Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A little bit of magic

My quilting friends say there are three ways to quilt, by hand, by machine, or by checkbook.

While I know there are many good reasons to have someone else quilt for you, I can't help feeling you must miss something.

Because, while I enjoy all (almost all) parts of making a quilt, there's a magic in the quilting, it's when a bundle of fabric is transformed into something completely new.

I love picking out fabric. So many colors, patterns and moods. Do I want something traditional, modern, wild and crazy, soothing and cheerful? What design am I going to use? A block that I will arrange to suit myself, or a quilt designed as a whole.

From there it's cutting the fabric and seeing how the colors start to mesh together, and seeing piles of strips, squares and triangles become blocks and sections, and a pattern starts to emerge.

Since I do a lot of block exchanges, arranging the blocks and assembling the top is creative, too. Which colors should be next to each other? If there are different block designs, like the one I'm laying out now, which designs should go where? Looking at it as a whole, does it balance and flow. And suddenly you have a quilt top, or flimsy.

I have to admit, I don't like pinning. It's a crucial part of the process, and can make the difference between a beautiful quilt and a hashed up mess, but it's physically tiring and tedious and I'm always glad when it's done.

And then, somewhere in the quilting process, there's a transformation. You start with this bundle of layered fabric and batting. It's stiff, it's unresponsive, it doesn't want to do what you want it to do.

At first I have to really think about the quilting, but as I go along, I find a flow. And with every tilt of the treadle, every stroke of the needle, I'm making my mark, literally, on every inch of the quilt. And somewhere about the middle of the quilting, the magic happens. I don't have a bundle of fabric anymore, I have a quilt. Suddenly it's a single unit that drapes instead of bunches, that moves smoothly and feels firm and soft at the same time, but no longer stiff and unresponsive.

Historically, alchemists tried to turn lead into gold. As a quilter, I get to turn a bunch of fabric into a quilt. I think I like my magic better.

As you might guess, I hit that magic point in my bow tie quilt last night. The quilting was going along smoothly and I suddenly realized it had made the transformation. It's always a thrill when it hits that point and I can envision the finished quilt.

Have a wonderful quilty day. More later!