In the fall of 2012 my mom decided she wanted to get back into quilting and invited me to take a quilting refresher course with her. At the time, I hadn't picked up a piece of fabric or a rotary cutter in around 10 years, maybe a bit longer. That invitation came at a time when I should have, realistically, declined due to lack of available time and energy. Instead I signed up with enthusiasm. I am SO glad I did!
The idea for this project started shortly after that refresher course. I decided that I wanted to make a quilt for each of my boys. This wasn't to be a "use it on the bed right now" quilt, but rather something I would make and then put away until they are older and will, hopefully, treasure a bit more than a tweener boy is capable of doing.
I started this quilt thinking, probably unconscientiously, that it would be for Spencer. As I worked on the cutting and pinning and sewing, it became clear that this would be Zane's quilt. He was the most interested in what I was doing. He was the boy most likely to sit with me at the dining room table while I sewed strips together. He loved that I let him pull pins out and help in other little ways. He lit up when I started referring to the quilt as his.
Quilting is a funny hobby. On the surface it's a solitary activity. Quilting involves long periods of time measuring and cutting fabric. Then comes careful pinning and machine sewing. Normally there is more cutting. More pinning. Over and over and over again. It could be called tedious. And all these jobs are one person activities. There are little ways to share the work, but for the most part quilting is a one man job.
The odd part about this hobby is that even given the solitary nature of the work, Quilting has a cult-like following. There are guilds and bees and groups dedicated to discussing and learning and sharing. As I got more involved in the hobby of quilting, I wanted to share what I was doing. Unfortunately, time doesn't allow me to participate (yet) in all these extracurricular activities, so I did the best I could. I showed Bob, I talked to the folks at work, I shared with the boys as much as they would let me, and (as anyone in today's social media world would do) I posted on Facebook. It became clear to me that while I was doing the heavy lifting largely unseen, I wanted to share my triumphs with the world. Sharing the highlights made the whole experience more fun!
My Facebook posts for this quilt started on 1/22/2013. Wow! Almost exactly a year ago today. I don't remember exactly when I cut my first piece of fabric for this quilt, but I'm sure it wasn't much before that first post. Of course I didn't work on this hobby every day - or every week - or even every month, but it's taken me a long time to finish and I am super proud!
Spending all of that time over the last year, basically by myself (while still close enough to hear the chaos of my crazy household), gave me lots of time to think. I decided, maybe because of the goal for this project, that quilting is actually a lot like being a parent. The similarities are kind of freaky. (At least to me...)
At the beginning of a new quilt project there is much discussion. What to do, when to do it. This is the time for consulting with others and gathering input, but ultimately the decision to start a new quilt (or a new person) is owned by a single person (or couple in the case of a baby). It doesn't matter much that the grandmother things black and white and green would make a terrible quilt if that's what the quilter wants to do, right?
Then there's the excitement of a new project. Share the news, show everyone the colors and the pattern and the plans. What will you call it? What will it look like? Why are you making those decisions. Everything is new and shiny and bright. Bobbins are wound. A new blade makes it's way onto your favorite rotary cutter. A space is cleared out for the new project.
Those bright shiny exciting moments at the beginning of a new quilt fade pretty quickly as the quantity of work is realized. And work it is! Tedious, mundane work. Measure and cut - over and over and over. Mess up, it's OK, just cut again. It's hard and sometimes boring. It's not glamorous. It is repetitive to the nth degree. It feels like the work will never end and the progress is sometimes so slow that it's nearly invisible. No one is there to oohh and ahhhh over your ability to complete the simple tasks. No one pats you on the back for continuing to work when you are tired or bored or your shoulders ache. Kind of like raising a family, no?
But there are moments along the way that are worthy of celebration. There are milestones that are reached that a quilt maker wants to share. And share they should! These milestones are reason to celebrate. They are proof that progress is being made. They are one more step toward the completion of that project. Finishing the initial sets of cuts is as thrilling as a baby sleeping through the night for the first time. Finishing the first block is right up there with loading up the kindergarten bus. Starting to see the project take shape is as exciting as recognizing your kids have a personality of their own - that you quite like.
And then there is the finishing. When a quilt top is complete there are 2 things you can do with it. One is to settle in an hand quilt from start to finish. While this is, without a doubt, a labor of love, it's also very time consuming. I chose the other option, which is to ask for some help and hire someone else to do some machine quilting on your quilt top. This choice is basically asking someone else to take care of this finished quilt top that you have put so much time and energy and love into. Leaving my quilt top behind was like leaving a piece of myself. (Anyone else thinking college???) I had to trust that my machine quilter would take good care of my quilt. I had to depend on her expertise to help me decide what kind of design would work best. (Aside - we found a design that is a series of fancy Z shapes that could not be more perfect for Zane's quilt!) Then I had to hope and pray that the finished project would be what I wanted it to be. Not having control after owning every decision is pretty darn hard.
I can only hope that my four living, breathing projects turn out as beautifully as this quilt. I love it. It is a perfect reminder to me that hard, tedious, boring work can lead to something beautiful. I hope that Zane reads this someday and cuddles under his quilt with someone he cherishes and realizes that each stich, every decision, was completed with love.
PS - I named this quilt Stormy Weather because most of the work was done during rainy weekends during our super wet and stormy weather in 2013.
Onto the next project!