Monday, December 26, 2011

Quilt Completed! We'll enjoy it for years.

 I thought I'd share a few photos of the quilt I made my wife for Christmas. The quilt is actually for a queen size bed, but I put it on the twin bed in our guest room because the lighting was better for photos. Trust me...this bad boy will be on our bed for years. Under it will be other quilts I've made, but this one will be on top unless it's in the washing machine or dryer, or I feel like seeing some other quilt when I open my eyes in the morning.
I started making quilts years ago, after getting bored at my mother-in-law's house. My mother-in-law taught me some of the basics of quilting, and I put the lessons to use shortly after that.

This quilt is made from one big hunk of fabric, and the lines you see are created by small stitches. A good quilter makes small, even stitches. I'm pleased to say I manage 7-8 stitches to the inch, and they're uniform in size. Most quilters will tell you that even stitches are the goal and that the number per inch doesn't matter much. I'd agree, but only in part. I like the way small stitches make the detail "pop."
Every line on this quilt is made by hand-stitching. My hands hurt a bit from all the stitching. A month and a half ago I got the idea that I would finish this quilt in time for Christmas. I did, but it involved a Herculean effort of 4-6 hours a day of stitching by hand. I used sports cream when my hands got sore, and it'll be a while before I can shake hands without pain.
It was worth the effort when she opened it and we put it on our bed.
Here's the story behind the quilt: 
When I took a job in Cleveland in 2003, my wife stayed behind in Wisconsin to finish out the school year. She's a teacher and we always said that if we moved during a school year, she would stay behind to finish it. I admire that, and that's what we did when I moved to Cleveland.  I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment for a couple of months, and I got bored. I ordered a kit that included a top with blue lines (they washed out) and was intimidated when I saw how many blue lines I would have to quilt over to make this thing. I started it, got the center medallion done, and shoved it in a closed after my wife joined me.

I got sick in 2005, and if you've read much in this blog, you already know I was sick with Wernicke Encephalopathy. I recovered, which is a story of it's own. I used to drink while I was quilting, and I wasn't sure I would ever be able to quilt again. I was afraid I'd want to drink when I quilted. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to quilt as well sober as I did when I was drinking. Seriously! I have hand tremors. Drinking steadied my hands until sobriety slipped into drunkenness. 
When I was trying to decide what to give my wife for Christmas this year, I pulled the quilt out of the closet, looked at it and thought, "I have the middle done. Won't take much time to do that last four feet around." 
I should've known better. This isn't my first quilt. It's my fifteenth or sixteenth quilt. The center of the quilt is the easiest part--the smallest hunk. Each time around the center gets exponentially bigger, as anyone better than me at geometry can tell you. That's just about anyone, by the way. I'm a mathemagical moron.

Dogged determination is how one makes a big quilt when the only design is created by stitching. Quilting, (to steal a phrase and warp it a bit) is 10% skill and 90% persistence. I think I almost made up for the years it sat in a closet by finishing this thing in 6 weeks.

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