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The completed quilt with hands and feet of the appliquér and the quilter…

A couple of months ago I had a quilt chosen to represent my Guild (Chelmsford), at the “Best of Guilds” exhibit  sponsored by the New England Quilt Museum. I was really happy and excited about this because Learning Curve is my favorite quilt.

Now, I know you’re not supposed to have favorites (or is that just with children?), but I can’t help it.  Learning Curve has so many emotional ties for me that I will always love it best.

My first applique block: Fleur de Lis

It’s inextricably linked with my Mom.  She’s an extraordinary appliquér, and she kept nagging me to try appliqué, but I was intimidated. After years of gentle (and not-so-gentle) persuasion, I cracked open Elly Sienkiewicz’ Baltimore Beauties book and did my first block.

And it wasn’t awful. It does kinda look like the original pattern. The white thread I used to whip stitch it on to the background doesn’t show too much. It probably doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny (although I am told differently.)

But it was an awful lot of work, I thought, so I put it away and did smaller blocks like the blocks on Dear Jane (which are 4-1/2″ square.)

The second block, Strawberry Wreath, fought me

I resumed working out of Elly’s books from time to time, but the second block I tried fought me and I only managed to subdue it two years later. (Because of this block, I developed an antipathy towards freezer paper, but I should probably save that little rant for another post…)

Then, I learned back-basting. Suddenly appliqué was fun again. I managed to finish enough blocks to make a nine block quilt. I even designed the center block myself, since I had read that most Baltimore Album quilts had buildings on them.

I dubbed the quilt Learning Curve when I realized that it was a quilted journal of my appliqué education. After waffling, I included my first appliqué block in all it’s *ahem* glory, and my first original design: Hope for a House.

About this time, my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  With the chemo, etc, she didn’t feel like doing much and she said her color sense had shifted so she wasn’t having any fun choosing fabrics herself. We usually talk every Sunday, and almost always quilting is mentioned.

My original design: Hope for a House

As I worked on it, we discussed my progress on Learning Curve. Eventually, she asked the dreaded question: what I was going to do when I was done with the blocks? I replied (as I usually did):  Oh, probably put them in a box back in the closet somewhere.

I’m sure this response appalled her so much she offered to quilt it for me. By hand.

So, I put it all together and sent it to Pittsburgh and told her that she could quilt it any way she wanted.

She outlined quilted most of the appliqué motifs, and did some interior quilting when she felt it was needed (mostly in the house block.)  She grid quilted the backgrounds.  She came up with a really cool “rope” looking motif for the sashing, and lastly, she had my Dad (our unsung hero of the quilt) draft and mark a fabulous feather border.  It took her 18 months.

I heard about the progress in my weekly phone calls.

Now, every time I look at the quilt, I see my Dad marking it and my Mom quilting it and I feel like we all worked on it together.

You can see my quilt (and lots of others, equally nice and possibly nicer, though probably not as I’m incredibly biased) August 9-11 at the Lowell Quilt Festival (at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in Lowell, Mass.)

To see more of the story of Learning Curve, I kept a sort of journal at my old website.