With regards to quilting, I am a walking contradiction. I love to quilt, but I hate to sew. Wait, this isn’t exactly so. I love quilts, I just don’t enjoy all it takes to make one.
When I enter a quilt store, I am visually bombarded with color and pattern. I find myself spinning in sensory overload. I have that “you had me at hello” feeling when I touch the material, then I’m smitten. Fabric is expensive. This doesn’t even factor in the time involved. If you are good, you measure twice and cut once. If you are timid, you measure at least ten times. When I first started sewing, it took me f o r e v e r to be brave enough to even make that first cut.
Piecing the top together is tedious. The seams must be precise. Each seam you sew needs to be ironed. I abhor ironing. Before I married my husband, I told him that there were two things I wouldn’t do; one was making coffee and the other was ironing. Back in the day, there was a stigma associated with women making coffee. Ironing, well, it’s just pure drudgery. So now, here I am, ironing and drinking coffee which gets me through this process. When the top has been pieced together, I’m still not feeling the love.
Where the sewing ends and the quilting begins, the fun starts. Before you layer the quilt, the back needs to be stretched. The quilt then is layered together (top, batting, and backing). Old school use safety pins to hold in place and keep the material from shifting. I do not have the patience to put in 100 pins. I prefer to use spray adhesive. Not only is this faster, but the quilt doesn’t get as heavy. I hate losing the flow of free motion quilting to remove pins and I hate the pins catching on the machine which can make you jump a stitch. No pins!
For me, free motion quilting is the stage where the quilt develops character. The stitching design creates texture and this makes the material come to life. It’s the difference between assembling a lasagna and having one come right out of the oven where all the flavors have married. It becomes a visual feast! The majority of quilters do not actually quilt. They sew and then send their quilts to someone that has a computerized long arm machine. Between the computer and the skill of the operator, these quilts are perfection. You get what you pay for, a very expensive quilt! My first quilt was the only one I had finished by someone else. I realized that it made quilting to costly. I needed to learn how to do this myself. To my surprise, I finally found a part of the process that I actually love!
The final stage is binding. I use a machine to attach it to the quilt and then hand sew the binding in place. There is something very personal about having the nearly completed quilt in your lap. It’s like holding someone’s baby before you have to give them back.
So why do I spend hours sewing when I don’t really enjoy it? There are so many reasons. It’s rewarding to make something out of nothing. Originally, quilts were made with scrap material and nothing was left to waste. I’m not good at math, yet I’m fascinated by the math that it takes to construct a quilt. What I love most of all is when I make a quilt for someone who is special to me. I sleuth out their favorite colors, figure out if they prefer a country or modern design, or do they just prefer pure simplicity which lets the fabric speak for itself.
I’ve come to realize that I am a throwback to an earlier generation. This is not just because I’m quilting, but because I’m actually making my own gifts. Something about shopping on-line and then having it gift wrapped seems so impersonal. What people do not realize is that there is an intangible component that each quilt possesses. The hours that I spend sewing are hours that I’ve spent thinking about and praying for the person that the quilt was intended. I think it is possible to have love sewn in every stitch! So, when I see someone wrap themselves up in a quilt, to me it’s a symbol of comfort and this is what quilting is all about.