Itty Bitty Scraps of Fabric

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My last two weekends have sucked, especially both Sundays. Some miasmatic malaise has come upon me while I slept Saturday night, bringing with it troubled and unsettling dreams, so that I awoke in a truly vile mood.

Today I dealt with it by being dutiful; I went into my "screw it; I might as well do stuff I don't want to do if I'm already cranky" mode and attended to some chores I've long been neglecting. But last Sunday I took a completely different approach to my bad mood.

Around noon I was sort of reading The Great Transformation, Karen Armstrong's new book, out on my back porch, and sort of thinking about how much I'd like to piece a quilt top but really shouldn't because it's so labor intensive and I just shouldn't take that much time off from uh, WRITING (like I ever really write anything significant) until I get tenure. I'd wander down to my basement as I do from time to time, and, just as a diversion, look through the half a dozen bins and footlookers I have stuffed with unused fabric. I also delved into the big crate where I keep the scraps I will one day piece into quilt tops. And I thought again about how I really shouldn't start such a major project when I have all this writing to do. And I went back out on the porch with my book.

And then I shut the book and went back to the basement and hauled my ironing board, my iron, my rotary cutter, my cutting board and armfuls of fabric up to my living room, and I got busy cutting and piecing, because why the hell not be creative when it's what you really want to do.

So there I was, kneeling on the floor, surrounded by mounds and mounds of fabric scraps. I knew one way to make the piecing pass more quickly was to dispense with a pattern and just START, so that's what I did. The result is this huge dramatic random thing with no pattern whatsoever, but lots of nice sharp shapes and interesting lines and juxtapositions of prints. There are great big rhomboidish pieces and triangles of various sizes and little two-inch squares. The unifying feature is that all the fabric has a black background. The second most common color is red, though every other color is represented too, with the exception of purple. All the fabric I used is left over from clothes I've made for myself.

I managed to finish the top in only two days, because I did almost nothing else. I find it hard to let go of projects like that; once I start, I want to finish them. I stayed up until 4 a.m. Sunday night, because I just couldn't stop. I told a friend this and he commended me on my discipline, but it wasn't discipline that kept me up, just compulsion.... not only did I stay up too late, but I also neglected things like personal hygiene and proper nutrition. Oh, and blogging. I don't know if you noticed, but I didn't post or read a single blog entry last weekend.

Anyway. Piecing the top was only the first step; I also had to decide what I'd back it with. I have six yards of something suitable--gray background with a black and white vine twining up it--that I bought on sale for a buck a yard, but I still had to iron it, sew it together (cotton calico, which is the best fabric for quilting comes in widths of 44 inches, which is obviously not wide enough to back a queen-sized quilt) and size it lengthwise. I'll use plain black for the binding. I won't be quilting it myself, because it's too big a project for me: I don't have a huge quilting frame I can set up in my house or the time to quilt it--that's the REAL investment of labor--so I'll just send it to my mother and let her quilt it on her machine.

And I sort of feel that project sated my need to deal with textiles and I sort of don't. I will probably whip up some more clothes this summer–I already made two dresses, one for me and one for my sister--but the thing about making clothes is that when I'm done, I've got MORE SCRAPS. As much as anything, I'm glad to have decreased by a little the huge mess of leftover fabric in my basement. I could make a dozen quilts before I got rid of all the scraps I've got right this very second, and when I think about that, it's all I can do not to start another quilt right this very second. I could gladly piece another quilt today, making up a pattern this time, because it's cool to see a coherent design take shape. Or maybe I won't. I just heard about a new yarn shop in town--maybe I'll go see what they have to offer and take up knitting again.

7 Comments

When I was in the final throes of disseration writing, I took up quilting -- a huge quilt top of mostly rectangles that was supposed to be books on bookshelves. I worked on the top for a little while every day for about four months, finishing it just before my defense... and never did get it backed and quilted.

I found that the juxtaposition of sewing with writing kept me on the "acceptable" side of that sanity line they warn students about. After about an hour a day of cutting, pinning and stitching, I could stand to go back to pounding the keyboard for another six or eight hours.

So now you have me thinking I should go downstairs to my similar workshop and dig out that quilt top. It might even spur me to sit down and crank out that chapter that's been hanging over my head...

I still have the pattern, and if you would like to use it I'll be happy to send it to you.

And by the way, I found your blog originally by following a series of links that started with a knitting blog... I think it was "And She Knits, Too" that sent me toward a feminist site, which sent me to you.

So go get some yarn!

I still have the pattern, and if you would like to use it I'll be happy to send it to you.

I would love to see that pattern, Juti. Thanks for the offer. If you need to send it snail mail, email me and I'll give you a real address.

So go get some yarn!

I think I will. Though buying yarn is the easy part for me--deciding what I want to make is the real challenge, though one I enjoy: I love looking endlessly through magazines and books before finally settling on a pattern.

I checked out And She Knits, Too! It's a cool blog--thanks for mentioning it.

One of the things (of many) that I find so fascinating about you, Holly, is how well-rounded you are. Besides your intellectual and creative work, you nurture your many senses: the tactile (sewing); taste (cooking); physical (lying in bed and focusing on your toes!). It's part of the joy of visiting here. One might find a fantastic feminist essay or a recipe, on any given day - :)

If you're in the market for fabric, you should come down to D.C. and go through the collection of fabrics my mother has been acculumating for YEARS as a result of her custom drapery business. She has some amazing fabrics. And I'm trying to convince her to get rid of them, as they are a storage nightmare!

The description of your quilt sounds stunning. Perhaps you could post a picture on your other blog...???

It's part of the joy of visiting here. One might find a fantastic feminist essay or a recipe, on any given day - :)

thanks, Frankengirl. It's part of what I go for: variety. I have to be well-rounded because otherwise I get bored.

The description of your quilt sounds stunning. Perhaps you could post a picture on your other blog...???

Actually, I hope to post it here, Janet. I just have to take and then upload a picture to my computer with the digital camera I got for Christmas. I've taken pictures with it, I've just never uploaded them, because the USB port in my computer is in the BACK, and hard to get to. But one of these days I'll attempt it, I promise....

I am envious of your compulsion. I think I need to just dive in and go get out my scraps too. Chris often looks at me cross-eyed and complains about all my sewing stuff that I never use. I have a nightmare about going to make a quilt and all of my scraps are gone. I think it's because Chris is always telling me to dejunk and throw them out. He just doesn't get it. Sometimes you just have to give in to that feeling of needing to create something even if it does take over your life. I used to allow myself more compulsive behavior. Maybe I need to take some time and tell Chris and the kids to go to hell while I make a quilt. It would probably do me good. Thanks for giving me something to think about. I think I'll go right now and start sorting scraps for a quilt. Compulsion here I come!

good luck, Ann. I hope you make something you like and enjoy it in the process, too. And I just can't bear the thought of throwing out my scraps--why, they're still USEFUL!

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 2, 2006 6:50 PM.

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