I know that I have mentioned The Beast in my previous blogs, and I promised to explain. It is the time for explanations.
My husband, David, died 6 years ago and in the intervening time, I have also moved house. This meant that I had no choice – I had to get rid of a huge amount of non essential stuff, including my husband’s clothes. They all went to local charity shops in the hope that they would do some good (although I have since wished that I had kept his Harris Tweed jackets. But that is another story…..).
David was a keen rugby union supporter, and particularly an Ospreys supporter, as is our daughter. He had many of their jerseys, collected over the years. These I could not bear to part with, so they hung around the house and moved with me.
Then I took up patchwork and quilting. Our daughter has moved out and has her own home, so I thought wouldn’t it be a good idea if I made the rugby jerseys into a memory quilt for her? How hard could it be?
I set off full of determination but also trepidation. I was worried about this quilt. The jerseys are modern jerseys, made out of that polyester high-performance fabric rather than the old fashioned knitted jersey. I didn’t know how stable the fabric would be, so I decided that the fabric needed to be interfaced. I unpicked the jerseys (5 or 6 of them or maybe more – I lost track …..) to give the maximum amount of fabric to work with. As my idea was to cut the jerseys into 6 ½ inch squares to make use of the different colours in the jerseys, I interfaced the large sections of dismantled fabric using black lightweight interfacing before cutting the squares. This, of course, resulted in a nearly ruined iron! I cut as many 6 ½ inch squares as I could, whilst also fussy cutting logos in an attempt to preserve and use them.
By this time, it had become clear that this quilt needed to be king sized for my daughter’s bed – but that was ok, I had plenty of squares, even taking the fussy cutting into account. I decided on an arrangement for the squares – a sort of ombre effect with the different jerseys going diagonally across the quilt from bottom left to top right. I sewed it all together. The result wasn’t brilliant but I was happy with the resulting top, given the fact that I realised very quickly that this was awkward fabric to sew. I was not happy with the pressing though – this fabric HATES being pressed and the interfacing makes it even worse.
(The purists among us will note that there is an Aberavon Wizards jersey in there too – David was an Aberavon lad, so it had to be there!)
Then I moved the completed quilt top. Oh boy – heavy wasn’t the word for it! Never mind Cheryl – just get on with it. You want to finish this quilt for your daughter’s birthday in August 2017….. (No – that is not a typo!)
I very quickly realised that my target date was not realistic, but I kept going. I constructed the sandwich, which was an epic job in itself until I decided to roll the backing, batting and quilt top around 3 separate lengths of pipe insulation. This at least made them manageable. The sandwich lived on my dining table for several weeks, each day gaining more curved safety pins so it would stay together with no slippages. (I have used 505 spray previously, but I knew it was not suitable for this – this was far too big.) Despite my best efforts at pressing, the seams on the top remained very bulky – due to very much thicker than normal base fabric which was then interfaced before being sewn into a quilt top.
Did I mention that the top was heavy? Well, if I thought the top alone was heavy, I was thinking of contacting Mr Schwarzenegger to move the quilt sandwich for me! So it sat there. It got to Christmas 2017, and I needed the room, so I put the quilt sandwich safely away.
Then, because it was out of sight, the quilt started turning into The Beast in my head. Despite having quilted my first quilt (a king size) on a normal machine, The Beast grew to twice the size and four times the thickness in my imagination. How was I going to quilt it? I could not send it to be long armed, although there are many people who would have done a brilliant job of it. It is a very special memory quilt, therefore it had to be all my own work. But how? I even bought a second hand large throat machine (a Janome 12000) to help me do the quilting. Brilliant machine. But then I felt that I didn’t have enough room to work on it. And it was too big to work on. And so the excuses went on.
I had the idea of buttoning the centre of the quilt, to make the area to be quilted slightly smaller. I used the rubber buttons from the rugby shirts (which I had saved) to button it. Then I rolled it back up again.
So I still got no further. It had now (in my head) developed huge pleats and creases in the backing. I was convinced it was a complete disaster. It remained in a big blue Swedish bag in the bedroom. Why? I suddenly worked out why. I wasn’t scared of it, as I was before I started it. No, I was terrified of it. These jerseys hold so many memories for me and my daughter, and the fabric is not replaceable. So The Beast stayed in the big blue bag until early December 2018, growing bigger and more terrible every day.
I was already part of an informal group of quilters in my area who would regularly get together to work on a specific project. The leader of this group, Elaine, came up with the idea of the Ystradgynlais Quilters group. We were to meet in the local Church hall, pay our subs and have a lovely big space to work in.
So where was my excuse now? I didn’t have one. It suddenly occurred to me – I would prefer my daughter to have an imperfect finished quilt and the memories of her Dad rather than an unfinished quilt in a big blue bag. I would also be able to work on it with the support of my very good quilting friends.
We meet monthly – our first meeting was early December 2018. I had enough room at that meeting to spread The Beast out and to start the quilting. So The Beast is still The Beast, but not so terrifying any more. It is now my project for our Ystradgynlais Quilters meetings. It is not finished yet and won’t be for a while. It will take me some time but, without Elaine and the idea for the Ystradgynlais Quilters group, it would still be The BEAST in a big blue bag. Thank you Elaine. Roll on early January and our next meeting – I can do this!
In the meantime, there was a requirement to make a Christmas present. I was told the recipient was into bird watching. “I know – there are loads of lovely birds in FPP (Foundation Paper Piecing) patterns. How difficult can it be?”. I had always wanted to do some FPP, but maybe I should have found a simpler pattern for my first piece.
I found a really lovely pattern for a Robin by Tartan Kiwi on Etsy. Easy I thought! Then life got in the way – major ongoing family commitments, other commitments, builders….. I eventually started the Robin a week before Christmas. I loved doing it, but FPP is interesting. Because you effectively work backwards, I managed to get myself into a complete knot on several occasions. Much swearing and unpicking ensued. A complex FPP pattern is built up in sections. I did four sections perfectly – except the last one was completely backwards! (At that point I knew it was time to go to bed.) I ultimately managed to complete the Robin over two evenings, including re-making the backwards piece. It has several design features (!), but I am delighted with the result and so was the recipient, thank goodness. I will certainly be doing FPP again – so satisfying!
Now you know about my adventures into FPP and, more importantly, The Beast. I will let you know how I get on with The Beast – it is most certainly an ongoing project, but it is finally progressing. Maybe my daughter will get it for her birthday August 2019!