UFOs are Falling
Fall is in the air. Store shelves are stocked with paper, pencils, and rulers. Penn State has put up signs to help incoming students find their dorms. There's a flock of Canadian geese hanging out in a small, puddle-like pond on 550. The light is changing from the crystal sun of summer to the golden glow of fall. House flies are flocking indoors. And I have begun tackling a five-year backlog of UFOs.
This has happened more by accident than design, but now I have become obsessed with the idea of finishing things. (Have I mentioned before my tendency towards obsession?) I bought a new sewing machine over the summer--a Bernina Aurora 440, with built-in stitch regulator. This is my fourth Bernina (again, my obsessive tendency to trade up), so I'm familiar with them, but the Aurora is different enough that there was a bit of a learning curve. I created a few new pieces with it--a couple small (8" x 10") abstract landscapes, a fabric vase, a rag quilt Christmas tree skirt....
--but didn't feel quite comfortable with the machine yet.
To become more comfortable I looked toward the looming pile of UFOs (unfinished objects) on my quilt stand. I found a small, log-cabin wall-hanging that I made as a sample for a talk on color. It had been quick to piece, so I felt comfortable using it as a guinea pig. I tried a couple new free-motion quilting patterns on it and was thrilled:
I had become one with my machine again. This was fun.
I looked back toward my pile and found a blue-and-tan pineapple wallhanging that needed borders and quilting. I quickly mitered the borders and basted it together. Five hours later and I had finished another project.
This was really fun.
I looked again at my pile and there I saw the Beast--an enormous 20-block sampler quilt (80" x 100") from my very first quilting class. (Again with the obsessiveness. Could I have made a more manageable 9-block wallhanging? Apparently not.)
Believe me, it has all the shortcomings of a first quilt. Cheap fabric that is already starting to disintegrate. Too small seam allowances that are coming apart. Points that aren't exactly points, more like plateaus:
Sashing strips cut too small with an extra inch piece added on. And possibly the worst mistake of all--hand basted with the wrong type of batting. (I can still remember every last one of the 13 hours it took me to baste that monster.)
I started hand quilting it in 2001, believing that my first quilt was supposed to be hand quilted. But my batting choice was my undoing. It was too thin and slippery. Every time I would rock my needle, it would slip through the quilt. I quilted 11 of 20 blocks before I gave up. But still the Beast sat for four years. Staring at me. Mocking me. Challenging me.
A year ago I picked it up, thinking that I would finish quilting it by machine. The batting still was an issue. Because it was thinner and less bulky than my preferred batting I had trouble maneuvering it through the machine. I quilted half of one block and put it back in its corner.
The other night I saw it again. As a looked it over I came to a realization: this quilt was so poorly made that nothing I could do to it would make it worse. I was determined to conquer it, instead of letting it conquer me. Once I finished it, I rationalized, I could give it away and remove it from my life forever.
So I loaded my machine with ecru thread, queued up all three Harry Potter movies (yet again with the obsession), slipped on my quilting gloves, and tackled the Beast. I free-motion quilted in the ditch and in the major seams of each block. I quilted a leaf-and-vine pattern in the sashing and a flower-leaf pattern in the border. Then the quilting was done. It took me one viewing of "Sorceror's Stone", one viewing of "Chamber of Secrets", and two-and-a-half viewings of "Prisoner of Azkaban" to finish.
Last night I got to straighten it up, bind the edges, and begin removing the basting threads. The power went out, so I couldn't finish it, but it's sitting in my sewing room right now, nearly defeated.
I showed my husband what I had accomplished:
He said to me, "I remember that quilt," with a tone of nostalgia. I told him I was planning on giving it away. He said, "You can't give away your first quilt." He's right. Besides, it matches the sectional in our family room. For better or worse, the Beast will remain a part of my home and my life. At least now it knows its place.
I have chosen my next victim: nine appliqued flower blocks. I'll let you know how it goes.