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Fabric Fever

November 18, 2010

A non-painting project I’ve been working on lately is of the textile arts variety. I used to knit. Until I realized that it a) bored the crap out of me and b) exacerbated my lurking potential for carpal tunnel syndrome.

But I still had a latent desire for some kind of homey craft project, and that’s when I started getting enthused about quilting. All those glorious fabrics! And it seemed to me that quilts were a lot like paintings:  colored shapes arranged in various ways within a rectangular format, only made of fabric instead of paint. And that was even before I saw the quilts from Gee’s Bend, which of course confirmed my intimation, and then blew it right out of the water.

I finally finished all 72 blocks for my first quilt, and this past weekend Dave helped me lay them all out on the living room floor and move them around for a couple hours till we had all the different fabrics well distributed.

These blocks are for a pattern called Drunkard’s Path, and each block is simply a quarter circle inside a square. You can put them together in almost infinite ways (seriously, google ‘drunkard’s path’ or ‘drunkard’s path variations’ and check out all the different possibilities; here’s one I quite like) and it was hard to decide how to assemble them. In the end, I was inspired to do this squiggly version from a quilt I saw on this wonderful and aspirational quilting blog. Unfortunately, her site doesn’t have a search function so I can’t link to the photograph of the original quilt that got me excited . . . because I can’t find it.

Now that I am in the final stretch of making the quilt top, I have realized that what I really enjoy is this process of sewing all the pieces of fabric together. I am much less interested in the process of quilting the damn thing, which sounds an awful lot like knitting to me — an interminable, repetitive process of tiny hand movements. (Quilting is the stitching, both decorative and functional, that holds the pieced quilt top, the batting in the middle, and the backing fabric together. It can be done by hand, or by machine.) The woman at the awesome fabric store where I shop told me that she is a very fast hand-quilter, and it would take her over a year to quilt a king size quilt — and that would be working on it a lot. Daunted, I asked jokingly if I could still say that I made my quilt if I paid someone else to machine-quilt it, and another customer said, “Honey, do what you love and pay someone else to do the rest.” A sound philosophy, of course. If, like so many things in life, you can afford it. So I think I probably will pay someone else to machine-quilt it, and move onto figuring out what my next quilt is going to look like. Much more fun! I will definitely post a picture of this one when it’s finished (but that may be a while).

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