Are you a quilter, or a Quilter?
quilter (noun): A person who casually makes quilts. Might also enjoy sewing garments, knitting, and other creative pursuits. Enjoys the company of other human beings, a furry companion or two, and generally leading a normal and well-balanced life.
Quilter (noun): A person who considers quilting to be serious business. Tolerates, and perhaps even relishes in, the absolute insanity of machine quilting. Has the massive upper body strength required to wrestle a quilt into the all-too-tiny opening in the free arm of the machine. Most importantly, has the mental fortitude to restrain oneself from jumping out the window during a long session of quilting at the machine.
Friends, I am saddened to inform you that I am decidedly NOT a Quilter.
After another long sentence in my “sewing bin” (where unfinished projects are punished for being unmanageable, unenjoyable, or too time-consuming), I found myself digging out my beloved Tulip Quilt for another ill-fated attempt at finally finishing this 11-year-old project. Yes, this quilt has been in progress for 11 years! That should say something about my tolerance for quilting (i.e., nearly non-existent). However, in an effort to finish what I started and give an appreciative nod to my younger, quilt-loving self, I am determined to actually complete this project… eventually.
This weekend I had the
pleasure displeasure of another long and arduous meeting between myself, my sewing machine, and this behemoth of a quilt. It’s not even all that big from a quilting standpoint, but it’s much larger than any garment I’ve made, which makes it feel like an absolute sea of fabric. A never-ending sea of “I NEED TO BE QUILTED” fabric. Oh the humanity.
If you’ve ever machine quilted a quilt, you know what I’m talking about. The photo above gives you an idea of all the fabric manipulation involved in this extremely laborious (at least for me) process. I try to focus on one section of the quilt at a time, rolling up the rest of the fabric so that I can squeeze it through the free arm opening with as little drama as possible. But oh, the drama that ensues! The majority of the quilt is located away from the machine in this photo, but rotating all that bulk toward the needle is an exercise in upper arm strength and maintaining one’s sanity.
All kidding aside, my arms and shoulders were legitimately sore after wrestling with this quilt for a few hours yesterday afternoon. I lost count of the number of grimaces on my face and “help me” looks I longingly gave to my cat. I wondered aloud to myself how serious Quilters manage to tolerate, and perhaps even enjoy (!) this process. How do they do it?? What’s their secret?
One thing I realized yesterday is that my decision to outline each flower, leaf, and bird was a huge mistake. Originally I thought it would be a simple way to quilt the quilt, not requiring any extra lines to draw or complicated patterns to follow. What I didn’t anticipate was all the pivoting and associated quilt rotating and arm wrestling that would be involved. And the curved edges of the leaves and birds… how did I miss that?? Oh, how I wish I had just decided on a simple grid of straight lines. Too late now, my friends. Too, too late…
One beacon of hope in this machine quilting debacle has been my beloved walking foot, pictured above. It does a fantastic job of keeping all the layers together and, for the most part, avoiding puckers during quilting. I think I could avoid puckers all together if I had a little more patience and could manage the bulk of the quilt more easily, but alas, I’ll take what I can get at this point! The walking foot is also great for using as a stitching guide. I simply line up one of the bars of the foot with the edge of the motif, and the quilting winds up being ~about~ 1/4 inch away. “Close enough” has been my motto on this project.
After yesterday’s quilting session (aka the ultimate test of mental stability?), I managed to complete the outlining around all the flowers and hellaciously round leaves and birds. Hopefully the above photo gives you an idea of how the quilting is turning out. You can see a decent amount of quilting on the back of the quilt now, and I’ve been able to remove about half the safety pins that have been basting the quilt sandwich together for several years now (thankfully, without any rusting!).
But alas, there is still more quilting to go. I haven’t yet decided how I’ll continue, but I think at the very least I’ll need additional quilting inside the tulips, in some of the larger white spaces between the stems, and in the sashing and exterior border. Do you have any recommendations for quilting patterns? Perhaps I’ll make some small cardboard templates and trace around them? Ah, just the thought of quilting around more small objects is increasing the number of gray hairs on my head.
To make myself feel better, I’ve been parading around the house with the unfinished quilt wrapped around me, imagining how glorious it will be when this monster of a project is finally completed. I am absolutely determined to finish this thing, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for any more full-sized quilts showing up on this blog. Ever. 🙂
In other news, Boston got slammed with yet another blizzard yesterday. It was a nice day for huddling in the house with a big sewing project, but the six-foot walls of snow everywhere are starting to get old. Spring will eventually arrive, right? RIGHT?!!?!???
So tell me, are you a quilter or a Quilter? Or do you happily stick to garments and completely avoid the quilting-induced insanity? 🙂