Well that took forever. Or at least felt like it did. My First Commission (MFC) is done. Fin, au revoir, ciao, adios. Now it’s rolled up and bound, set in a corner just waiting to be delivered to the interested individual who commissioned it, despite the fact that little more than a week ago I was tearing my hair out trying to finish-the-damn-thing-already. As fate would have it, it won’t move to its new home until late July.
To recap, this is a blog about making quilts from old clothes (and other found materials) and the last time I had anything to show for MFC was this pile of triangles
The starting point for this quilt was that it match the curtains in its intended bedroom. That color sits on top of the pile below
The Forest Swatch led the way for color selection.
Then my mother-in-law, commissioner behind My First Commission, gave me a page from the LL Bean catalog
My eye was drawn to the quilt with the triangular pattern.
Inspired by the abundant white background, I messed around with the triangles until I arrived at a simple flying geese pattern
Traditional quilts are built from blocks. The basic block here is five-by-five triangles. This configuration and its variants is commonly called "flying geese."
The 5 x 5 blocks above contain 50 triangles and are approximately 18 inches square. I needed 20 blocks (or 1000 triangles) for a queen-sized quilt. Much cutting ensued. This endeavor brought to mind a friend whose last name is Cutting. I wondered about the origin of his name. Did it come from a task turned into an occupation, like Miller or Smith? Is it ironic that he also works with fabric and textiles? This is where the mind wanders when the body is rooted to a rote assignment.
Cutting fabric into pieces in order to sew them back together is the paradox of quilting.
What happened next might be dubbed individual mass production:
One after the other, triangles sewn together make individual squares.
The seams are iron-pressed to flatten the squares
I LOVE this pink, another Salvation Army special. If I could name the color I'd call it Raspberry Geranium.
The squares are sewn together to make rows
Modest Machine capably handles this job.
And rows are sewn together to make the 5 x 5 square
What you see here is seven piles of five rows, all to be sewn together.
The basic block, this one in a mad yellow:
Edges are trimmed with a rotary cutter to square it off, resulting in a 17 inch square.
Time out here to tell you about one of the recurring fabrics in this quilt. It is a floral on a beige background, and it counterbalances the color-rich Forest Swatch and Raspberry Geranium. But that’s not why I’m telling you about it. This fabric is remnants from dining room curtains my mother-in-law made 43 years ago. I’m so delighted to have found a use for something that’s been sitting in a drawer for a lifetime. This is the essence of a Patwig quilt.
I've even got a little bit left, which I think will pair nicely with denim for a heavyweight composition. Car quilt or picnic blanket anyone?
At this stage the project’s size requires me to move out of my workroom. As I finish blocks I lay them down on the floor, and begin to think about how to border it.
Luckily my cats are otherwise occupied.
Then the blocks are sewn into rows, and the rows sewn together until it is one large rectangle. This is where it gets a bit unwieldy.
After each row is sewn seams are pressed to one side. This is necessary to flatten the top. It also means a lot of moving the quilt from machine to floor to ironing board while trying not to trip over the fabric.
For a border I hope to use some of the green triangles that now seem to be everywhere, but I feel it needs a gradual transition — it’s too abrupt to place the darkest color alongside the lighter blocks. And the overall block pattern is too large to finish with a mere four-inch border. Cue the curtain floral:
Fortunately I didn't cut all of it into triangles, so I simply sew long pieces to all four sides -- blissfully expeditious.
Unfortunately, for the green border I have nothing but triangles, so production slows while those are sewn into squares, then rows …
What moves me through this tedium is knowing the resulting border will be enhanced by the triangles, like a wood frame surrounding a linen matte.
This is the biggest quilt I’ve ever made. Me and Modest Machine are officially riding in uncharted territory as I prepare to sew seams along the carefully pinned and folded beast
Looks a bit like a table runner.
Imagining women creating quilts of similar size with only needle and thread and no electricity puts me in awe. Here’s a book I enjoyed that describes women doing just that during Westward Expansion in the U.S. After pressing the seams, the quilt top is done. But there will be no rest for the weary. Backing and fill remain!
Engulfing my ironing board in this way, My First Commission almost looks elegant.
I made a backing from the remainder of the bedskirt and “Sear’s Best” white twin sheets that my mother-in-law purchased for her oldest son when he was at college. He never used them, and she still had the unopened package. The fill is all-cotton batting purchased new from the City Quilter.
The final step is to attach the layers, which I do by hand-tying with yarn. The floor is the only surface large enough for it to lay flat, a requirement while the layers are not secured together, and I scoot around, sometimes blanching in discomfort, while pulling yarn with a needle through three thick layers of fabric many times over.
I am pleased this yarn picks up the Raspberry Geranium so nicely.
Once enough ties were in to give the quilt stability, I hung it over the banister and finished off the remaining ties while more comfortably seated on a chair. As the pins and needles drained out of my legs I began to like MFC again.
If you have a hankering to gather together some of your old clothing or other fabrics and fashion them into something useful (and perhaps meaningful, depending on the clothing), I will be interested in taking quilt commissions beginning in early August. Thanks for making it to the end.