Quilt No. 99
Ahh, the early 1980’s. They were the Crewel Years. Every department and craft store had a tantalizing selection of crewel embroidery kits. It was a welcome change after I’d knitted an ocean of sweaters, a platoon of Christmas stockings, and crafted enough Christmas decorations that, three decades later, I still have too many to display.
Crewel embroidery kits came complete with everything you needed to finish the project. The cloth was delicately stamped with the picture. Ample amounts of wool in all required colours was included. This came in one giant hank, like a horse tail, and the first task was to separate out the medium green from the light green from the very light green. Sometimes they even threw in very very light green. Separating the colours could take a whole day and would have my mother and I debating rose vs coral vs fuchsia for hours. The kit would also include a complete set of detailed instructions on how to make every type of required stitch. No matter how many kits you did, they always came up with novel stitches – herringbone, threaded backstitch, closed featherstitch. Final details were added in with embroidery floss. The smaller kits thoughtfully included a little plastic frame so that you could get your project ready for display without that time-wasting trip to the store.
For those with very dexterous hands and the eyes of a sharp shooter there were also extremely tiny embroidery pictures to complete. These ones used only skinny embroidery floss, which came in a 6-stranded format and often required the use of a single thread-like strand for a particular area. Those kits required gobs of patience and the same quantity of light as your average hospital operating room. Such was making of The Fox.
Sometime in the early 1980’s I gave the completed, plastic-framed fox to my sister. Years went by, and she subsequently gave it back to me. The circumstances surrounding both situations elude me. And, yes, she will be horrified that I don’t remember. Geez. I made the fox. What more does she want? She will give me the complete fox history, and I, having failed to file away those crucial historical details, will be compelled to believe whatever she tells me.
Despite his meandering life path, I still liked the fox and was happy to have it back in my possession, even in its dated plastic frame. I threw that away. I cut around the fox leaving a narrow seam allowance to use when I appliqued it to….I couldn’t think of anything. I thought I might add it to a postcard quilt for a friend who had moved away, and casually mentioned this to my sister. Surprisingly enough, she completely lost it. The last time she had become that mired in emotionality she was at the altar getting married! Who knew the fox was that important? I was forced to re-think my position. I abandoned it in a box of embellishments where it could share equal time with all that other stuff I felt guilty about not using.
As per usual, years went by with the “in progress” fox in limbo. One day a quilting friend called me over to her place to share in a windfall. She had come into possession of a large box of fabric. Most of these were fabrics of the “outcast” variety. They were not cotton. Quilters generally worship exclusively at the altar of cotton. I’m a little more inclined to stray outside of the all-cotton rule, so she kindly shared the box of deliciously slippery shiny fabrics with me.
There were all kinds of taupes and related colours. So intriguing! I cut lengths from several pieces and sewed them together in aimless curves and ended up with a whole lot of sew-what. I thought maybe the fox could help me out, but I wasn’t sure just how.
My friend had also given me the fabric I ultimately used for the trees in this quilt. She described it, and I agreed, as a piece of fabric that was just too special to cut up. The fat quarter (a 20x22” piece) was terrorizing her – too beautiful to use, too beautiful to not use. It was too small to use in a large quilt, too big to waste. I have a largely undeserved reputation for bravery with scissors, so she felt the fabric had a better chance of finding its way onto a quilt if she gave it to me.
For quite a while the fox and the enchanting slippery fabrics went back and forth to my cottage in the box I take with me every summer weekend. One Saturday, a blue fabric that was under consideration for another quilt ended up tucked next to the stalled fox project. It was fabric love at first sight – the dark blue provided the missing element that the fox had long dreamed of, and the creation of the fox’s new home was on its way.
So, who got the quilt after the fox found his new home? Well my sister, of course. I figure I have a couple of decades before she gives it back to me.