Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There was a British TV show  in the late '70s called Robin's Nest, and I watched it every now and then, but it was pretty pathetic.  My only interest was a quilt on the bed, and I had to be ever vigilant to catch a glimpse of it.  It had blue and brown blocks on a shirting background, with soft pink sashing, and I loved what I could see of it.  I thought it was made of Monkey Wrench blocks, so I drew up a pattern and filed it away for later.

When I did get round to starting it I had two small children, and knew that if I sewed it by hand it would take forever, so I gritted my teeth and vowed that I'd master this machine piecing thing once and for all.  This was waaay before rotary cutters and rulers.  I used the same templates that I would for hand piecing, and sewed the pieces together on the drawn line.  It worked, but I wasn't having any fun with it, and after 11 blocks it all went into the cupboard.

Later the blocks came out to be used as a practice piece for Quilt-As-You-Go, but that wasn't very successful either.  I can't even find the three blocks I put together with that method, I may have thrown them away.  Then a few years ago I flung the remaining 8 blocks and the sashing fabric at Mereth and said dismissively, "You can do something with those if you like, or cut them up, I don't care!"
A month ago I was searching for the pink fabric I'd used for the setting triangles in the Cactus Basket quilt, and Mereth said 'That's round at my place.' What??!!  Indeed it was, with the Monkey Wrench blocks that I'd totally forgotten about.  Mereth was a good sport and gave me back the fabric, and then I was a total Indian Giver and took back the blocks as well.  They bring back memories, and our little separation has made me think kindly of them again.

When I look at the original blocks I remember how badly I wanted to make quilts that looked like the antiques I loved, and how frustrated I was with the lack of fabrics, the lack of time to do handwork, the complete absence of all the tools that make doing a good job so easy.

I sewed these together  on my Bernina 817, and the tension wasn't set very well, so some of the seams look gathered,
and I used a really thick cotton thread for some reason.  It's enormous compared to the Rasant I use now.  That can't have helped, all that bulk in the seams.  Small wonder I didn't enjoy the process, but I didn't know any better back then.  Didn't know how to press things properly either.
 I struggled to do a good job then, it seemed I was hampered by so many things, but I kept on trying; until I got discouraged and gave up.  When I saw those blocks again I thought I owed it to my younger self to see them through to a finished quilt.
I don't have enough of the original pink fabric, of course, so I need to find something for a border....

I've not been happy without my Singer 538, and recently my new ironing board cover melted all over my very best iron and I couldn't iron a thing without it sticking and burning; talk about irritating.  It made me remember when all my machine patchwork was accompanied by that intense frustration, that fury that things just wouldn't go right.  Now I can cut my pieces the perfect size with superbly accurate acrylic rulers and the indispensable rotary cutter; I have my Beloved to sew the pieces together perfectly, and I have a new proper ironing board cover and a clean iron.  It's all so easy when you have the proper equipment.  The old saying is that a bad workman blames his tools for a bad job; I reckon a good workman should give his tools credit for a job well done.

4 comments:

Nancy 6:04 PM  

No wonder you fell in love with that quilt. Yours will be gorgeous - very comforting and homey.

moosecraft 3:59 AM  

A job done well indeed! That's a great quilt! I've seen similar pictured in antique quilt books... running out of the pink and adding a similar pink will add to the antique appearance of it... and the story behind the process is priceless!
Yes... proper tools can make or break a project... glad you are sticking to it!

Diane-crewe 9:14 AM  

you have proved you can do it ... so you go girl and love those blocks xx

Carolyn 1:13 AM  

Oh, when we think of how far we have come. I can relate to your early days, they sound familiar. I didn't know a quilter and had to figure it all out myself. Black and white Quilters newsletters magazines were my reference. That elusive quarter inch seam, it's a wonder I ever finished anything. I love reading your posts, thank you.

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