Well, here’s an old one. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write about this, but I guess it’s time: I finished sewing this top together in April! Time-wise, though, that’s got nothing on the length of time it took me to put this quilt top together. You see, this was my first ever quilt project. And I started it approximately 10 years ago.
All the way back in 2001, I was living in Vancouver, going to school at UBC. It was a long way from home and flights are expensive, so for the Spring break (in 2002, by then) (which is called Reading Week where I’m from – it’s in March, which is maybe spring in Vancouver, but not too many other places in Canada) I didn’t go home, but I did go to my Aunt Helen and Uncle Ben’s for the week. They live in Chiliwack, which is… um… less than an hour from Vancouver, I think, maybe? I guess I didn’t pay much attention on the drive. In any case, my Aunt at the time was a very prolific hand-quilter. (As far as I know, she’s still quilting – when I saw her in the summer she was doing a lot of hand-appliqué, but I don’t think she quilts near as much as she used to. She’s always been a crafting butterfly, flitting from one craft to another, and kicking ass at whatever she tries. Lately she’s been into hand-making glass beads and then making various items from those beads.) Whenever we were sitting around and talking, she’d always be working on some project or other, and so she got me hand-stitching some blocks for her. Mostly she did a lot of traditional stuff, a lot of nine-patches in various configurations and appliqué always, and always done by hand. So I worked on nine-patches for her, and then I went back to Vancouver and that was pretty much it.
In the summer of 2002, I moved back to Saskatchewan and then somewhere along the line after, either later that summer or in the summer of 2003, my parents went to BC and spent some time with my aunt and uncle. And while they were there, my mom and my aunt cut out an entire quilt top worth of fabric from my aunt’s stash, which was sent home to me. And I started picking away at it. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I did it all by hand.
When I first started, I drew every single quarter-inch line on the fabric before sewing them together, to make sure everything was “perfect” (you can just faintly if you’ve got laser-eyes see a pale blue line where the white fabrics were marked on that photo), but after a while I got lazy and started winging it. Which means some of my nine-patches didn’t come out nearly so square as they might have done. But also, and this was something I didn’t check, some of the squares of fabric weren’t entirely square to begin with, so my quarter-inch marks were making some of the blocks a little smaller or more angled than perhaps they should have been. In any case, I got the blocks all together, and then because I am obsessive like that, I couldn’t figure out how to put all the blocks together into a quilt because OMG there are 10 different blue fabrics and none of them should be beside another block of the same fabric! And there are 4 different off-white fabrics in the blocks and none of them should be beside another block with that same fabric! And OMG how do I manage all that with 98 nine-patches with randomly paired whites and blues!
I could never make it work, so it sat. And then it sat. And then it sat.
Actually, it sat in that plastic tub off to the left in that photo for most of 8 or 9 or 10 years (even that photo was taken years and years ago, when I lived in Saskatoon for a year in a crappy little apartment, above some man whose teen-aged son would cry his head off for HOURS whenever he came to spend the weekend), however long ago I started it and however long ago I finished stitching those blocks. In the meantime, I bought a sewing machine (well, half-bought, half had given to me for my birthday, a nearly but not quite bottom of the line Kenmore, which has never been serviced or oiled or had anything done beyond my cleaning out the lint and still chugs along pretty well) and started making baby quilts and gifts and starting and never finishing things. And mostly I had this idea that I had to hand-sew the blocks into rows and the rows into a quilt. I’d started it by hand, so I should finish it by hand, right? Well, reality finally set in, and so I sewed it together by machine this past April.
I made myself not be too crazy about where the fabrics ended up: I ignored the off-whites entirely, and separated the 98 blocks into piles by blue fabrics. Then I sat down and drew out a grid and figured out where I had to put the blocks to keep the blues from being adjacent to one another in any way. I put it together in chunks (I don’t like dealing with long rows) and then put the chunks together, and now I have a quilt top.
It’s give or take on 78 by 90-inches in size, and I’d toyed with the idea of adding a border, but now I think I probably won’t. When I was stitching it up, I was worried that it would come out really drab looking – all that samey navy and all that off-white – and so I’d toyed with the idea of doing some sashiko in some of the white squares, just to liven it up a little, but ultimately, I don’t think I will. It’s not so drab as all that, there’s enough variation in the value of the blues to keep it from being too flat looking, so now I’m not sure what to do with it. There’s a part of me that would like to get my mom to hand-quilt it for me, maybe with some kind of medallion or something very traditional in those white squares, and there’s another part of me that just wants to bang on through it and put just go diagonally through the navy squares and there’s still another part of me that thinks I should send it off to a quilter and have her just do something… nice. (I haven’t done that because I don’t know that it’s square enough. I guess I should properly measure it. Maybe add those borders to help square it up.) I really don’t know, but heaven knows I don’t need to sit on it another decade while I stew over quilting plans.