that moment when …

… you finish a quilt and you can’t quite believe it’s actually done!

That very thing happened to me today.

I put the final stitch in a quilt that has been on the go for at least a dozen years. Yep, you read that right, 12 years! So long ago in fact that I can’t even remember how the blocks were constructed! How bad is that?! Mile a minute quilt 009

The funny part is, the technique for making the blocks was called ‘mile-a-minute’ … let’s think about that for a moment.  There are approximately 1,440 minutes in a day, 525,600 minutes in a year and it has taken me 12 years to complete the quilt , so by my reckoning this quilt should measure around 6,307,200 miles!! 🙂

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In my defense, it is entirely hand quilted except for the final border which I stitched on the machine.

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hand quilting

I learned a thing or two during the making of this quilt.

For instance, I have learned that my choice in fabrics has changed A LOT in the last 12 years, which isn’t that surprising really given the huge array of fresh modern fabrics around these days. I could spend all of my wages on fabric, seriously … if only I didn’t have to feed my family and pay the bills! Darn, there’s always a catch!

I also learned that ‘scrappy’ borders are stretchy little suckers and need careful handling otherwise your quilt WILL end up with somewhat wiggly edges.

I learned that if you leave a quilt-in-progress in a heap on the floor of your workroom, it is highly likely that your pet dog will use it to sleep on. The same pet dog may also piddle on it, causing you to have to dunk it in the bath tub (the quilt, not the dog).  And, because you used a water erasable marker … yep, you guessed it … all your quilt lines will disappear!

Ironically, if you then re-mark the quilt lines and store your unfinished quilt in a cupboard for years on end the marks won’t come out completely, no matter how many times you wash it (true story).

But you know, for all it’s imperfections, I have also learned to love this quilt.  It may not have my favourite colours in it; it may not be my favourite design and my stitching may not be as neat as I would like,  but we’ve spent quite a bit of time together already, this quilt and I,  and we have come to accept that neither one of us is perfect.

And I am OK with that.

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Natalie xx

 

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‘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