Ends and means
I can say, finally, after five years and seven months:
Hello, Pentatonic. You’re done. You’re going home now.
My original, crazy, massively oversized Penrose tiling quilt is done at last. It carries all the imperfections of my first stabs at English paper piecing, as well as every bit of love I could bury into it over the course of five eventful years.
From “Closet Thoughts,” May 2011:
As it turned out, the tornado (a nasty, nasty EF-4, barely missing EF-5 status) tracked just a bit north of me, about a half-mile or so. Not much, given that the beast was about a quarter- to half-mile wide. I didn’t know that at the time, though, and in the space of those seemingly-eternal seconds I had plenty of time to think. I asked myself the question anyone would ask: “Any regrets?”
Mine made me chuckle: “I wish I’d finished Pentatonic. I wish I’d finished Seven Brides. I wanted to prove they could be done.”
This quilt has shouldered much in the five years it awaited completion.
An accident, a bad one, to a loved one.
His coma, and a range of ICUs (neurological, trauma) and hospitals.
Many months of his extensive physical and occupational rehab.
A job change.
The Hackleburg F5 tornado.
Much travel for work.
Losing quilt cats #1 and #2.
Buying a home in another state.
Gaining two new quilt cats.
New boyfriend, and his additional two quilt cats.
Packing the partially-completed top as part of my cross-country move caused me sadness and embarrassment – “all these years and STILL not finished” – and due to under-buying the original fabric, I believed it might never be finished.
But … let’s begin at the beginning.
Jacob introduced me to Penrose tilings through instant message late one afternoon, and our discussions then and since have completely altered my interest in quiltmaking. They were always shown in two colors, and I thought, “What if I could technically keep my design a solid plus a single, creatively cut, print fabric?”
I settled on two fabrics from Kaufman’s “Chasing The Rainbow II” line:
and colored in this graph to determine what I wanted to do:
I chose the portion of the infinite tiling to display, and decided white made the best background color:
In the week of power outage after the Hackleburg tornado hit down the street from me, I started cutting out fabric for this quilt, and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers:
I tested a LOT of different star ideas from the fabrics, and found some I liked:
I always knew I wanted the glowy green stars to be the center medallion of the quilt. Tenzing, AKA Quilt Cat #1, assisted:
I traveled a lot for work, and this project went everywhere with me:
and when I got home, I would bolt in my progress to the rest of the top, one section at a time,
while updating my little schematic so I could see how much I had left to go.
I stopped soon after this point, though, because I knew I had a problem. I was running out of fabric:
I kept a saved search on eBay for it for a couple of years, and eventually began to despair of ever finishing the project. I started making stars that were the best of what fabric I still had. Then, in May 2014, ten yards of the fabric I needed appeared for sale on eBay. I bought it all, and the project was back on. As I made progress with the luxury of spare fabric, I realized I would eventually want to go back and fix a few stars made during the time of scarcity that I never would’ve placed in the quilt if I’d had any other choice. (February 2015, “Pick-Up Time”)
Those ten yards let me start fussy-cutting, and saved the project.
After constant use and reuse, my paper templates were showing signs of wear, just like me:
Kolohe, my newest quilt cat, was undeterred by my slow progress:
and when I’d finally finished the top, and found the longarm quilter I wanted to use, I gave her a printed chart to help her see the pattern. (A nod of respect to Nancy at justquiltingpdx.com because her work was beautiful and appropriate!)
When she sent me this photo as a teaser, so I’d know she was almost done with it, I was so excited I immediately shared it out for everyone to see:
It’s beautifully quilted, honoring the pattern and texture of the design. White thread on white fabrics, color-matching thread on the others. It was labor-intensive and worth every penny:
Jacob and I met up for a five-day visit plus sewing retreat, and as part of it, we took over the living room of the place we were staying, and oh-so-carefully trimmed Pentatonic to final size.
I, of course, immediately sat on it afterward to demonstrate scale:
and once I’d finished hand-binding it, we pinned it to my sleeve and photographed it properly out in my courtyard:
It is quilted with Easter eggs all through it. My home state. Jacob’s home state. An outline of Australia. Cats. The names of Jacob’s wife and children. A message from me. It is as intensely personal as you’d expect of a 96” x 96” (2.44m²) hand-sewn quilt. I’m halfway through the promise I made myself while huddling in the closet in 2011: I finished Pentatonic. It goes home with Jacob today, and if the stars align, and we submit it in time, it should be displayed at the Sisters Quilt Show next summer.
Go home to Minnesota, Ms. Pentatonic. You have people to keep warm. You are no longer my Guilt Quilt. You are just an object to be loved and snuggled under; an object that serves as a reminder that even in the lowest period of my life, I chose to continue making beautiful things. It took five years, but I am finding my way back to warmth and light, and Pentatonic is finally going home.