Of all the in-progress projects I’ve shown you over the past year, this one has never made the radar.
I’m not quite sure why - I guess it’s been a bit of an enigma from the start.
It was exactly a year ago - April 2014 - when I was at a DC Modern Quilt Guild meeting at the Arlington Central Library. As we worked inside the big meeting room, the sun shone and the early spring wind gusted outside the huge windows, with cherry blossoms swirling everywhere. It was a snowstorm of pink and white petals.
It was then that inspiration struck and I decided I wanted to make a cherry-blossom themed quilt for the wall.
My vision was to represent the shade gradation between the bright sky and the dark concrete - an ombre backdrop to the flowers. I decided I wanted to limit my base fabrics to my Liberty of London collection as a visual reference between the cherry blossoms and the delicate floral patterns Liberty is known for, so I pulled a bunch of fabrics ranging in shades of pinks and turquoise to deep blues and purples.
I cut rectangles and pieced them together in the best color gradation I could manage with the collection of fabrics I had. That was what I accomplished at the quilt guild meeting that day a year ago.
Back home I applied about 40 various sizes of flower appliqués to the quilt, using several white and ivory tone-on-tone fabrics for the flowers. And at this phase, the quilt sat and sat and sat, untouched.
I knew I wanted to quilt in a bunch of waves that represented the wind that blew those blossoms that day, but I had a hard time envisioning how I could run all those lines of stitching around all those blossoms. It seemed impossible to execute the vision in my head.
And so the project sat some more.
When January came and winter sports season started up, I had an idea. Instead of machine sewing all the petals and the wind, I’d turn this into a hand-quilting project and put in all the stitches using perle cotton (similar to embroidery floss), all by hand. Then I could easily control where the quilting lines would go (and not have to worry about precisely guiding the sewing machine around a billion obstacles in the way of the lines) and I’d have an easily portable project to take with me to long sporting events as I waited for my kids.
I started on stitching around each flower, and got most of them done over the course of a few months. But I still wasn’t working on it in earnest. At one point over the winter I took it with me to a quilt guild meeting and while working on it there another member came to see what I was doing and asked me “Are you happy with how it’s coming out?”
Which is not the first question I myself would choose to ask another quilter, to be honest.
I was a little taken aback. The comment planted serious doubt in my mind. Another month or so went by and I realized that something didn’t sit right with me about all that hand stitching.
Was it the quilt, or was it that comment that was bothering me, causing me to doubt my previous decisions?
But truthfully it looked very uptight and constipated to me.
(Sorry, I know that’s an awkward word to use to describe hand quilting. But seriously, that’s the word that came to mind. And perhaps, as I type this out now, I can see in retrospect why I pulled it all out. Doh!)
I was still committed to my vision of the swirling cherry blossoms, but I needed to find a looser, more gestural way to represent it.
So I pulled out the hours and hours of hand stitching I’d put into it and I was left with a ball of pink poofy threads.
Then I decided to just go at it with my sewing machine, lines and edges be damned. Loose, loose, loose was the name of the game this time around.
I made three passes around each blossom with black thread, then roughly five passes around each with a variegated pink thread.
Sooooo much better than all those tiny, tortured, constipated hand stitches!
Then it came time to start on the wind. Because without the wind, the sight outside that window last year would have been so much less enchanting.
I decided that I’d already spent so much time obessesing over the steps of this project (and that obsession was not working in my favor) that it was time to throw caution to the wind, so to speak.
So I sat down at the machine again and just started putting in lines. Lots of swirling, curling lines. I didn’t worry in the least about getting them even or just right (and really, is there such a thing?!?) because finally I realized that trying to make it “just right” was exactly what was failing me so far with this quilt.
And that question that curious guild member asked me months ago, about whether or not I was happy with how it was coming out? It turned out it was just the right question to ask after all, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
It’s coming along, this little quilt, and I’m learning a lot along the way.
Meanwhile, I’m going to continue to quilt like the wind!