Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quilting a metaphor for life or the 'if it can go wrong it will' quilt block

I am obviously NO quilt artist.

I barely qualify as a quilter with only a few finished projects. I tend to write about other people's accomplishments and fabric art and quilts instead of making my own. One quilt artist referred to me as a cheerleader. I guess that's as accurate as any label.

But during a venture into paper piecing I stumbled upon a truth that too often is forgotten. No professional, artist, master quilter makes a completed work of art without some effort and yes frustration and YES -- ripping!

And I also discovered that even with all of those stumbles and do-overs, when you enjoy what you have a sense of where the project is heading or have a vision of what you want to create -- well, there's a certain determination and even joy in overcoming the problems set in your way.

I guess this could be a metaphor for life. Maybe this little 9-patch star is a metaphor for my life. Such potential here less than half completed. And yes, it is imperfect. Like me. Can you pick out the square -- the one where I cut off the seam allowance?

Yes, this definitely has been a 'if it could go wrong it did' project. And it isn't finished, yet. 

This began after watching Carol Doak's video on paper piecing at The Quilt Show, Alex Anderson's and Ricky Tim's internet show and quilting community. I searched the Internet and found a pattern for a modest little tulip square. There are tons of paper piecing patterns, free for the taking online. Here's a photo of my first little tulip. My husband says it looks more like an ice cream cone -- I have to agree. Poor choices of color, I think.

With that first attempt, I was hooked on paper piecing. I grew up among traditional quilters who judged a quilt on perfection. Perfectly aligned corners, sharp star points, teeny tiny even hand quilting stitches.... Well, you know I'm sure what I'm talking about.

It just so happened that I have a copy of Carol Doak's earlier book Simply Sensational 9-Patch Stars and decided on one star to make. Not too intricate, doable. Definitely within a beginner's realm. And the paper piecing went smoothly. Carol includes a CD with the book that allows downloading a Foundation software and from there I can print off the patterns.

Easy! No problem.

The problem came with my rusty sewing skills and absent minded senior-moment brain! I carefully worked out the fabric placement then the very first piece I sewed into place was WRONG. I precut strips to the sizes Carol suggested for the pieces and when I begn to use them I realized that I had no idea where I got some of those dimensions but they made no sense. What was I thinking?

I asked that question alot!

What was I thinking indeed when I cut the seam allowance off the side of one of the nine-patches. And what was I thinking when I put a couple of fabrics on and realized after they were sewed in place that they didn't quite cover the required area! Rip! Rip! Rip! Or as someone kindly suggested 'reverse sewing....'

Just when I thought I'd finished with the tough stuff. All squares were paper pieced and were done correctly. So I sewed them together. First two rows of three -- perfect. OK, I STARTED to place one upside down, but caught it before the first stitch.

And then I held it up -- all done. And there was the last row UPSIDE DOWN!

Rip! Rip! Rip! I don't think I have ever done as much reverse sewing and re-sewing on any project including the clothing and home decorations I have made through the years!

Finally finished.

Maybe not totally perfect. But I'm impressed. And yet I didn't want it to just be one square. I was making it to use with a couple of other 12-inch blocks I had previously made from the same fabric.

Now how does one make three 12-inch blocks and end up with a 12 inch, an 11--plus inch and a 12-plus-inch square?

I squared them up, added border and went to reach for some black to run along oneside to turn this into a wall hanging that says 'welcome.'

Did you guess? Of course I cannot find my stash of black cotton fabric. Will this project ever truly reach the 'finish' line and will it actually turn out okay? Stay tuned! :)

I've included a photo of the blocks set together. The center star is the one taken from the Carol Doak book.

Oh, and of course the photo wouldn't download on first try. Do I really trust this wallhanging to stop giving me trouble after it is completed?!

My experience is only a sample of what others have gone through to finally complete their quilt whether it is for a bed, a wall, an exhibit, or an award winner.... Everyone who sews have days like this. As with life it is not meant to be easy -- but the process, the journey, ahhh there's the fun. The challenge. Overcoming. Yes, and like childbirth no matter how ugly -- looking at the thing you've created and knowing that you've put a bit of yourself into it. Pure joy!

So as you read the guest blogs -- read between the lines and realize that each piece of fabric art that touches our hearts and gives us glimpses of breath taking beauty included pin pricks, ripping ripping ripping, and redos many many redos. But they persevered.

You can do it! We can do it! And it is all worthwhile. Ever had a day or a project like this one? Tell me more! -- Dawn


Sally said...

Dawn--Your comments on your project are good! Learning to quilt is not an intuitive process---more like a baby going from not being able to turn over to advancing to running. When I teach, some of my quilts go with me. I usually have at least one person who tells me they could never do "that". I also say that a few years ago I couldn't either. You build on your knowledge gradually---and sometimes surprise even yourself at how far you have come in your quilting journey. Happy travels--Sally

TexasRed said...

I have definitely experienced my share of "reverse sewing". Your finished project looks fantastic!

Darlene said...

I made a rail fence quilt last week that looked simple, but if something could go wrong, it did! Even machine quilting the thing was a challenge. All that's left is to bind it. I'm wondering what can go wrong with that...Right now I just want to finish it.

You're finding out that "reverse sewing" is definitely part of the process!

Rayna said...

I laughed through this post,Dawn. Different size blocks? I would have cut them all to the 11" size and not thought about it. Then, I probably would have left the upside down row alone. But that's ME. Lazy and who's to know it wasn't deliberate? LOL. That said, I get frantic if my seam ripper is not immediately at hand. I need to order a couple of dozen, I use them so much.

magpie said...

Your blocks look great in spite of Mr. Murphy dropping in now and then! Reverse sewing just adds to our skill set!!