Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quilting is a process


"Periwinkle Blue," named for a song by Doris Day and my favorite crayon color, is finally done; well almost. It still needs the final binding on the edges. Then I will be able to throw it into the washer and dryer and see if it comes out looking like a quilt, all scrunchy, warm, and inviting, with its stitches still intact.

What a joy it has been to make this quilt.

I will never tire of the process of turning a pile fabric into a completed quilt. This was more than a year in the making, and I loved every minute of it.

Not only has this been enjoyable, but I learned so much. 

I started making quilts about 15 years ago, on a whim. I have been on a steep learning curve ever since. From those early days of writing about quilt shows for the local newspaper, to watching Alex Anderson on 'Simply Quilts' every day, to the present, I have been somewhat surprised at how much there is to learn about this art form. 

To me, making a quilt is so much more than simply creating a cover for the bed. In actuality, the utilitarian aspect of a quilt is far less important to me than the process of actually creating it. That doesn't mean I don't like to snuggle up with it once it is done. I treasure that part. But even more so, I am drawn to the creative process. Each of the now nine quilts I have made has been a learning experience.

For me, quilting is also a therapeutic activity. It is that quiet time that we all cherish. Admittedly, I have no problem leaving dirty dishes in the sink if I feel like quilting. 

Making Periwinkle Blue

This quilt started out as a block of the month project through a free on-line class on Craftsy, taught by Amy Gibson, in January 2012. A new block, actually two, were chosen by Amy for each month, unbeknown to class participants. 
I cannot express how much fun I had doing this class. I looked forward to the first of the month every single month, always anxious to see what the next blocks would look like. Amy Gibson is a sweet, gentle woman who reminds me of a kindergarten teacher--my kindergarten teacher. Taking her class conjured up memories of Miss Carr, back about 55 years ago. I don't remember what Miss Carr looked like, but now, in my mind she looks like Amy. Amy is also an accomplished and prolific quilter.

Early on I decided this quilt would be in shades of purple, what has long been a real favorite of mine. I am really fond of monochromatic quilts. That is my comfort zone. While creating the blocks, exactly as directed, I started thinking about different ways they could be changed, altered, or what they might look like with an entire quilt made from them. I do have some favorites as well as some I wasn't crazy about. I didn't let my taste dictate anything. I just went with it. 

When this project was completed, I had stacks of blocks that I wasn't really sure what to do with until I heard about another Craftsy class, taught by Leah Day--Free motion quilting a sampler. I debated about paying for this class. Money is really too tight for such things. When it was offered at a special discounted price, I signed up. I'm so glad I did. Leah's class was specifically related to showing how to free-motion quilt the sampler quilt I had just completed. My question of just what I wanted to do with all these purple blocks was answered.

I was already familiar with Leah's work, which is the most exquisite I've ever seen. In my view, watching her was almost akin to Michelangelo taking his brush to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This woman is an amazing artist. She makes it look so effortless. I assure you--it is not! But, it was fun! I made my little ole sewing machine do things I never even knew it could. 

The thing about quilting is, I love every part of the process. And there are so many parts. Each one requires some skill. From the fabric choices to the precision cutting, exact 1/4" seams, to the assembling, to the actual quilting, this is a fun and worthwhile activity, every step of the way. I never knew piecing a quilt top was so involved. I never knew that quilting was so involved either. I will always love hand quilting, but I admit really being intrigued by free-motion quilting. I will do it again, particularly on small projects. I can also see projects with a combination of both hand and machine quilting in the future.

It was very easy to maneuver the quilt block in the sewing machine. There is a lot of twisting and turning with free-motion quilting. I'm not certain if I am ready or even able to tackle quilting an entire quilt in that little tiny space of my machine. Just maneuvering the quilt to add the binding strips was a chore. I can only imagine what trying to maneuver a whole quilt would be like. 

This particular project was also new to me, in that it was done as a 'quilt-as-you-go' project. That method requires that all the blocks are quilted first and then assembled by sewing together with binding strips. Traditional quilts are constructed just the opposite--with the quilt top layered with batting and backing fabric and then quilted.

I almost forgot--the very best part is the result after the quilt is washed and dried. I just did this and could barely believe my eyes. I was worried about the imperfections in my sewing. It doesn't matter, because the texture created by the stitches is extraordinary. I absolutely love how this quilt turned out.

I highly recommend quilting as a pleasant and useful activity. Whether you are like me and love the process, it is so rewarding to finish a quilt.

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