Monday, October 22, 2012

Peace by Piece

Living in limbo, feeling my future is so uncertain, I desperately needed a pleasurable project to keep my mind from spinning out of control. I've been suffering lately from the inability to sink my teeth into a long-term design, printing, or sewing project because of the frequent spurts of panic and activity surrounding this much anticipated move to Brooklyn which I would have loved to have completed two months ago! Not to mention the fact that most of my supplies are already packed and in storage. Do you feel my frustration and anxiety?

Then I saw this book, miraculously left on a bookshelf so that things would not look so empty while my apartment was being shown to prospective buyers. 

About a year ago I hand-printed and dyed several yards of fabric for a baby or crib quilt. The plan was to collaborate with a quilter on etsy so that I could have a very special and higher priced item to sell (hopefully!) in my shop. However, after going through the long and involved (although enjoyable!) printing process, I found out that this was against etsy rules! From their point of view, even though I printed the fabric, the quilter would be the maker of the actual item, so it would have to be sold in her shop rather than mine. Of course, I thought this was very unfair, but what was I to do? Somehow I did not feel capable of (especially after hand-printing all that fabric) approaching the elaborate task of making the quilt myself. In fact, I had no idea how to do it! Then, few months ago, I found this book on Amazon (actually they most likely recommended it to me based on my shopping habits) and I thought....hmmm...well, why not? But those plans and dreams got lost in the shuffle until I spied "The Practical Guide to Patchwork", on the shelf, just the other night.

Another stroke of luck had my happy supply of fabrics near the surface of the already-packed fabric box! I selected a quilt project from the "Beginners" section of my book. This quilt is called "Snapshots" and is made up of 2" x 2" printed squares alternating with 2" x 2" solid fabric squares. First step is to cut strips  that are 2.5" x however wide the fabric is. I did this with my sweetly printed fabric and some solid white, high quality, 100% cotton fabric. 

Pairing a printed strip with a solid white strip, the two are sewn together using a 1/4" seam. The instructions would then have you sew all your pairs together, alternating prints with solids, in sets of six sewn strips. Then you slice down the six strips in 2.5" sections. Now, I suppose if you are making a large quilt, this would be the way to go, but you might have several instances of those same six printed squares lining up. You can see this in my first little quilt sample (below), where I used a test-run of one of my fat quarters and a beautiful charcoal grey hemp/silk fabric.

See how the same prints line up vertically? In a larger quilt, you would arrange those strips in a way to keep this from happening, but I wanted to make sure I had the very best chance for the random scatter of prints on what would be a smaller size quilt for a baby crib. So, I decided to do things the hard way. 

I cut each pair of strips into the 2.5" sections.


 I sandwiched print square over white square (and white over print) and sewed a 1/4" seam along one printed square edge.

That gave me a row of four alternating squares. I joined one row of four to another row of four, being sure the prints and solids alternated both up/down and across. The next step would be to join those two to another two, etc., etc.

And so, after only one afternoon, I have enough rows to make about 1/4 of my quilt top. I never thought I would be doing this! I have to say, it is quite meditative. Keeps me from my bad habits and negative thinking. Peace at last!

Even better news is that this is a project I can stop and start.  I can easily pick up and sew a few squares anytime I get moody over not hearing from the coop board or if I am just plain bored from packing and arranging. And even if I need to put my whole life in storage in the next few months, while waiting for my new home, the rows and squares can come with me and I will continue to join them together. And, in the end, in spite of it all, I will have something tangible, comforting, and beautifully handmade. That's the plan anyway.

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