Why They Call It Quilting
May 30, 2006
Hope you’re having a Grand Time viewing the canyon. I would imagine there is some interesting wildlife to be seen out there. Slithering, creeping, crawling, man-eating–the whole Circle of Life. Me, I’ve been dealing with the typical fauna of Lawn Guyland. Oh sure, sometimes they get a little crabby, but they’re harmless, really. I’m guessing that if the cee-ment wigwams were a challenge for the Swiss Family Shayne, the Grand Canyon is every bit as thrill-filled. I hope you make it out in one piece. Four pieces. Whatever–the same way you went in!
That’s All Over Now
For a second there last week, I thought that maybe quilting was The New Knitting. I considered how to go about sucking you, my co-bloguette, into the vortex. “Mason-Dixon Quilting”: doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Wouldn’t it give us just LOADS to talk about? Seeing as how we don’t know how to DO it?
Over the weekend, the plan was to practice up on the “quilting” in quilting. You know, the part where you make a sandwich out of the patchwork you had so much fun making, the batting that you felt proud to ask for in the fabric store (all-cotton, the thinnest kind, by order of Denyse herself), and the backing that is sort of just a piece of fabric or maybe 2 pieces of fabric, and you sew these 3 layers together with sharp, tiny needles (so sharp! so tiny!) and the smallest stitches you can muster? In a more or less decorative way?
So here we have the Practice Item. A little patchwork pillow cover. The 9 main patches are from Denyse Schmidt Flea Market Fancy collection, log cabinned with a strip of orange Heather Ross (‘Fireflies’–isn’t it the best orange?) and a cool Japanese import (from Purl Patchwork, the store that makes you buy fabric, whether you sew or not–it is not about USING the fabric, it is about HAVING the fabric).
You are always telling me that with the right tools, you can do anything. One thing I’m considering is to buy every single tool on the fascinating Gizmo Wall at Purl Patchwork, and teach myself to quilt by figuring out how to use each one. In the short term, though, I bought:
1. A Clover ‘air-erasable’ pen to mark out my quilting lines (my lines formed SQUARES–who knew?)
2. Quilter’s Safety Pins. Guess what: they’re safety pins–I understand how they function!
3. Super tiny needles (I don’t know why, but I expected hand-quilting needles to be long and scary-looking. In fact, they are very short– and scary looking.)
4. Cotton quilting thread. I love this stuff. It’s ultra smooth and thin, but it has BODY. Somebody (hint, hint) ought to try it for making Scribble Lace.
So I marked out my lines with my Air-Erasable pen. Apparently, my air is very potent, because within only a few hours, it started to erase itself. By which I mean, the lines were disappearing faster than I could quilt them. Now admittedly I am not the world’s fastest hand-quilter, but I would like a little more time. I think I need a different product. Do regular No. 2 pencils work for this?
Then I pin-basted the layers together. It was starting to dawn on me that this was going to be Fiddly, this hand-quilting thing.
I started quilting, using the ‘rocker’ method of loading 3 stitches on the tiny needle before pulling the thread through the fabric. One of the things Denyse Schmidt says in her book is this:
Holding one hand beneath the work and using the hand with the thimble to stitch, insert the needle down through the Quilt Top just far enough so you feel the point of the needle with one of your fingers underneath. Catch the fabric of the Quilt Back and pass the needle back up through the Quilt Top, USING THE FINGER UNDERNEATH TO PUSH THE QUILT UP SLIGHTLY AT THE STITCH.
No WAY, I thought. This woman actually expects me to stick my hand underneath the work, right where I am poking this tiny sharp needle, and use that hand to guide fabric onto a tiny sharp needle, which I CANNOT SEE? Is she some kind of a sadist who wants me to poke my poor fingers into bloody stumps? By which I mean, I was skeptical about my ability to do this maneuver.
But such is my respect for the great DS, that I tried it. And as I tried it, I had that feeling some people have described feeling when they spin for the first time. The “I Have Done This Before” feeling. I tell you, I got a chill. My hands knew how to do it. Insert scary music here!
So, in a past life I may have quilted, but I don’t think the Past Me really enjoyed it that much. It takes a long time. There is a fair amount of knotting threads and threading needles, and needles coming unthreaded and knots coming unknotted. I’m not sure it’s worth it to me. Machine quilting has the allure of … the machine! And I am, so far, attracted to quilting for the playing-with-fabric, not for the handwork, much as I admire it.
I did knit this past weekend, by the way. On my knitted version of Whatta Buncha! So it was all DS, all the time for 3 whole days. When not going ‘ew’ at the steady stream of hermit crabs presented for my inspection.