My in-box has been flooded with a request for more tips for quilters. I’m pleased to be of help, except that about the only tip I am qualified to give is: Don’t. It isn’t that I don’t like quilting; it’s that I’m not especially good at it. Oh, I can do the patchwork alright. It’s the quilting I’m a bust at. But the crux of the whole thing is, what I really like about quilting is thinking about it. I love the idea of it. I love designing quilts. And the fabrics — Oh! the fabrics! The measuring, cutting, pressing, and sewing… well, I could do without it. I refer you to my earlier article So You Want to Make a Quilt.
For me, the worst thing of all is the pinning. I have taken a solemn vow that I shall never again pin a large quilt. For those of you who have never experienced the thrill of pinning a large quilt, let me elaborate. Imagine, if you will, having each of your toenails systematically removed with an angle grinder. Similar experience.
You begin by clearing a large area of floor space, preferably uncarpeted. (Carpet is difficult to tape onto, so that would require more pinning.) You’ll probably have to move most of the furniture out of the room. This is where it is useful to have a dis-used ballroom in your home. The point of this is that you have to tape (or pin) the backing of the quilt firmly to the floor to hold it in place, wrinkle-free. Then you spread the wadding, or batting, depending on where you live, over the fabric you just taped to the floor. THEN comes the quilt top, the one you’ve just lovingly made. Now you get down on the floor and start pinning the three layers together. You must start in the middle and work your way out, making sure to keep smoothing and spreading it all out so that there will be no wrinkles. Sounds easy enough, I hear you say. HAH! These safety pins have to be about four inches apart, in any direction. Say you have a quilt that measures 84 x 84 inches. That’s about (!) 21 rows of 21 pins. 441 pins. Theoretically, anyway. On hands and knees. On the floor. I recall many years ago my sister, Jan, telling me about Belly Dancer Knees . . . Well, I can tell you about Quilter’s Knees! It may not sound as exotic, but bloody hell, they’re as sore!
Now it’s time to quilt. The fact that it has been pinned assumes there is no gee-whiz quilting frame in play here. Okay, so I have a gee-whiz quilting frame, but I could never get it to happen. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. So now it’s time to sew the sucker. Wrestling a queen-size quilt through a normal sewing machine is not without difficulty. Indeed, it’s rather like having two very large cats on your lap, fighting over who gets the softest spot. I have experience. As with the pinning, you have to start in the middle and work (sew) your way out. This inevitably means re-pinning as you go. A word of advice here: try to do this when there are no children within earshot.
I really don’t want to put anyone off the notion of quilting. At least not anyone who is genuinely keen. Just remember: there are other options to quilting as I’ve described it. For one, you could have it professionally quilted. There are people out there with gee-whiz quilting frames who can actually use them. OR . . . you can hand-quilt it. My daughter-in-law, Anne, only hand-quilts. Says it relaxes her. Many quilters swear by it. It would never work for me, simply because I don’t have enough time left to do one. I’m not sure just how many decades it would take me, but I know that just counting them would use up most of the fingers on one hand. But Anne does them by hand in about the same time as it takes me to pluck up courage to start machine quilting.
Before I go, I should explain the title. About a year and a half ago, while I was visiting family in the US, I struck a deal with my niece, Amy. She makes the most beautiful afghans; I’ve coveted one for years. Long story, short, I promised her that if she would make me an afghan, I would make her a quilt. (She had no idea she was dealing with the Devil.) I’ve had my gorgeous afghan for a year or so now. I’m going to take her quilt to her when I go overseas soon. I certainly got the better deal out of that bargain! My afghan is pictured below. I’m still debating whether or not to add a picture of her quilt. I sort of want to surprise her, so if she happens to tune in here, the surprise would be spoiled. On the other hand, it may be that it would be more of a shock than a surprise, so seeing it here, now, would give her time to rehearse her reaction for when it is delivered. If you don’t see the quilt here now, check back a bit later; I may change my mind and include it. Meanwhile, I’m off to soak my knees. MM