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Saturday, August 26, 2017

I spray-basted a quilt for the first time

chquilts: ready to quilt
Ready to quilt my purple Dresden Plate quilt

I tried spray basting a quilt for the first time. Whoa, there has to be a better way. Or, I’m just not doing it right.

This exercise reminds me that when I said I loved every aspect of quilting, I lied. It isn’t a lie really, I’m just in denial about this part of the quilt making process. I have never been fond of this fundamental step-- putting a quilt top together with its batting and backing fabric—before the real fun begins. It is a very important step however.

I’ve tried several different ways and haven’t found one that doesn’t make me grit my teeth. I’ve used the traditional safety pin method, where I generally get aggravated or impatient or both, causing me to start skimping on the number of pins I use. I’ve tried Sharon Shamber’s method of rolling the quilt onto boards and then basting the three parts together a little at a time. She makes it look so easy. This is probably one of the best methods I’ve seen, but it remains timely and cumbersome with a large quilt in a small space, which is what I have to work with. This is why I wanted to try the spray basting method. I used 505 adhesive spray.

The only positive thing I can say about this step in the quilt making process, is that it is necessary. Without it, there is no process; There is no quilt. For me, that is just not an option. So, I will continue to grit my teeth.

While I recognize that perfecting this technique would be well worth it, this was just my first time spray basting. I do see the benefits. Admittedly, I struggled with getting all the layers smooth. I disliked all the on-the-floor, off-the-floor, on-the-floor that was necessary. I think hanging the quilt would make it much easier than rearranging all the living room furniture, shooing the cats away, and hoping I didn’t glue all my belongings together, not to mention the bending, stooping, and walking in circles. My only hope is to try Patsy Thompson’s method, which involves hanging the quilt and letting gravity help keep things straight. I will try that next time.

Spray basting was only part of my problem

This is also the first time I used an oversized backing fabric. I had picked out a fabric that I already had, but didn’t really like it. I decided to purchase a nice piece of lavender print that was 104” wide. I bought four yards of it.

I have been looking at this quilt for some time, actually. It was started ages ago. As outlined in a prior blog post, initially I wasn’t happy with it. It was square, so I enlarged it, adding an entire row with four brand new blocks, all the sashing and cornerstones. I was amazed how well that worked. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know. Then I decided I wanted to add the final border. I love how that turned out. It makes the quilt about the right size and in my mind, sets off the pattern nicely. But working with all that fabric was a headache.

First I got out my iron and ironing board. Yikes! By the time I pressed the last of it, the first part was already wrinkled. I just looked at it for a few days, wondering what to do next. I laid out the back, unrolled the queen sized batting on top, then added the quilt top. There was lots leftover. I trimmed away some of it, which helped a little. The table I was working on was always adequate in the past. I’m not sure why it was such a struggle this time, but it certainly was. Finally, I folded the would-be quilt, with all three pieces and left them for a while. I had to figure out what, where, and how to get this thing basted.

Finally I decided Friday night was it. Tired of looking at this pile of pretty purple fabric, I want to start quilting again. I decided the living room was it. I vacuumed. I moved all the furniture. I used painter’s tape to secure the corners and the middle of the backing fabric. Of course the tape didn’t stick to my vinyl flooring. I did the best I could though and spray basted one half at a time, first the top to the batting, then the batting to the backing. Then the other half. I did the best I could. Finally, I was able to slide a quilting hoop into the middle and secured it into place. Just the look of a quilt ready to be quilted is comforting to me. I placed the quilt hoop onto a wooden snack tray. The quilt drapes onto the floor, but should stay in relatively good form. Ryan, my cat loves new quilts, so I placed a towel on it to protect it from cat hair. Ryan is now its guardian.

I’ve decided to hand-quilt this quilt. I think the traditional pattern deserves traditional quilting. I’ve already taken a few stitches. Oh my, this is not comfortable. I am very rusty. I will need lots of practice, but that will come. I started by drawing a spiral into the middle of one of the Dresden plates. Wow, this is harder than I remembered. So much for quilting being a relaxing activity. Right now, I’m tense, the lighting is terrible where I’m working, my stitches are not uniform, and I definitely need to find my rhythm. That will come. Now, I’m ready for those cold, winter nights. Bring it on!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lone quilter

People often ask me if I belong to a guild or quilting group. Sometimes they look at me funny when I tell them, no, I’m a lone quilter.

While I’m not averse to the social aspects of quilting in a crowd, lone quilting is more than an activity to me; it is a philosophy. I think of quilting as a form of meditation. It is an activity that allows for deep personal thought. It is therapy. I find I am very busy these days and juggle lots of responsibility. There is seldom enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done, so often times, I don’t even try. I am not the kind of person that frets over a sink full of dirty dishes. I figure they will wait for me. I always get around to the chores that need doing, but I get around to them on my time.

Quilting is one activity I want to make time for. It is a kind of precious gift I give to myself, not unlike baking myself a birthday cake. I relish the alone time, feeling free, as my mind wanders wherever it wants to go.

I am a self-taught quilter who enjoys learning new things, especially something creative that inspires me. And though I’ve been quilting for nearly 20 years, I still consider myself a newbie. There is so much to learn, to try, and to practice. This type of learning requires deep concentration, where all my faculties can engage with little distraction.

But just because I don’t physically go elsewhere to work on a quilt, that doesn’t mean I don’t belong to quilting groups. In fact, I do belong to several on the computer. Modern quilting allows the best of both worlds--lone quilting and social interaction. Internet quilting groups are great for advice, counsel, and camaraderie. Online sources also offer nearly endless learning potential.

Ironically, one of the most inspirational aspects of quilting for me, is its rich history. The quilting bee was a huge part of the history of quilting; its root remains relevant today in various guilds and church groups. I have always been drawn to stories about brave American pioneer families who traveled west to seek a better life. Quiltmaking was a huge part of the American story in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Quilting was a social activity for women of the day, but moreso, handmade quilts were a necessity for survival during long, cold winter months. Women’s use of fabric from worn out clothing and livestock feed sacks was necessary for their survival.

Socialization with other women, as well as the need to finish sewing together the pieces of cloth that would warm their families, was probably as psychologically necessary to pioneer women as lone quilting is to me today.

Quiltmaking has gone through such evolution. No longer strictly functional, the modern quilt story is much more complex. Traditional function remains one of its amenities, but quilts today represent everything from a way to earn a living to the creation of fine art. Quilts come in various sizes, from huge bed quilts to table runners, wall hangings, and candle pads. They use design and color in new ways as well. Modern quilts range from the traditional log cabin, bear paw, and churn dash quilt blocks to the complex computer-drawn star points. There are also new uses of a variety of fabric and thread. The creations are limited only by their creator's imagination and skill.

There is no end to the inspiration, which is largely what intrigues me the most. I want to make a rag quilt, a one-block wonder, bargello, art quilts, and so much more. I want to improve my paper-piecing techniques, and learn new free-motion quilting designs, as well as hone my skills on those I’ve already done. I want to return to hand-quilting, and further experiment with color.

I finished my first quilt in 2003. I have made many more since. I knew then that I loved quiltmaking and I would be a quilter for the rest of my life. My quilting journey has shown me there is no end to this creative process. Every new idea brings about an endless stream of new ideas, limited only by our own imagination.

While I will likely never go to a quilting group, I do belong to several virtual groups. The computer is another tool that has enhanced the quilting experience. I have learned so much because of the ability to watch other quilters on videos. I owe each of them a debt.