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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Music to Keep You Warm

I quilt.  My Mom’s attitude about quilting was, you take fabric, cut it into little pieces and then sew those pieces together.  What’s the point?  I was well into adulthood when I began quilting; she was flummoxed.  I was obsessed. 

I almost always have a quilt going, and if one isn’t going, it’s being planned in my head.  My quilts aren’t intricate geometrical creations made by sewing billions of tiny triangles together.  I don’t have the patience.  Also, when I look too much patterning, it hurts my eyes.  I make relatively plain quilts.  I make a lot of throws and baby quilts.  (Hey, someone’s always having a baby, and if they’re not, well, they will soon).  That way my gratification comes faster.

I should mention, too, that I have a pretty basic sewing machine.  It doesn’t do fancy stitches; it’s lightweight; it doesn’t diaper the baby.  That’s okay because I am a fool for hand quilting.  I jumble up the pieced, pinned quilt in my lap -- if I don’t, Wumpus makes a nest out of it -- and stitch to alleviate my guilt from watching junk TV.  I’ll begin quilting and won’t stop until the skin on my thumb splits or my finger is bleeding from feeling the needle at the bottom of the fabric.  There’s a little blood on every quilt.

I don’t so much plan and execute quilts as I build them.  Like many quilters, I rarely work from a commercial pattern.  Instead, I take graph paper and sketch out a diagram.   I make one basic block.  I look at the block and find out that, much as I planned and measured, one edge is hanging over 1/8”, and has to be squared off.  For anything more than a nine-patch, I simply cannot do the math.  I mean, it all makes sense in my head, and I measure it out, but I still end up just a bit off kilter. 

Once I came across an entire geometry lesson plan based on quilting.  I can quilt, and I can do geometry, pretty much, anyway, but I can’t seem to do them together.  I study my finished block and realize that it will take me longer to figure out the correct measurements than to just make a pile of them as is and trim them.  Next, I sew the blocks together, and then, well, the center of the quilt is done. 

My current work in progress is a music themed quilt for my daughter-in-law who is a sweetie.  The central blocks are simple enough:  three bars sewn to longer rectangle.  I drew it up and measured out 1/4” seam on each side.  I cut some pieces and sewed them together.  Yup, the long rectangle hangs over 1/8”.  Sheesh.

The variety of available music fabric was limited, but, between the store and the internet, I finally found what I liked.  The black blocks you see below are actually black with gray clef signs.) 

The author notices issues with inner-block orientation.
This means picking out the seams, but it is difficult
because Wumpus has taken up tenancy.
(The author hopes that by referring to herself in the third person,
she can distance herself from such a stupid, STUPID mistake.)

 My plan was asymmetrical with a piano keyboard running down the right side, but when I finished with the squares and laid it out, there was too much black and white.  Blah  There are some people -- perhaps most quilters -- who can visualize the entire thing before they begin.  Me, not so much, and when I do “see” the patterns, I can’t, as already established, do the math.  That leaves me here, with part of a quilt and a vague idea of how to brighten it up. 

I have some raucous white fabric with black and red notes.  I was originally going to use it where I put the black blocks, but it is really frenetic, and when I made up the sample, well, it was just too noisy.  I think of it as rock and roll fabric while the rest of the quilt is lyrical composition and nature sounds.  (Hey, this is inside my head.  I can categorize any way I want to.)  There’s that splash of bright red, and that will make a nice 3/4” border between the center and the keyboard, but when I lay it out, GAAA!  The red is a good idea, though, so I thumb through my stash.  Ah, I’ve got some red swirls; I like swirls for music because music swirls.  In we go. Then the quilt needs to be longer, but I’m sick of those blocks.  Should the birds go on the bottom instead of the blue?  No, too dark.  Keep thinking.

When the top is entirely pieced, I’ll buy enough batting plus a bit more because I CANNOT do the math.  I’ll pin it and then agonize over a stitching pattern.  Until I get there, I have no idea what will look best.  I so admire people who plan a quilt, buy the exact amount of fabric and sew it up.  How do they do it?  It’s a mystery. 

Quilting’s like life, though.  (Bear with me for a minute.)  We start with a few pieces, put them together and then build on from there the best we can, trying to make pretty patterns out of what we’ve got.  It’s a construction project, and even if the edges aren’t quite even, with care, we make something that warms us.  With luck, it’s close to a piece of art.  It would be easier, though, if we could do the math.

The finished quilt top.  All the notes at the bottom
are music in the air waiting to come into your head.
The backing is pure rock 'n roll.

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