An unborn quilt starts out with such promise. All our hopes of successful piecing, sharp points and straight, even quilting stitches are yet to be realized. It’s all such a possibility. Conceptually, you plan the pattern, color, size, or maybe not. Just maybe, you throw caution to the wind and heavens forbid, design as you go! I really don’t think I can actually do that, but I know it’s been done! You have so many decisions to make. To appliqué, and then needle turn or fuse, embellish, rotary-cut or use scissors, machine or hand quilt?
Once the idea is conceived you need to purchase fabric, because we never, ever use our stashes, we’re saving that for… I don’t know what! With such a great excuse to go to the fabric shop, why not bring a quilter friend so she can buy something special to add to her stash. Besides, you’ll need the advice and support of a comrade quilter because it can be brutal among all those bolts. You know how seductive it can be as you stroll by the bolts so neatly wound. Those colors just calling out to you and before you know it you’re intoxicated with cotton and forgot your original plan.
Once you’ve made it home from an exhausting battle of the bolts, you wash them (with Orvus quilt soap) and then iron them. Or, you hide the newly purchased fabrics before someone close to you has you treated for your addiction to quilter’s cotton.
As the patches turn into blocks you begin to feel a sense of satisfaction. Maybe at this point you’ve changed your plans and have decided to add sashing, or set-in squares, no problem. You forge forward and soon the blocks begin to form the quilt top. You are so close; you can almost hear angels sing. But then…an “uh-oh” moment occurs as you realize to won’t have enough fabric to finish the last few blocks. How could you have miscalculated? What will you do? You measured using your new quilt calculator; you used the charts from your Quilters Math book. But alas, it doesn’t matter. Okay, no problem, we are quilters and a tough breed. We’ve been here before, just solve the problem. So you head back to the shop to buy more of the fabric, which you know, before you even leave your home, that the bolt is gone, and new stock has taken its place. AHHHH!! Okay, breathe, you go on–line to search the internet, start calling all the catalogues and your friends, eventually you come up with it. Such determination!
As part of the original plan you included quilting designs. You draw them on the finished quilt top with water erasable pens and chalk pencils, so you can have the pleasure of drawing them again as they erase during the quilting process. Why is it that the lines erase during quilting and when we’re done we can never seem to get them out?
The time to baste and layer is upon you. This is a necessary, but back and/or knee breaking, part of the process. Layering is like the third trimester, things are really taking shape now, your quilt is becoming a reality!
Usually we begin by locating pins and masking tape. It’s been so long… You think, when is the last time you basted? You hope the tape is still sticky and floor is clean! As the layers are carefully piled on the floor your cats begin to see the batting as their own personal kitty toy. They run under and over as you try to smooth it out. Having finally wrestled the cats away, taped the backing down, and layered the batting and quilt top, you begin.
You want to enlist your quilt friends to help. If you can’t seem to locate any helpers, rent a film, a long one, and listen as you baste the day away. Some four hours later, you have the satisfaction of holding what is beginning to feel like a quilt. Only you have about six months, or so, of quilting ahead of you.
As the days, turn into weeks and months, progress is being made and your under finger is now chopped meat. You’re breaking quilting needles at a pretty regular pace and hoping not to snap one into your eye. Fortunately, you have the perfect salve that helps to soothe the offended finger over-night.
As the last of the quilting stitches are sewn in, a bittersweet feeling overcomes. So glad to be finished, but we will miss the comfortable familiarity of picking up this quilt every evening.
Happily, you have put aside fabric for the binding. Once again, the cats come alive and enjoy swatting at the binding strip as it dangles over the ironing board, as you press it in half. An uneventful process, the binding is attached to the squared-up quilt and all that is left is the label and maybe a rod-pocket. The label will announce the birthday of the quilt and the proud quilt-maker.
Reprinted from May 2009