The best part of Instagram is the steady stream of inspiration, ideas and like-minded people you can gather (Here is a link if you'd like to follow me). Last week I saw a notice for the start of the Sea Breeze Mini Quilt Along from Gnome Angel. I really liked the simple, graphic design of the block and decided to do my own version. I super-sized it to a 16 block extravaganza of some of my favorite fabrics.
I have a love affair going for shot cotton and peppered cotton. I genuinely enjoy working with solids because I love bold designs. Shot cotton and peppered cotton are the best of both worlds. Solids, with benefits...bold and graphic, but truly works of art in themselves because of the color play in the weave (both are constructed out of 2 different colored threads, woven together).
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I will tell you that there are several small downsides to working with both of them. Shot cotton must be delicious because every sewing machine I've had wanted to eat it for lunch. Yes, you can start with a leader (a scrap piece of fabric that you begin sewing with). Yes, you could also take a firm grasp of the excess thread from the top spool and help pull the fabric from the back. The way I ended up doing it is to start every seam about one inch from the edge. I would finish the seam, flip my piece over, and after taking a few back stitches to secure the line of stitches, stitched from my previous starting point all the way to the other end. That helped to minimize the warping of my half square triangle points AND the cursing in the craft room.
Peppered cotton has a heavier hand than shot cotton. It is luxuriously silky, but it also unravels on the cut edge with handling. I went over the back of my piece several times with the scissors and even with the lint roller, but I can see some thread varicose veins behind a few of the cream half square triangles. Since I am keeping this as a piece of wall art and it was life, not laziness, that led to said varicose veins, I am prepared to live with it. I am also prepared to gently edge you out of the way if you get your nose too close to the quilt on your next visit. I do have limits.
Both shot cotton and peppered cotton have "personalities," but I find the results to be worth little inconveniences during construction.
The last picture I have of this quilt is one of the best. The last two quilts I made were miniatures for my guild's quilt challenge. On the night of the guild challenge I was my typical why-do-I-always-do-this-to-myself nervous wreck. All the butterflies in my stomach died an abrupt death when a single member of the program committee decreed that all unlabelled quilts should not be considered for our competition. The guidelines for this challenge were the same as every other year, "the quilt must be bound, three layers, quilted and labelled." Unlike every other year, this year they were actually going to check for labels. Well, you guessed it. Mine weren't labelled. I wasn't trying to be subversive, I had just given both projects an envelope style back so that they could have a dual display option and it honestly never even occurred to me to label my little pillows. The worst part of the night was after the judging when we had to come up in front of the assembled mass and claim our projects, revealing ourselves as the maker and receiving our accolades. One of the nicest women in the guild handed me my project and said with authentic anguish, "It wasn't labelled." I went home that night with a broken heart. Not because I didn't win, but because my work was defined by deficiency.
As I am wont to do when I am troubled, I searched my mind for the perfect story I could tell myself. Something to give a negative experience meaning and channel my emotions into something constructive. It took me a few days to get my sass back and remember this little gem. My dad was a colorful and interesting man, and as such, had colorful and interesting friends. One of my fondest memories of childhood was the steady stream of friends that stopped by at our farm for a chat. Every time a new visitor arrived, Dad would say, "Miss Jill, why don't you go ice us up a beer." And, every time I would reply, "Dad, we're all out (we didn't drink) and I'm pretty sure you don't put ice in beer." He would shake his head regretfully and ask for a Diet Coke instead. This ritual never got old no matter how many times it was repeated. Afterward, I got to sit in the cool shade of our patio and listen to the stories. One time I remember my dad asking about the personalized license plate on Fred's (not his real name) new truck. Fred told Dad that when he went in to register his new vehicle, he had gotten some guff when he had opted not to get vanity license plates. "What?" the registrar asked in disgust "You're not personalizing? Only a real nobody would get a new truck and not spring for personalized plates." So, ever the sport, Fred decided then and there to get vanity plates. What did they say?
Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I can't tell you what an immense sense of relief I felt sewing this on the back. It helped me feel better and reminded me of something important. Who gets to define me? NOBODY.