It’s weird to say that you can walk into fabric stores – which are, by definition, riots of color and print – and feel a little bored, but I’ve been struggling with that in the past year or so as I’ve become more familiar with What’s Out There. There aren’t that many manufacturers of quilting fabric, and there’s a strong faddish element to what’s in / out / hot / not at any point in time.
I’d heard about Liberty fabrics a time or two before actually getting to handle them in San Francisco for the first time, and I understood the allure once I handled them for the first time. They are light, tightly-woven, and silky in only the way that high-quality cotton voile can be. They don’t feel like quilt fabric, because they aren’t quilt fabric. They’re a different, lovelier, animal.
They’re also hideously expensive.
I learned about Shaukat (http://shaukat.co.uk) from some quilting site or another, and discovered that what they said was true – Shaukat carries virtually everything that Liberty sells, and at a tremendous discount. (The meter / half-meter minimum may be part of that.) Angel offered to pick up some fabrics for me, so I sent her some funds and she stopped by one afternoon, and I suggested that she pick up some fabrics for herself, so I could do a baby quilt for her daughter.
I pointed her to some designs, as well, and what I came out with was a design that was a contradiction from start to finish: the small-print traditionalism of classic Liberty prints with the improvisational piecing of the Mod Mosaic quilt pattern, which I can say definitively turns your sewing table into a massive mess:
I’ll also confess: I struggled with this quilt. Not because the pattern was hard, but because I just couldn’t get into a rhythm with it. It got sidetracked among other finishes and a great deal of travel, and I struggled to find my way. Some other sidetracked projects meant that it never had a drawer to call its own in my sewing room, and so it was always sitting on the sewing table, taunting me with its lack of doneness. It was the project where random pieces would show up scattered in the pieces for every other quilt I worked on, as if to say “Hi! I’m not done! You should finish me!”
So, aggravated one day after coming back from Europe, I made a bargain with myself. I pulled out my blueprint for the quilt:
and bargained with myself – one section per day. I’d focus on completing one mosaic piece per night, and stop. No marathons, no craziness, no tilting at windmills. One, and stop.
I’d pull them off of the sewing machine, scraggly and unpressed, and tamp them down:
before matching them up with the nearest possible mosaic-block size, and squaring them up:
and it worked. I knew I was gaming myself, but the slow-and-steady caused the project to actually move forward, after it had sat on the table for ages. I’d scribble the block off of the list at the bottom of my planning page when I had it done, and then as I hit the final weekend of block building, I started pinning the pieces up on the design wall and getting excited. It was a real thing.
On assembly weekend, I grabbed my crayons and started using colors to keep track of my jigsawing together the white sashing. These two, for example, correspond:
as do these two:
and the completed top:
I had one last little embellishment I wanted to add, though. On the bottom set of squares, you’ll see an Intentionally Blank Square. I’ve stitched initials into quilts before, butI wanted this one to be a little more floral, so I went trawling through my [immense] font set and found an initial-caps font with foliage. I printed it at 4” square on water-soluble paper:
and started stitching it in place:
I couldn’t see the end result until after the quilt had gone through the wash, but it turned out sunny and appropriate:
Jeff was kind enough to take it to the post office for me, so it got in the mail stream posthaste, and it has crossed the pond yet again to live a bit northeast of London. B, in this case, is for Beatrice, who is still young enough that she won’t remember the few months before her quilt arrived. I look foward to kitty, puppy, and kiddo pictures – those are always the best part after sending one of these off and away.
I’ve been struggling with a bit of travel-related blues in the past few months. I’m glad I traveled, and I’m glad I’m continuing to do so, but it’s hard to look around the house, my quilt work, and my life in general and see things that have to be paused or left untended while I am away, and it has been very easy to gnaw on myself artistically, personally, and professionally for the things left undone. The self-bargaining was a deliberate gambit to try to get myself to realize that even small amounts of effort can count as being “on track” if I focus. I needed to see some old projects finish; I knew it would reassure me that I was still capable of balancing travel and … well … me.
I was glad to see it done. I was glad to see it fly away. The incomplete projects bother me, because I can have the best intentions in the world but they don’t provide warmth or comfort if I can’t finish them – for the recipient, or myself.
There’s a lesson there. I’m still working on learning it.