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Quilt festival : the story of 'star stories'
Submitted by domesticat on 9 October 2009 - 10:52pm
I’m hoping nobody minds that I do this, because this is old news to anyone who has been reading my sporadic entries this year, but I wanted to make a single, combined post about my quilt ‘star stories’ for an online quilt festival. It seems there is an online quilting community, of which I am not really part of. Perhaps it is time.
The rules for the quilt festival ask that we write a post about our quilt that we’re entering, and provide photos. The problem is that I’ve done this already, in two separate posts. Forgive me if I combine the two of them together to tell the story of ‘star stories’ in a single post. It, and plenty of photos, are after the jump.
‘Star stories’ was a gift that came about from a look. My first quilt was given to Mandy, a coworker-friend, at her wedding shower, and when I did, a couple of people joked gently that Lexie was next. I noticed her reaction, and realized something: Lexie would never, ever ask for a quilt for her wedding — which, of course, meant I would do one.
I had found a star pattern, ‘cosmosdust,’ here and loved it. Since Mandy, Lexie, and I were all employees of the same library system, whose logo included books and stars, a star pattern seemed perfect.
Lexie has worked at this library system since she was a teenager. She’s well-known and well-liked, and it occurred to me that I might be able to get other people in on the project, if I just asked.
This is where I turn to my entry of January 2009, ‘entrusted‘ —
"This quilt presents a new challenge for me: I’ve had almost no input on the choice of fabrics. I contacted a group of people who all knew the recipient. I explained that I was going to make a quilt for this person, regardless of outside contributions, but if they wanted to contribute fabric I’d be happy to take it.
I don’t have photos yet of the sheer volume of fabric that landed on my cutting table, but it was impressive. I expected a few fabrics, but I’m presented with the very real possibility of being able to do the quilt top entirely through donations.
This has proven to be more of an emotional responsibility than I expected. While some of the people who contributed fabric bought new fabric specifically for this project, in colors they thought the recipient would like, many of these fabrics are old. Many of them come with stories. Several people fished out fabrics and spoke words like, "This came from a dress that my grandmother made me," or "I used this fabric to decorate my nursery before my first child was born." The one that had special resonance for me: fabric from college curtains that the submitter’s mother (who died some number of years ago) made for her.
I hesitated for a moment and almost didn’t take that fabric. It felt too special, too precious. I’ve buried a parent. I understand this.
These are people’s lives I’m stitching with here: grandparents, parents, siblings, children. I don’t know the stories of all of these fabrics, but I’m aware that by virtue of the nature of the project, the stories must exist. Some of the print patterns are new, but some are clearly decades old; some of the fabric pieces had that well-worn softness that only comes from use and love. They’ve been somewhere. They belonged to someone. It’s incredibly easy to wonder if a little of the love and care and goodwill that came from their prior uses, perhaps, lingers.
I find myself hoping that I’ll be able to do these fabrics justice."
The JeffSpouse can attest to the fabric (the equivalent of nearly three full garbage bags) that took up our kitchen. I cut star after star after star, trying to pick fabrics from all over the color spectrum, trusting that somehow, I would make it work.
I didn’t know what I had. I didn’t know how to arrange it. So I turned to what I trust: my camera rig and Adobe software. I photographed every star and sorted them by color, and asked myself, what do I do?
It took several revisions to get to this point, but when I reached the final row here, I knew I had it.
I called it ‘star stories’ from the beginning, because that’s what it was. Virtually every star was donated fabric, much of it used, all of it precious, and every bit of it had a story. I also had a deadline, though: Lexie’s wedding shower. I had promised that I would unveil the quilt top that night, come hell or high water.
Instead, what came was a quilt sprint. My laptop stayed at my kitchen table as a guide.
By night number four, even the cats were exhausted…
…and our front room was taken over by the half-assembled pieces:
An hour before the bridal shower was supposed to start, I pulled the quilt top off of the machine. It lacked the last, lightest row, but it did not matter. From the entry ‘This is why’ — here is what happened next. Lexie learned about her quilt, and the women who contributed fabric and made it possible told their star stories. Childhood dresses. Childhood costumes. College curtains. Fabric shared with other wedding quilts. Nursery fabric. Gifts for grandchildren.
I got a bit of a surprise tonight when I checked my camera’s card. I knew someone had picked up my camera during Lexie’s shower, the shower in which I showed ‘star stories’ for the first time, but I never checked to see what photos were on it…
The quilt sprint was not easy. The reaction made it worth every moment.
It was displayed at her wedding reception, along with many of the photos I took of assembly along the way.
After the wedding, the quilt top went off to be quilted, and is currently receiving its last touch: it has been sent out to one of our small, rural branches for hand-binding by a few of our librarians who weren’t able to get star fabric to me in time to participate in the first part of the quilt.
The full photoset is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/domesticat/sets/72157613043153779/
It was not the showiest quilt I did in 2009. That would be ‘red shift.’ Nor would it be the funniest; that would be ‘serendipity.’ Nor would it be the one closest to my color taste; that would be ‘Lights Over Lothlorien.’ But it is probably my best.