What’s Your Block?

29 Dec

I'm somewhere under this monstrous pile, sewing the joining seams on my Mom's quilt in 2009.

Making a Quilt for My BFF (Part Three)

In the past, the assembly of a quilt has been by far the most difficult for me. It seems easy enough in theory to join together the three layers: pieced top, backing and middle batting. But in practice, I’ve tried sprays and pins each time but ultimately been forced to manual basting–sewing loose lines–as the only effective way to prepare the layers for actual quilting.

Quilting connects us to women throughout the centuries before. Jen and I go way back, but not quite that far.

Additionally, for these final connecting seams, I’ve always selected patterns that allowed me to stitch in the ditch. (That means you simply sew the three layers together along your top seam lines.) While perfectly effective, this limits your joining pattern to simple squares and rectangles. The only alternative would be to hand-sew a decorative pattern one taut quilt hoop at a time, the way my Great Aunt Jo and women throughout the ages used to do.

I, however, have an irrational fear of this level of hand-sewing and the incredible additional work it must involve. I salute those who have done it this way, much as I admire women past and present who have been able to give birth naturally. Nevertheless, the process involved even to machine sew for this last phase in the past has proved traumatic enough to prevent me from enthusiastically taking on a new quilt. In short, assembly had become my block (pun intended), that is, until last fall.

After recently moving to a new city, while on a paint run to Sherwin Williams, I stumbled upon an unassuming quilt shop window. Something beckoned me to look inside. When I did, the first thing that caught my eye was a giant machine humming busily in one quadrant of the store. I instantly recognized its purpose and nearly shrieked at the nearest shop employee, “You can assemble quilts!” I was so excited at this discovery that I resolved to make my dear friend Jennifer a quilt in that very moment.

Call me lazy. Maybe this IS a big cheat. But back to the birth analogy, I had two C-sections; does that make me less of a mother? And while I happened to breast-feed, if it hadn’t worked out, would I have starved my child? No, of course not. If I had needed to bottle-feed, whether by choice or necessity, that would have been okay, too. What’s important is ensuring your baby gets the nutrition and sustenance it needs, right?

The completed quilt top!

Creative babies are no different. The important thing is to keep them alive. Might a modern Michelangelo have used computers to assist his Sistine Chapel paintings? Verily!

Nevertheless, my personal guilt was not alleviated until I learned of the long queue of quilts awaiting their turn at the long-arm Gammill Statler quilting machine. Not to stereotype, but I’m pretty sure most of them were put there by far more veteran quilters– women (and some men!) who were savvy enough to utilize the latest technology while freeing up significant chunks of their time and creative energies.

The finished quilt should be ready in 6 weeks.

When I ventured back to Cornerstone Quilt Shop, the girls there (as their emails are signed) reminded me of Designing Women, interspersed at their stations in the shop. To get a photo, I had to explain how I had been blogging about the process. One beautiful white-bobbed sewer looked up from her machine, seeming amused. “Welcome to the club,” her warm smile said.

“You’ve done well,” the lovely woman who was walking me through arrangements reassured. After picking out the joining thread and stitching pattern, I asked my helper’s name (partly to be sure in whose hands I was leaving my baby). “Jenny.” The name of my lifelong friend, the quilt’s soon-to-be recipient.

So it is that the quilter’s hoop has come full circle. This final, painful phase has been turned over to experienced midwives. And I now need only wait for our shared baby to be fully delivered.

See also Who’s Your Fire Escape? (Part One) and Pieces of Us (Part Two).

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2 Responses to “What’s Your Block?”

  1. pursuingthemuse December 31, 2011 at 1:04 am #

    Love your analogies Tracey! Congrats on relinquishing your baby to the pros at the quilt shop, who will return a beautiful finished product soon I know.

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  1. Who’s Your Fire Escape? « - December 29, 2011

    […] also: Pieces of Us (Part Two) and What’s Your Block? (Part Three). GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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