I am submitting my crazy quilt “For Lo” to the Bloggers Quilt Festival.
It is not a piece of fine quilting, it is not some great example of colour coordination or piecing perfection, and it is not a work of art. But it is special to me and Lo.
“For Lo” marks the beginning of my quilting journey. It is my very first completed quilt.
Let me tell you its story.
After months of stalking libraries and bookstores, pouring over inspiring quilting books, months of staring blankly into a piss-poor fabric stash, and months of doubting my ability to pull off such a project, I finally put scissors to fabric in January 2006. The idea was to use fabrics that meant something to me. So among others, the quilt contains fabric from some of Lo’s old and well-worn plaid shirts. There are my old cords. Cords onto which I accidentally poured a bunch of acid in an accidental acid-related accident at work. (I only have a small scar, and no, I didn’t fill out an incident report. This is my incident report.) There is leftover suiting from an old reversible vest I’d made myself eons ago. I recently donated said vest to my eldest child despite the fact that it still fits me (without even trying!), but it suits her bohemian style so much more. There are Lo’s old cargo pants. There’s even a plaid in there from a sewing project that, together (yes, together!), Lo and I worked on when we first decided to co-habitate, the remnant of a piece we used to recover an old padded rocking chair we’d gotten free off his parents. Also, I do admit, I broke down and bought some new fabrics. But they were the cheapest of the cheap fabrics I could find and they include, silly me, some stretchy polyester types. Also, by the time I decided to purchase fabric to complete my paltry collection, I knew I was making a “manly” quilt, one that would exude macho, one that would give Lo a sense that he was ensconcing himself in male-ness every time he used it. Was that even possible? From a quilt? I didn’t know. However, at that point there was no turning back. I was making a guy quilt and that was that.
That is also why I decided to make a crazy quilt. I love Lo with all my heart, he is my man and always will be, BUT… he is crazy. He reads physics books for fun… He picks out documentaries for movie night… He stands on his tippy toes, like, all the time (and has THE most amazing calves to prove it)… Despite his ENGLISH degree, he says renember instead of remember, samwitch instead of sandwich, and trabampoline instead of trampoline… I could go on, but I won’t. The bottom line is that a crazy quilt for my man was the most appropriate and fitting choice.
I started by cutting an old white poly-cotton sheet into 30 (Note: 30) 16-inch squares. These poly-cotton blocks were the fabric onto which all patches were to be attached. Then, I cut out a whole whack of patches ahead of time. Oops. That was a bit of a mistake, and a somewhat large waste of fabric. It’s a crazy quilt and every block is different. In fact, every patch is different so cutting in advance was just… wrong-headed. Nevertheless, that’s what I did. I took the patches, pinning them onto the white squares, sewing them in place, and adding embroidery. I was a painfully slow embroiderer at first having never ventured beyond the blanket stitch before. But I did improve, working steadily, consistently, and after 3 months I had completed 16 squares! And then on square number 17, I stalled. No, actually. I just stopped. I was sick. Of. This. Quilt. Like Austin Powers, I was spent.
I had struggled with relationships before and my relationship with this quilt was no exception. It had been too much too soon I guess.
And I didn’t go back to it. The pile just sat there in the corner of my living room. Staring at me whenever I went by. Laying on a guilt trip every time it caught my eye. Eventually I decided that this was one mountain I was not going to climb. So, I put the pile away, relegating it to a closet filled with old stuff we never use. I was disappointed but resigned.
Weeks… months… a year went by. And finally in about October 2007, Lo and I were discussing our Christmas plans. Every year we decide either to refrain from doing Christmas gifts altogether or to make each other something from scratch. In 2007, it was determined that gifts were to be handmade. At this point I had no idea what I was going to do, but eventually the obvious solution emerged. Maybe I should finish the quilt… Did I have the time, did I have the character to finish this thing?
I made the trip to the closet. Pulled out the pile of blocks. Looked at each one of them in turn. There was energy in them. There was clear effort. And there was beauty. Every stitch had been done by MY hand. So I had to finish it.
And I did. I made some decisions. First, the quilt would be smaller. 30 blocks became 20. Second, the quilt would be tied instead of quilted. And it was.
Finally, after almost 2 years in the making, I finished the crazy quilt “For Lo” in mid-December of 2007. I gave it to my Lo for Christmas and he was stunned. He loved it. He still does.
And I’ve made others since, but this quilt is special. It is a snippet of who I am. I actually learned stuff from this quilt. It sounds corny, I know, but I learned that I CAN FINISH THE STUFF I START! I can make a plan and see it through… eventually. I do have character after all! I also learned to: BE FLEXIBLE, MICHELE! Sometimes the plan needs to change slightly. The original plan is impossible, so change it, dammit! I learned patience too. Be patient with yourself, Michele. Don’t give up on yourself or your projects. Things take the time they take. That is what I learned from this quilt. That’s what makes it special.
So here is “For Lo” in all its glory. I hope you like it as much as Lo and I do…