I taught myself to do what I liked to call quilting by reading books and watching videos from my local public library, chiefly the truly wonderful series by Jinny Beyer. What I was really doing was only the first step, piecing, as I never got far enough to actually quilt the pieced tops I was making. Quilting is the art of stitching the layers of pieced top, batting, and backing together with nice, even, tiny decorative running stitches. I made a couple of pillow tops, a doll quilt, a wall hanging, small things I could easily attempt to quilt with stitches embarrassingly wide apart. These wide stitches have a name: they are called toenail grabbers! and for good reason.
My very first official quilt class was taken in March of 2008 at Quilters' Destination. My instructor was Faith Chaplick, who had been teaching for another quilt shop closer to my home that had recently closed. That class, though at a quilt shop, was actually not related to quilting at all, but the technique of flower pounding, a fun way to "paint" with flowers, which I will talk more about another day.
In this actual quilt class I would be learning how to make a bargello quilt top using a pattern called Mist in the Mountains (shown below)
designed by Ann Lauer.
Though I had brought many fabrics with me from my stash at home, Faith pushed me to go to the edge with my color choices to really make the pattern strong. She also encouraged me to use fabrics with a bit of surface texture. Her class sample was not quilted, just a finished pieced top and so I had no idea what quilting method I would use. The bargello quilt top I made in that class is still not quilted and hangs at this moment above my computer table. However, I had enough fabric to make 2 tops and the second set had been sitting in my "to do" pile all this long while. Until now...
My attraction to the bargello design came from my one and only purchased quilt, a real beauty I bought at a quilt auction the autumn before, in benefit of Heifer International. What an experience that day was. I arrived just early enough to look over some of the quilts before the auction began and fell in love with a green and brown queen sized quilt, hand pieced and hand quilted by Amish women in the Amana Colonies. All of the quilts being auctioned that day were donations, so the history, or provenance, of many was limited. There were about 125 quilts on the schedule and my beauty was number 114 on the agenda! After watching for hours I was ready and I bid and counter bid and won my quilt!!
It is a bargello with a center medallion of log cabins turned on themselves. It is one of my most prized possessions, and the real beginning of Jerome's appreciation for quilts and quilting.
This spring my beautiful niece, Sarah, discovered she had a form of cancer called lymphoma. First she had surgery, and then she fiercely faced 8 rounds of chemo, each 3 weeks apart. On Friday September 9 she got the news she'd been waiting for, no sign of the cancer. During all this time she continued to practice and teach yoga, to hike the Rockies (she lives in Denver), to go underground exploring caves, to attend concerts and hang out with the girls, in short to live every moment to the fullest. How could I not be totally in awe of this young woman?! She has faced and survived more in her 26 years than many of us do in a lifetime.
Sarah and I have been pen pals for a long while now. And since we each began to blog within the past year we've been able to get windows on each others lives through our photographs and writings.
It was time to get out the pieces of the second bargello quilt top and assemble them into a quilt for Sarah. This one I WOULD quilt, bind, and label. It would also need a sleeve should Sarah want to hang it.
I will now openly admit that I was terrified of quilting. I had practiced stitching by hand and by machine. My hands are not yet skilled enough and may never be. My sewing machine, though serviced less than a year ago, does not have good tension control. I did a first rate job of the piecing Sarah's quilt, much more successfully assembled than the one I made for class. But could I surmount my fear and just do it for Sarah?
I think one of the things that Anne finds difficult about me is my hesitancy about things. In fact, it's one of the things I dislike most about myself. However, I needed to do this and do it now. I decided to follow the lead of the Amish ladies who made my auction quilt and use the same design, only by machine. Though the stitches on the back are a bit uneven, those on top are just fine. Today I bound it, added the sleeve and attached the label, the provenance necessary for any quilt to be complete. It is now packaged and waiting to be mailed tomorrow.
Above is a photo of the label.
I'll post other photos of it once I know it's in Sarah's hands. For now, I'm happy for Sarah's facing her fears and triumphing and for my small conquest as well.