Quilt at the Cellular Level

The quilt is now at the cellular level, meaning that not only I have ripped the quilt into many blocks, I’ve now taken the blocks apart into their pieces. Daunting? Oh, yeah. Am I discouraged? Pretty much–but mostly because I can’t figure out how to make a quilt out of this fabric that I think I will be happy with.

Traditional French “Indienne” fabric is printed with little designs in an ordered fashion: polka dots, if you will. (Click on the photo above to enlarge to see the designs more clearly.) And if you’re going to make a quilt out of polka dots, usually it’s the broad strokes of color that will be seen, as in the photo below, where you notice the red squares against the yellow squares.

I was despairing that I didn’t have enough red fabric to complete my current idea and Lo and Behold my friend Tracy brought me a fat quarter of some “real French fabric” today from her trip to Spring Quilt Market. What serendipity!

I still like the idea of the zig-zaggy borders being incorporated into the quilt, so that it contains its own border. So I’m kind of hanging onto that idea for now, knowing that whatever I put in the middle with have that as its outer edges. I decided that the color combination of the blue-gray against the yellow (which I personally love) is part of the problem, so in the quilt above, I’ve covered up some of that blue gray with a deeper contrasting blue, helping the little squares to march across the quilt in a diagonal pattern. I wonder if I should bring in a solid, to help balance the “dottiness.”

Frankly, I’m feeling a little dotty. Time to let it rest.

So here’s a change of subject. In our arbor out back, where some of the vines have looped down underneath, a hummingbird has built her nest. She’s about 8 feet from our family room window and we brought down the binoculars to watch her up close. Riley and Keagan had a fun time seeing her on the nest (although the functional use of the binoculars was a bit out of reach for them). That bird just stayed there and stayed there and stayed there.

Once when she finally flew off (to get some food, we assume) Barbara made the comment that she understood perfectly: even the most diligent mothers need a break now and again.

Well now we think the eggs have hatched for the bird flies away far more often, then dips her beak down into her nest when she returns. No sign of the baby birds, though.

We’ll keep watching.



I made this quilt a couple of years ago, cutting and piecing all in a rush to get it done, working with my collection of fabrics from France. That was my self-imposed structure: only fabrics that I had from France, and that limitation shows in this quilt.

I liked the design, but I had to use oranges instead of yellows, greens instead of navy, brown and purples instead of deep blues in the border. I had finished it, but it wasn’t working. The contrasts were off somehow, betrayed by the color, for sometimes when person looks at a fabric they think they are seeing something different–for a brown does look different from a green–but the lack of strong contrast can betray a quilt; contrast is needed to strengthen this particular design. Although it was finished, it was weak at the core.

Last year at our local quilt show was a new vendor–one who had bolts and bolts of real French indienne fabrics–those little prints that resemble polka dots or men’s ties. I bought two more lengths of yellow, and 8-10 pieces of navy blue, this quilt in the back of my mind.

But who wants to rip up and fix an old quilt? Maybe that’s how some of those quilt tops that are present in other booths at the quilt show came to be: lovely tops but just not quite right, as if the maker put it all together then decided to move on to something else, the top folded away to be taken up at another time.

But now I have the fabrics, the time. It’s a leap of faith, I think, to un-make a quilt. This stack could easily become a pile of blocks put back into a box to be sold some years hence at a quilt show. Or passed down to grandchildren who are learning to sew. Or given away to the thrift store. Or simply chucked in the trash. I took several deep breaths before giving a satisfying tug, pulling it apart at the seams.

It took me the better part of an evening to do this. I listened to the radio show This American Life, streamed down on my computer, listened to sounds my husband was making as he worked and moved through the house, thought about someone I loved who had just announced he was divorcing. I’ve been in that situation–divorcing–and that too, is a leap of faith. Only instead of blocks, there are children, houses, cars and sofas. Instead of threads, there are memories. But sometimes a marriage is just not right, and like a quilt, the problems often don’t show up until the quilt is complete.

I worked steadily, setting the separated blocks in a growing stack. When I finished that night, I had a soft pile of four-by-four squares, and a mess of thread on the carpet. I turned out the light, and went to bed, offering up extra prayers for those who are un-doing, ripping apart things to set lives finally right.

Un-making, I think, is an act of courage.


Two Quilts

I finished the green quilt top, stitched together the pieces for the back and it’s now at the quilter’s.
I began this one–Christmas Star–last fall (November? October?) in a clear space in my schedule, but it’s taken me until now to finish the top.
Today’s goal is to get the back pieced and get that off to the quilter as well.

I’ve even begun thinking about the other quilts marooned in my quilting closet, those quilts that I bought the fabric for, dreamed up and abandoned for work or family fun. Maybe I can even tackle one or two of those? Don’t want to get too giddy, now.

For those of you who asked about the quilt in the background, it was last summer’s project.


Skipping My Way to the End

I’m headed off to give my class their final exam. It’s the last day of class, and we’ll meet once more at their final exam time so the students can see their exams, check their grades. The trend has been to give the finals early–apparently it’s happening in all their classes. I don’t know why the math teachers do it, after all they have scantrons, but the Englishy types give the exams earlier because there’s just so much to correct and grade. Stacks and stacks. Reams and reams. Tons of stuff.

Last Sunday I pieced 4 blocks for my friend’s humanitarian quilt project. I cut out 3 1/2″ squares of green fabric, layered two together and stitched two diagonal lines, 1/2″ apart. I cut the square apart between the stitched lines making what’s known in the trade as “half-square triangles.” Here are the squares above.

But I was left with lots of 3 1/2″ squares and I was DONE making triangles. So I started sewing them together, putting a white square in the middle, in hopes of making a new twin-sized quilt for the guest bedroom (we already have one twin-sized quilt–just need another). See below for diagram. My inspiration was the bright pink and orange quilt that I made last summer.

After I grade my stacks and stacks and reams and reams, I’ll get back to this. A nice little respite from the labor-intensive Christmas Star quilt I’ve been working on.