I am obsessing over fabric. And quilt patterns. Circles and Drunkard’s Paths. Things that have nothing at all to do with running, or physical fitness. Mental fitness? Possibly. NPR says yes, and I’m a fervent NPR believer, but often I am not smarter than my sewing machine, so NPR may have missed the mark on this one.
While I blog happily about running and circuits and Red Rocks and the occasional parenting, I’ve never blogged about something else I really love. Quilting. I even feel a little weird about saying I “love” it, because quilting and I only just started going together. Although, if we were dating, I probably would have jumped in the sack with quilting by the second date. I get all hot and goofy around fabric. Someone bring me a fan! And the actual act of quilting? Oh Mother! Quilting makes me giddy. Like slap happy teenage girl giddy. Like stalking basketball players in college giddy. Like I just chugged gallons of caffeine, then swam in it (wide-eyed without goggles), snorted it, then plugged it into the wall and had a techno dance party with it. I will stay up into the wee hours of the morning with my sewing machine, colored pencils and some batting; planning and doodling. So. Happy.
I have always, always, all.ways. had a creative outlet. I cannot survive without one. For years it was drawing and painting. Then as an adult it morphed into just general crafts. For a time it was knitting.
Then, I moved from the UK back to the US. One child morphed into two, and being a stay at home mom was my life. No time to paint. Are you kidding me? You want me to get out oil paint and turpentine around toddlers? In a house we own? No thanks. And knitting? Waaaay too much time. It took me months to produce anything. And yes, I acknowledge that I am a slow-ish knitter. And slow-ish just doesn’t jive with life with kids. At least not mine.
Then, I tried to learn to crochet. I saw that it was faster and still produced pretty sweet stuff. (Mainly hats. I have a thing for homemade hats.)
But the weird thing about crocheters (at least the ones at my disposal) is that they don’t follow patterns. They can’t tell you what they’re doing – they’re just doing it. I tried books and YouTube, went to the library and craft nights. After two years I successfully made one Hello Kitty hat for Amelia. That was it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around those different stitches and pattern abbreviations. K1P1 is stuck in my head and I get it. But, FPdc??? WHAT???
So there I was. Lost in Crafter Land. Not knowing what to make, which turn to take. Didn’t know whether to cut or paste, knit or purl. All that glue and fabric, wool and needles and only indecisiveness would sit next to me. So. Sad. Definitely a hole in my heart.
Then…one day I met Katie. She mistakenly thought I could sew. She invited me over to sew. Actually, the first thing she ever invited me to was a weekend rafting trip! Isn’t that a great way to become friends!? Fyi: YES.
But 3/4 of my family totally went on that trip, our husbands having never even met, and it was fantastic. And then, still delusional about my sewing abilities, she invited me to sew. Repeatedly. I mean, this girl was in full-blown denial about my relationship with my machine. I don’t even remember what I did the first time at her house. I am not sure I knew how to do much of anything except coasters and no-slip headbands. Which I am pretty good at 🙂
And you’re damn right I showed up at her house every time she invited me. Sewing machine at the ready.
Let me digress a little. I have owned a sewing machine for 7 years. I have been purchasing fabric and patterns for things for more than 7 years. But pretty much before October 2013 my sewing history was this:
One day, I found a sewing machine for sale, bought it and made 200 coasters for Christmas.
The woman who sold it to me showed me how to make a place mat, right on the spot. We even made binding for it. Didn’t know what binding was; whatever! I was sewing!
So, back to Katie. This Katie; I love her. I told her I wanted to make a quilt and she didn’t even think twice. She shared her stash. She shared her space and her books and her brain and her tools and her everything. She helped me choose a pattern, and schooled me in quilting terms. She held my hand, she was patient and it was good. Very good.
Oh no. Don’t be misled. My quilt isn’t that good. It’s all wonky and the seams do not line up, and 1/4″ means nothing to me, but I’ll get better at that. Right? Please say yes. I tell myself that at least 10x a sewing night. My first quilting experience was brilliant. Just BRILLIANT. And in the end this is what I made:
And more on the experience? Well, some things I learned about quilting:
1. Quilting isn’t just for grannies. And if you insist on believing that, you go right ahead. I’ll take your Granny and raise you two more little blue-haired ladies. Quilting is awesome. If your granny quilts, maybe she’s more awesome than you think she is. Maybe she’s more awesome than you and all along you’ve never known…..(you have a secretly awesome granny!)
2. Quilting isn’t the actual act of making a quilt, it’s the sewing that you do to a “quilt top” to make it all textured and snuggly. I’m not sure that definition is in the dictionary, but go with it. It’s mine. And Katie’s, of course. Textured and snuggly. And quilting can completely change the personality of a quilt. It’s magical. Unicorns and flying broomsticks magical. Harry Potter ain’t got nothing on quilting.
3. Piecing = sewing together all the pieces to make the top of your quilt. Me and piecing? Not friends. Not even frenemies really.
4. A quilt sandwich is the top, the batting and the backing all together. That’s what you baste and then QUILT.
5. Lots of people don’t quilt their own quilts!!! WHAT??!?!!?
6. I have learned about two ways to quilt:
a. Stitch in the ditch. Quilting over the existing seems. Possibly I will never stitch in the ditch. Those are straight lines, you know. Me and straight lines are like two opposing gangs in Chicago. Bloods and Crips. Or however you spell it. I’m a stay at home mom. I should not know these things.
b. Free-motion quilting. Oh my. HELL! YES!!! now you’re talking!!! The first time I free-motion quilted I cried.
No really. I did.
It was SO fun I cried. I’m sure if you’re an actual living human you’ve cried from joy, but have you ever cried from straight up fun? It may seem weird, and sure, my heart was all inside my chest confused about all this glee and where it came from(?) and not prepared for it at all, and I had to let it out or I would implode! I couldn’t squeal – there were kids sleeping. So I cried. A little. Or maybe like a medium amount. Like I said; magical. Once I put that quilt sandwich under my needle and began to move it around I saw that I could create something amazing. And that, my friends, that knowing you can flat out make something amazing, is a feeling second only to feeling true love.
6. Loads of quilters who are absolutely amazing at other aspects of quilting are not okay with free-motion quilting. They are scared to death of it. I do not understand this. Who wants to miss out on fun that makes you cry? Not this girl. But that’s okay; the quilting community, or at least a (freaking awesome) little enclave of it, has accepted me, so I can most definitely accept them.
This is my free-motion practice piece. I did some meandering and then I made a little monster:
To go with the little monster sleeping under these little monsters.
And then, flying high on the success of my first quilt and just DYING to free-motion quilt something else…I made this:
I am kind of excited about it. I mean, look at it!! It’s bright and colorful and happy and playful and I made those lines with my sewing machine!!! My little Huskystar C20. Good little machine that I still feel like I know nothing about 🙂
My idea for this quilt was inspired by a beyond amazing quilter, Angela Walters. I saw this on her blog and was inspired: http://www.quiltingismytherapy.com/2014/02/17/busy-city-quilt/
But I knew I wanted it a little different, and I knew I wanted to just quilt the heck out of some big chunks of fabric, and I also wanted to try a little applique.
So there you have it.
Ahhh. I’mma go snuggle some fabric now….