1.18.2014. Winter in Rochester NY. We need a project. Something that involves both of us. Something that doesn't make me disappear into my studio for long mysterious hours, but is also crafty and productive.
Enter: Leah Day and her 2014 Building Blocks Quilt Along. Leah Day and her YouTube videos on free-motion quilting gave me both instruction and courage during Quilt #2. My misadventures in free-motion quilting showed I have a lot to learn, so taking it back to the beginning in a baby-steps quilt-as-you-go project seems logical.
Jim has never done needlework. But he has always had a spot in his heart for textiles, with his collections of Chinese embroidery, African Kuba cloth, Turkmen carpets, Precolumbian weaving, Panamanian molas, and more. At my computer I face a wall hanging he collected, pieced from a Tibetan lama's saddle bag -- the dragon who keeps the fires of my imagination burning:
So Jim is in... though not quite clear on what it will involve.
We head to the fabric store to pick out solid color cottons, so we can see what we're doing. Next, washing, drying and ironing. Jim is unaware of the iron as an artistic tool. And he can't recall ever using an iron as a domestic tool, either. As we go, I tell him my memories of my grandmother Kitty Mom and her awesome mangle for ironing sheets. And then about how my mom used a soda bottle with a sprinkle top to dampen clothes before the days of steam irons. (15 Jan 2014)
Next, I shared my knowledge of the marvelous rotary cutter as we cut 10" x 10" squares of backing cloth and cotton batting. (16-17 Jan 2014)
Jim assembled the binder with all our instructions and notes. I cut strips of "Fabric A" and "Fabric B" to keep us organized.
18 Jan 2014. The sewing begins. Leah Day's video instruction will progress week by week, so there is only so far we can go right now. The idea is to piece together each of 42 blocks, then learn a new free-motion quiliting pattern to apply to the quilt sandwich of pieced top, batting middle, and plain backing. To make the free-motion quilting easier, we need to trace the patterns onto the pieced fabric.
The first 3 blocks are simple 4-squares. Easy enough to piece, though I'm trying to be perfect. Jim takes on the task of tracing the patterns, using a lightbox. (See photo at top.) On the first attempt, I tape both the pattern and the cloth to the lightbox glass. Jim is nearly done tracing when he notices the fabric has shifted out of kilter. Rats. We start over, this time taping the paper pattern to the back of the cloth. Much better solution!
We enjoyed our conversation about folk art, which may demand high craft but never comes across with machine-like perfection. We both kind of like wonkiness, as I'm sure this quilt will demonstrate. Jim went on to say that his chosen profession of medicine was about understanding and accepting human imperfection -- as his white pencil lines on the fabric show a bit of wobble. But I observe that by nature he is also methodical, focused and patient with his tasks. We are both curious about how this adventure will unfold.
19 Jan 2014 Addendum: Wow... nice support from the Building Blocks Quilt Along Group on Facebook. Click image below to see all comments.