I love our hobby. I love taking pieces of fabric, cutting them up, and sewing them together again. I enjoy combining colours and shapes, and creating original pieces of work. I find it very satisfying to sew in threads, and work on embroideries for labels and blocks.
There is another side to it all though. As people who have read my earlier blogs know, my mum had an illness called PSP. This led to her not being able to do the things she had done previously – her fingers, arms, feet and legs would just not do what her brain was telling her to do. As a result of this, she destashed back in 2015, and asked me to finish off some quilts for her. In total there were 4 quilts that I finished for her – a hand pieced hexagon flower garden (this featured in a WIMRN feature in British Patchwork and Quilting magazine), 1 Sudoku style quilt, and 2 which were a sort of stack and whack style. I finished 3 of these 4 quilts in time for Mum to see them. The hexagon one had a foot pocket on the back, so she could slip her feet into the pocket to keep them warm – a bit easier than trying to wrap the quilt around the feet – and so shortening the length of the quilt. As there were a couple of flower shapes left over, I added them to the top of the back of the quilt, and they acted as pockets – a handy place to keep a tissue, a handkerchief, or the remote control!
I helped Mum to layer and baste the Sudoku quilt – she dyed some fabric for the backing, and she started to hand quilt it – so I finished the job, and it was a quilt that she left to her best friend. Another that I helped her to baste was a stack and whack style, that we called Random 9 Patch. I decided on big stitch hand quilting for this one, using a perlé cotton. It wasn’t the easiest quilt I’ve ever quilted – I had wanted to do a pattern in the outer border, but there seemed to be excess fabric (I blamed the borders joined on the diagonal – rightly or wrongly), and the quilting seemed to increase the wrinkles that were there.
The last quilt I had to complete for Mum was one we called Starry Starry Night (although in her will – well, the numerous notes about what she wanted left to whom rather than the actual document – she called it the space quilt). I will now confess to not quite having finished it yet, although I have embroidered the label! This quilt Mum left to my youngest niece (her sister has the flower garden one), and I’ve had a bit of a time with it. To start with, Mum had dyed some fabric that I assume she wanted to use as the backing; this fabric was long enough, but not wide enough (or maybe the other way round) – so I trimmed it to size, and used the piece I’d cut off to make it the right size…except that didn’t quite work, as it wasn’t quite big enough. So I found as many starry pieces of fabric – the scraps Mum had left over, to piece a panel for the back. Next came the quilting: I had wanted to do some hand-quilting on it, but I didn’t have the colour of perlé thread I wanted – indeed, I’m not sure if the variegation I wanted exists; I wanted a mid to dark blue going into golden and lighter yellow. I had to make do with what I had. The quilting around the blocks was easy – straight line quilting, using the walking foot. The border was a bit more detailed. I decided I wanted to free-motion the border, and have a trail with stars and moons hanging from it. This is a design I’ve done before, but it is still very nerve-wracking starting it, and hoping that your stitches are not too big, and that the tension is right on the bottom of the quilt. The hardest part is done, all I now need to do is trim the wadding and backing, and then add the binding. (Since writing this piece back in May / June, I have since finished the quilt, I had intended to use fabric from mum’s stash for the binding, but couldn’t find anything really suitable, so I used other fabric that I had.
This mention of Mum’s stash brings me to another quilting responsibility: what to do with the fabric in her stash. I have kept most of her fabric in a specific box – it seems to me that I should make something special with it – like she would have done. I currently plan to make Pat Sloan’s 182 day Solstice Challenge with her stash – 2 in fact, one for me and one for my sister.
I’ve mentioned a lady called Pauline in my blog posts previously; she died 2 years, and left a huge stash of fabric – some of which had to be thrown away. I acquired some of her stash (all members of our quilting group acquired some of her stash), but unlike my mum’s stash, I don’t have a particular connection to Pauline’s fabric – so I find it quite easy to use it in any project I am doing. I also have several projects that she started, and I am trying to finish – pieces she had marked out ready for quilting, panels that are crying out to be quilted. I even have an appliqué quilt that she was part way through – it still has pins in it, and pieces ready to be sewn on. I couldn’t bear this to be thrown away, so I have taken on the challenge of finishing it; I owe it to Pauline’s memory to complete the work that she started, rather than consign it to a bin. The responsibility of finishing this quilt does not come lightly though; I’ve looked at fabrics from Pauline’s stash, and luckily I had some of the material she used in the quilt. In order to do justice to the quilt, I feel that I have a responsibility to use the same fabric in order to complete it – and so I find that I do have a connection to some of Pauline’s stash.
What about the responsibility of finishing off projects for friends? I have an ex-work colleague who asked me to complete a quilt that her mum had made. I completed this task, and then her sister asked if I could work my magic (her words, not mine) on a quilt that she had made. This was no easy task; it is all hand pieced, using a variety of fabrics, – and is not squared off. There was no way that I could add or remove some rosettes to create straight sides, so I chose appliqué the quilt to a background fabric. I’ve decided to hand quilt it – which is a feat in itself, as it is a huge quilt – and quite a responsibility to do justice to someone else’s work.
The quilt (here just the top – not quilted) that I finished for an ex-colleague
A quilting friend made a quilt for her daughter last year, but had an accident leaving unable to layer, baste and quilt her work. At our quilting group we took on the task of layering and basting, and I was then asked my opinion about how to quilt it. Being asked my opinion is still something I find a bit of a surprise, as I’m the baby of the group – unless daughters or grandchildren come along! I gave my opinion – and then, semi-seriously was presented with the quilt. The ladies did check that I was happy to do the work before a final decision was made! What a great responsibility though – finishing this special quilt, and making sure that the quilting did justice to the beauty of the quilt. Luckily, all involved were pleased with the final result.
In conclusion, I think that we do have a responsibility to finish the PHDs (Projects Half Done – I like this term much better than UFO – and it sounds good to say that you have several PHDs!), so that the time that has gone into a project is not thrown away. We also have a responsibility to ourselves to take on challenges – to push ourselves that bit further. Is quilting a responsibility? Yes, if we choose to make it so; it can document our lives, the people in it, the people who are important to us. However, if we choose to accept this responsibility, there are two phrases that we should always keep in mind:
‘Better finished than perfect’
‘A blind man would be glad to see it’
I am convinced that we, as quilters, have a responsibility to adopt these two sayings, as we are our own worst critics. This is probably the biggest responsibility of all!
P.S. The second phrase is regularly heard at our quilting group – often being said by me, and was one of my mum’s favoured sayings – and that will tie in with a blog post of mine in the future!