Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quilt in a Day...Well...

Quilting has always fascinated me.  Taking tiny cuts of cloth and stitching them together to make functional art has been a staple of American society.  From  the intricate quilts of the Native Americans, to First Lady Martha Washington to the freedom quilts of Gee's Bend, quilts have warmed bodies and souls, told stories, and become family heirlooms.  I have longed to make fabric art of this magnitude. 

My first foray into sewing was in 7th grade when I took Home Economics (which, sadly, isn't taught in many schools now--but that's a rant for another day).  Between high pitched insults and rants about how much she hated kids, the teacher (name withheld to protect the guilty) at least taught us how to thread the machine and to always backtack at the ends of a stitch.  After a semester of sewing C-grade items, I was glad to move on to something 8th grade! 

On of my best diaper bags
After not touching a sewing machine again until I was an adult (flashbacks, you know), I picked up where I left off.  I made a few C-grade clothing items for myself and some truly butt-ugly baby quilts for donation--one of the few times I was truly ashamed of my work.  Over the years, I got pretty good at making diaper bags, but still the beauty of a quilt eluded me.

An area church's quilting club offered free beginner classes.  Unfortunately, it was full of a bunch of seasoned quilters and me.  The leader (I can't call her a teacher) conducted the "classes" as if everyone already knew what they were doing, which isn't beginner level at all.  After several sessions of less sewing and more cussing under my breath, I left the class in utter disgust.  But I still wanted to make a quilt.  I read books, got advice from people at fabric shops and craft stores, watched videos, went through I don't know how much fabric, and wore out two old sewing machines (or was it 3?).  But no matter how hard I tried, I never succeeded in sewing a decent quilt.

9-patch sampler
A friend taught me to crochet granny squares in 1992.  I made several granny square blankets, but I'd never thought of making quilt-type afghans, or quilt-ghans, out of them.  The idea finally came years later when I saw this pattern for a 9-patch sampler quilt-ghan made of 3-round granny squares.  I made the pattern and loved it.  The only trick to it was learning to make the two-color squares.  Once I got the hang of it, the rest was pretty easy--tedious, but easy.

School bus cuddle quilt
I made several other quilt-ghans over the years, but I still watched quilting shows on TV and later the internet in hopes that something would click and I could finally make a "real" quilt.  I longingly viewed images of Nancy Zieman, Georgia Bonesteel, and Eleanor Burns, among others, blissfully making smooth strips, squares, and appliques with their rotary cutters or other tools, whipping the fabrics together on sewing machines with more buttons than the helm of the U. S. S. Enterprise, and alluding to this thing called binding that I have YET to figure out.  How DO they do that?  Sigh.

So what was Auntie to do?
Patchwork fans

Right after Christmas, my desire to quilt started gnawing in my craw again, but I didn't feel like wasting more fabric and still not getting what I want.  Then the thought hit me to work with what I had instead of mope.  I didn't want to simply repeat past patterns, but to try to design my own, or at least gain some inspiration from "real" quilts and the stories behind them.

My first quilt project for the year was called "Peony."  It was inspired by a project featured on Eleanor Burns Quilt in a Day:  Egg Money Quilts show.  The basic pattern was already established, but certain crochet elements, like the lattice work between the squares, I had to figure out for myself.  The finished product took about two months and was donated as a door prize for the Senior Citizen's dance.

My interpretation
The inspiration
My second and most elaborate project to date is another Eleanor Burns inspired quilt-ghan.  The birdhouse quilt was different in that I had to make the pattern completely from scratch.  I couldn't just look at the screen capture and make squares that make an exact copy the pattern.  I also had to add, remove, and reposition various elements to get the results I wanted.  I also had to comb through books, printouts, and computer files for patterns for the different flower and insect appliques, many of which I liked, but had to modify to get what I wanted.  This project took four months and I auctioned it off online.  It actually sold, and I am extremely proud.  Maybe my quilt-ghans are "real" after all.

So what's next?

Photo courtesy of Google
I've admired the quilt pictured here by Nancy Zieman since I saw it featured in her ombre fabrics series.  I tried a couple of different versions of the square, but couldn't figure it out.  I found a fabric pattern that may help me figure it out.  We'll see.  I'll most likely be settling in to making the project in the fall.  So be on the lookout.