My life as a quiltmaker (for chronological order, read oldest post to newest)

Monday, March 24, 2008

37. Lace Patchwork

You might have noticed that "making mistakes" has not been the main theme in evidence lately. I guess one result of my years of experience (and age!) is fewer interesting mistakes. My current errors don't result in much learning or inadvertent humor--they're just the absent-minded "sew-it-backwards" kind of thing that I still do and will always do: the effect of a personal penchant for rushing and/or impatience. Perhaps in my recent past there was an unphotographably transparent thing with painted batting that might qualify as good mistake material, but that's about it.

Instead, at some point interesting mistakes were replaced by stumbling blocks. Rather than trip over my own blunders, I now sometimes trip over obstacles that fate puts in my way. I set out to work on an idea, certain that it's a good path forward. And of course I never believe I've been de-railed from the main track. The three photos above are examples of paths of temporary travel. A commission from a textile company to design and piece three potential curtain designs, these patchwork samples were made from loads of laces and silky sheers. (The "black" is the photographic background; the panels themselves are see-through.) The one on the left was modeled after an antique Scandinavian tablecloth, though I was given free rein to re-interpret. The center one had to be entirely white and geometric, and the right one had to be made from the well-loved traditional double wedding ring pattern. I was happy, the fabric company person was happy, and I got a message saying more of this kind of work would be coming my way. Months passed with never another word. That's what I call a detour.

It was the first hint that maybe my quilting future would have some bumps in the road over which I had no control. Apparently the path to which I am best suited occasionally takes a sharp turn to the left or right while I keep going straight, oblivious--until I have to circle back and pick up the path where I strayed. More mazes and mysteries than mistakes, and all easier to intepret in hindsight than in real time. This time, I circled back to my previous train of thought about writing a book, and set off to explore whether that would be the next thing.

Monday, March 3, 2008

36. Kimball's Quilt

No sooner had the notion of a book crossed my mind than I ran away from the tyranny of this scary idea by plunging into a project of an entirely different nature: two quilts joined as one. Here's the how and why.

This quilt wasn't made to further my career and was hung in only one quilt show. Its true purpose was to pay tribute to a long-time friend who was retiring as our church's Minister of Music. It is a sad (to me, anyway) truth that the idea of a quilt might never have occurred to anyone in our congregation, even had I jumped up and down waving fabric in the air as we discussed how to celebrate his illustrious career as organist and choir director. It was up to me to suggest that a quilt made especially for him and signed by members of the congregation would be a fitting tribute and that I wanted to be the one to make it. Believe me, I'm not usually so brazen about promoting my personal passion, but this was one of the times when I felt a powerful and irresistible urge to make a special quilt for a special person, and the moment called for extra boldness.

Once given the "okay" by our church, I set out to weave together the imagery of Kimball's strong ties to Vermont and his strong ties to our church and its music program. But those two themes would not play nicely together, no matter how hard I tried. Thus the two sides shown above, two tops, each quilted individually with its own batting and then joined by invisibly stitching the battings together. A single binding unites the edges. To my eye, the landscape quilt references a New England scene; if you were able to look very closely, you would see two tiny cows in one of the green fields, and if you got even closer than that, you would observe that the quilting stitches near them say "Ben" and "Jerry"--definitely Vermont cows. The other quilt top references an architectural structure on the wall behind the altar in our church, where pieces of wood "hide" the organ pipes and provide a backdrop for a backlit cross suspended in front of them. Even as I write this description I realize, finally, that each side bears a "pastoral" theme.

The quilt succeeded, both as heartfelt tribute and as spur to devising some new techniques. It also offered me a respite from worrying about my next career move, allowing me a peaceful time and space to consider the "elephant in the studio"--the big unknown of writing a book.