Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I made a quilt, and I have to say, I'm pretty freaking proud of myself for finishing it.
I tried to make my first quilt when I was 12. I stitched the squares together by hand. I think I got eight squares together before I called it quits. One, it was taking forever, and two, I realized I wasn't really a quilt person. Back then, the only quilts I was familiar with were patchwork squares and floral, which seemed rather country and cutesy to me. My taste runs modern, so when I saw all the modern quilts that started popping up on the internet about five years ago, I fell in love with the idea of making a quilt again. It seemed like a daunting project, though...the type of thing that I knew I would never finish, especially since my list of successfully completed sewing projects includes two sofa pillows, an iPad case, some felt garlands, a blind hem on a pair of dress pants, and a pillow shaped like a pig that I made for my seventh grade Home Ec class (which was inexplicably called "Teen Living" back then. I don't know many teenagers for whom sewing pillows shaped like farm animals was either an important life skill or part of their recreational lifestyle in 1992, but whatever, it was an easy A).
Anyway, I'm saying my sewing skills were questionable. I mean, I know how to sew...a skill I attribute more to osmosis than anything I learned in seventh grade Teen Living. My mother sews. She made me clothes when I was a kid, she sewed curtains, she even made my prom dress. However, it always seemed that my mom sewed more out of necessity than as a hobby - an impression I got because I can still envision her sitting in front of her sewing machine and cursing as she ripped out seams. Her projects always turned out well, but the process seemed so frustrating to me, that I was never really interested in learning to sew for fun.
I bought myself a decent sewing machine about four years ago and realized Hey, this isn't so bad. It's actually kind of fun. And so much faster than sewing by hand! Still, sewing a quilt was ambitious. But it fit my long-standing criteria for attempting sewing projects: 1. That it doesn't have to be worn, and 2. That it only involves sewing straight lines. I gathered up some more inspiration from the talented people of the internet, specifically Ashley's beautiful modern quilts, and Elise's can-do attitude and beginner's enthusiasm and decided that yes, I could sew a quilt.
My plan was to make a modern half-square triangle quilt with solid colors, but then the idea of a blue and green patterned quilt popped into my head. These were my Nana's favorite colors - I think everything she wore was blue, green, or blue and green - and I still think of her every time I see those colors together. I knew then and there that I would make a Nana-inspired quilt, and bought a stack of blue and green fabrics to store away for my future project. (Honestly, I think that was four years ago.)
Now that I think about it, making a quilt in honor of my grandmother is kind of hilarious, considering that she was not at all the domestic type. She loved crossword puzzles, murder mysteries, and eating ice cream in bed with her cats, but she used her oven for storage and I never ever saw her sew. In fact, my mother spent most of her time in front of the sewing machine hemming my grandmother's pants, so I'm guessing that Nana didn't even know how to sew.
Anyway, I finally decided to tackle the blue and green quilt this summer and my goals for the project were GET HER DONE and EMBRACE IMPERFECTION. That was totally the way to go. I cut the squares and sewed the quilt top throughout a couple weeks in June. I took July off to prepare for art markets. And I put the whole thing together, basted, quilted, and attached the binding during the first week of August. Done!
It's not even close to perfect, but it's handmade and the crooked seams, misaligned squares, and wonky binding are part of its character. Would an experienced quilter be appalled with my make-it-up-as-I-go "techniques"? Absolutely. But the quilt is done. And I knew that if I fussed with making sure everything lined up perfectly, I would get frustrated and never finish, and so if I messed up, I went with it. I learned a lot, I made mistakes, I powered through, and I finished it. (And I only cussed once - when I had major thread tension problems during the quilting stage and sewing with the walking foot led to a jumbled knot of thread and a flashing ERROR on my sewing machine. I eventually went back to quilting with the regular foot.)
Ironic, that yes, I did end up making a square patchwork quilt after thinking that they weren't my style, but I have to admit that I love the finished product. And it totally reminds me of my Nana - the day I finished sewing it, I snuggled up underneath it and thought about her and it was just so comforting. (If only I had a bowl of ice cream, a couple cats, and Murder, She Wrote on the television!)
At 67"x88" it's smaller than a bed quilt (though it would work on a twin bed) but way too big for a sofa throw. My original plan was to use this as a picnic blanket, but I'm not sure I can bear to put it on the ground! (I eventually got over that. My Nana was a nature-lover and set insects free outside instead of squashing them, so it seems only right that the quilt be used outside.)
Who knew that sewing could be so enjoyable and satisfying? (WHO HAVE I BECOME??? Certainly, the Rachel from seventh grade Teen Living is rolling her eyes, but back then I didn't know the joys of sewing and drinking beer at the same time!) I'm addicted to quilting now. I have plans and fabric stashes for three more quilts, but I'm forcing myself to wait for cooler weather to work on them. The weather is still nice now, and it's beckoning me to lounge, read, and picnic on my new quilt...