‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Actually, it is likely to be somewhat more than a thousand stitches. I guess it would be several thousand, but as I didn’t count them whilst I was making this wholecloth quilt, I will never know the exact number of times the needle entered the soft peachy cotton fabric.

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I have always been fascinated when I have come across old quilts or coverlets in museums or books. I always find myself craning over the rope barriers in museums to take a closer look, to find out more about the maker.

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My mind sets off wondering how those women managed to create such beautiful, intricate and timeless treasures without the luxury of a fabric store with all its choice of fine cottons, without a ‘daylight’ bulb and without all the notions and mechanical aids of today’s modern world.  How different it was for those women of my past who didn’t have a fabric ‘stash’.  It is nothing short of miraculous how they did it  and I love how their strength and tenacity is preserved in the fibres of those beautiful hand made quilts.

These are some of the things that I pondered as I stitched ‘Morning Star’ and in my own way I felt connected to those women as my hands busied themselves with the rocking motion of the needle. I yearned to create something timeless as they had done, to create my own little piece to enchant the eye with intricate patterns.

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The journey began with a sketch on squared paper, doing my best to draw out a ‘scaled down’ version of the actual thing.

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I knew that if I could come up with a design for just one quarter of the quilt, then I could mirror and flip the pattern to create a whole quilt. I started with a design for the centre star; I practiced drawing feathers and gathered quilting templates from magazines and books.

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I ‘scaled up’ the design to a life size version and I transferred it on to fabric, mirroring and flipping the pattern until the whole top was marked out.

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I tried out several different thimbles, but the one that I found suited me best was a Clover leather thimble with a metal centre on the pad. By the time I had finished quilting ‘Morning Star’ I had worn a hole right through the metal on two thimbles and was on my third!

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Whilst the thimble protected my finger on top of the quilt, the finger on the underside took quite a battering and I was forced to stop on many an occasion when it would start to bleed from repeated stabbings.  I didn’t want to risk getting blood on the quilt!  Someone recommended that I use ‘udder cream’ on the afflicted finger which I found a highly amusing notion at the time, but I have to say it did help to sooth my chapped skin 🙂

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It delighted me to work simply with just the cloth and the frame. It was a real escape, simply to sit with the gentle rhythm of the needle as it gathered all those tiny stitches and lulled my racing thoughts.  I was able to lose myself in the doing of it and I loved it.

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I stitched ‘Morning Star’ back in 2005, so it is already a few years old and my hope is that I might get to hand it down to a grandchild at some point in the future and tell them the story behind the stitches.

I would like to tell them about those strong women who have gone before us, who stitched by candle light, making do with the materials that they had.  I would like to tell them about how every stitch in a quilt represents a moment in time in the life of it’s maker and I would like to explain to them that, although every tiny stitch stands alone, it is also part of the whole; connected to the rest.

Just like a family.

Natalie x