Love. Sew. Patch.

Dear friends,

Despite the horrendous Headache Threat Level that has nuked my entry into the new year, I have managed to rack up three — that’s THREE — quilt finishes so far in 2014.

I figured my head hurts whether I’m up or down, so save 14 hours spent in bed on Dec, 31-Jan. 1, I’ve been sewing through the pain.

As for the first finish, I can’t tell you about it until it arrives at its new home, later this week or next. Same for the third.

But the second finish was for Kate, and she’s headed back to college in possession of one of the cutest and warmest quilts I’ve made.

Take a close-up look:

tenniscu

Last spring, I attended some pretty chilly college tennis matches (where chilly equals wearing a coat, hat and gloves and still being cold). I noticed some of the girls carried blankets to wrap around themselves in between matches and that’s when I got the idea that my CupKate needed a tennis-themed quilt to take on the road.

I purchased the fabric nine months ago and even cut it into the proper size squares. And then I got distracted by other projects and the tennis quilt has sat unattended all this time.

I vowed to get it done before she left home in January, but two commissions kept me busy through December. By Jan. 3, I knew I had less than a week to get it done so I sprang into action, spending all of last weekend sewing, squaring and arranging 122 blocks of green, yellow and black fabric. (Kate’s college colors are green and black.)

I failed to take a photo of the entire quilt before she packed up and left home, so here’s one she took with her phone from her apartment. It’s not great quality but you get the gist:

tennis

On Black Friday, I just happened to score some extra-soft white flannel with tiny lime polka dots for $1.75 a yard. It made a perfect — and extra warm — backing for the quilt. And while shopping the day after Christmas, Kate tripped across some black fabric with miniature tennis balls and multi-colored racquets that was perfect for the binding.

I’m so glad to get this one off the sewing table and into heavy rotation. Kate’s tennis season starts Feb. 4 and, if January has been any indication, she’ll need every ounce of warmth she can lay her hands on.

With gratitude (for deadline-induced productivity},

Joan, who’s relieved to report she’s been headache-free for a couple of days, though her energy level is still in the basement without liquid stimulants

PS: If you are at all interested in the quilt pattern, it’s called a disappearing 9-patch and you can find a tutorial here

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No experience necessary. Unless you want to finish.

Dear friends,

quiltblock

I’m not sure why I thought with no instructions and no experience whatsoever I could become a quilter overnight.

I’m one of those people who is blessed with confidence. I’m convinced I could have been an architect or a filmmaker or a novelist (to name but three professions I believe I’m suited for) if only I had tried. That I ended up in my current (unnamed) profession that’s really nothing like those I just named has more to do with the vagaries of decisions made in my 20s than talent. Or that’s the story I tell myself. Still, I’m smart enough to know that if I woke up tomorrow and decided to actually become an architect, I would need education and training.

So nothing explains why I saw this quilt on the internet  and — even though the pattern isn’t identified and I’m breathtakingly inexperienced at this sort of thing — went to bed Saturday night thinking I was going to wake up Sunday morning and make my own pattern and construct myself a quilt. Forget the fact that I’ve never taken a class on quilting, nor read an instruction booklet, nor even watched a video tutorial.  “I can wing it,” I thought.

The thing about winging it is that it’s not the fastest way from point A to point B, usually.

Try not to laugh out loud, but it took me about four hours to produce that single quilt block shown in the photo. Actually, I LAUGHED out loud as I typed that last sentence. Because if you look at the picture, it looks so simple, right? It’s eight little pieces of fabric, for Pete’s sake, and there’s not even any weird curves or points.

I thought about the quilt quite a bit as I fell asleep the night before. I had it figured out in my head, or so I thought.

Turns out, figuring it out in real life is very different than in your head.

I did everything wrong. I measured wrong, I cut the fabric wrong, I stitched the wrong sides together, I pieced it wrong, and I even ironed it wrong. (Who knew there was a right way to iron until I took a break and watched a couple of online tutorials for simpler patterns?)

And in the middle of stitching all those wrong pieces, I even threaded my bobbin wrong (because I ran out of thread and it’s a new machine and, of course, I didn’t read the instruction booklet on how to wind my bobbin).

The upside to making every mistake possible is that you eventually stumble on to doing it the right way. (The ol’ blind squirrel theory applies to crafting, I suppose.)

Anyway, now . . . now I think I’ve got it! The finished block is 1″ smaller than I imagined, but who cares? It’s not like I’m following a pattern.

I’m hoping that next weekend I can make several blocks. I need 42 to make a full-size quilt, which is the size I’m going for unless continued extemporaneous stitchery leads me elsewhere.

With gratitude {for improvisation skills learned in high school speech and drama},

Joan, who in the interest of full disclosure wants you to know she intends to make a quilt top, which she’ll ship off to somebody else for the actual act of quilting, an activity she has no desire to master anytime soon