.

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