Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monday Memories

I am a dingbat but I am aware that it is Sunday night.  I will not, however, be around tomorrow until possibly very late so I thought I'd throw this out tonight.

BTW, Friend Gina and I had a great time at the knitting guild on Saturday.  We were the youngest folks there (by decades) but we got to know some charming ladies.  We also did a field trip to a knitting store.  I knew it would be interesting and weird to make my first visit to a yarn store.  My first trip to a big quilting store gave me a panic attack.  This didn't give me a panic attack but I felt more like I was in Chinatown in San Francisco and couldn't read the signs.  I saw (and patted) much gorgeous yarn but as I didn't really know what it was all useful for nor how much to get, I didn't lose control like I do at Meijer with yarn at 90% clearance.  I did see some sock yarn that looked quite yummy.  One was knitted into a scrumptious green sock with various patterns attributed to the yarn rather than the knitting.  I started salivating but I did not buy any yarn.  I'm pretty far away from socks at this point and I exercised a bit of self-control there.  But I know where to find my sock yarn when I want it (and it was sheer pleasure to see and handle some of those beauties).  So that, Friend Gina, is why I didn't go off in the yarn store.

Ok, today I am going to remember the first two quilts I made.  I know that those of you who have made scores of quilts will probably think this a ridiculous blog.  I haven't made scads of quilts and it is easy for me to remember my first two because I made them for my first two daughters.

Back when I was young and had been married a few years, Friend Husband and I decided it would be a good time to start our family.  Back then, I was as fertile as a rabbit and it took no time at all to achieve this momentous science experiment.  As I started telling people and enjoying the shocked looks (remember that I was in a very liberal graduate student environment at the time and they thought it was wild enough that I shared my husband's name let alone procreated with him), a dear friend told me that I needed to make something for the baby.  I asked her what she had in mind and she said, "Oh, I don't know, something like a quilt." 

Ok!  I had read Little House on the Prairie repeatedly in my youth and figured that I could do that.  The nine-patch block was mentioned as the first block that most little girls made so I decided (the first of many decisions that led me down the primrose path) that I'd make Sarah's quilt be a nine-patch.

Shall I enumerate all the idiotic decisions I made after the first one (of relying on my memories of LHOTP to help me along with this)?  I shall.  Among them were these:

  1. I decided that I wanted to make the quilt to be unbelievably soft for my newborn, so I chose flannel for the fabric.  (Collective groan here, fellow quilters.)  Actually, flannel isn't that bad to work with...if you don't buy it at WalMart, which I did, and if it doesn't have a great big weave to it, which this did.  Nevertheless, I moved on with my flannel.  The other thing you have to know about working with flannel (especially poorly woven WM flannel) is that it stretches, so you have to be careful.

  2. I decided that the only way to quilt was to do everything by hand.  After all, that's the way Ma and the girls did it, right?  Dumb dumb dumb.  And dumb.  Especially since I had done precious little hand-sewing at that point in my life.

  3. I didn't really measure the squares too well, I just cut them out with a pair of scissors.

  4. I didn't remember the concept of seam allowances that Mrs. Baker had tried to inculcate into our feeble little brains in 7th grade.  My seam allowances varied from infinitesimal to ½ inch.  Yeah.  Yuck.

  5. I didn't know that you don't generally use cotton blends to make quilts, so I chose a poly-cotton blend to do the sashing.  Easier to hand-sew but totally different from the holey flannel in the rest of it.

  6. I didn't know how to hand-quilt (I didn't know how to do any of this, to be quite frank), so I decided to embroider hearts in the 9-patch squares.  That worked for one of the patches, then I got sick of it.  Oh, forgot to mention that I was using a ginormous wooden hoop to quilt in (it was the closest I could get to Ma's quilt frame).  I don't really remember how I got the rest of it quilted, but I did it.

  7. I also had no clue how to bind the thing and of course didn't bother to ask someone who might actually know.  I ended up rolling up the edges, sewing them down, and cutting off the parts that stuck out.  Oh, ouch.  This just hurts to confess.

By the time I finished Sarah's quilt, she was 18 months old and I thoroughly hated hated hated quilting.  Unfortunately for me, (well, fortunately, but you'll get the picture here in a minute) I was pregnant with Sarah's sister Rachel.  Every mother knows (until she has several million children like I do) that what you do for one, you have to do for the other.  So I felt obligated to make Rachel a quilt, although I hated hated hated quilting with a passion.

This time, though, I wised up.  I had purchased a book somewhere along the way that had beautiful pictures of quilts and the patterns for how to make them.  Hallelujah, she can be taught!  Of course, they were full-sized quilts, but I decided (there I go deciding again) that I could use their measurements and cut them down to a crib-sized quilt.  I did much better on this one.  The only thing really dumb that I can remember doing is cutting myself with the rotary cutter (see, I graduated from scissors) and using the (admittedly red) piece of fabric that I'd bled on in Rachel's quilt.  The other dumb thing I was doing at that time was taping down (with masking tape) my fabric to the cutting board before I cut it.  I couldn't figure out how to make it stay where I wanted it to otherwise.  But Rachel's quilt was made in much less than the 2 years that it took me to make Sarah's.

I hired an Amish woman to quilt it (it was an Amish-style diamond in the square quilt) and also to bind it off (see, I was very wise by this time) and she did a lovely job.  It was ready and waiting (having already been embroidered with Rachel's name by me) to take her home from the hospital.  What a beautiful memory that was! 

Some day I'll have to blog about other quilts I have made (there haven't been all that many, so I can remember them very well) but those are my memories of the first two quilts I ever made.  By the time I was finished piecing Rachel's quilt, I was merrily ensconced in the world of quilting and I have loved it ever since.

I will mention here that I cast on for my first knitting in the round tonight...a hat for Keziah.  Wish me luck and speedy fingers!

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