Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WIPs and UFOs

One of my challenges for this year, sewing-wise, was to finish all of the WIPs I have. WIPs (Works In Progress) or UFOs (UnFinished Objects), are the ones that sit on shelves, or in drawers (or bins) and wait to get finished while I am happily starting more and more new projects. My favorite part is the design of a quilt, and then the magic of seeing it take shape. The piecing is exciting for me in that it leads to the magic of the quilt taking shape. The quilting and binding is, honestly, my least favorite parts. Maybe it’s because I feel there’s not much creativity there. To me the process is mostly mechanical. Maybe if I experimented with quilting techniques and patterns it would be better. This would be easier to do if I had a machine that could handle it easily, or if I were to try hand quilting. My attempts at hand quilting have not been gratifying so far…
In any case, and whatever the reason, I have a few WIPs I need to finish this year, and it’s already mid-July. So since we’ve come back from our trip I’ve been resisting starting new projects (even if I DO have sketches for a couple), and I’ve been working on projects I already have in progress. Some of these are newish and some are quite old. The newish include my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah quilt, started 3 months ago and due to be done in August (and the subject of another post). The older include an entirely hand-pieced huge top which I started years ago and have been adding to as time goes on. The pieces are all curved, which is why it is hand-pieced. My machine can’t handle curved piecing very well. I can do it, but I find it frustrating. It’s so frustrating in fact that I choose to keep doing the piecing by hand.
Here’s what the pieces look like. Individual pieces:
Yes, I made a template, and drew on fabric, and cut each of these out by hand. I have...about 400, I think.
Then I sew them into pairs, like so:
Then, I sew the pairs into foursomes:
Then, I sew them into larger pieces, joining two foursomes into, um, eightsomes (??) and so on. All by hand. Yes, this is why it's taking me years (in addition to the fact that I am doing other things in the meantime).

This is my quiet-time-on-the-couch project.  I have been working on this piece for so long I can see my development in it, as a person, mom, aunt, daughter, as well as as a quilter. It includes fabrics from projects long since finished: it includes fabrics from clothes I made for the kids when they were babies, and for all the other kids-nieces and nephews-since. It includes fabric given to me by my sister in law when she got rid of her “stash” and fabric left over from a dress that belonged to my other sister in law’s mother (when she, the mother, was a teen). It includes fabrics from Halloween costumes and several wedding canopies I’ve made (including my own). It’s wonderful to sit and sew it, covered in it, and see my story grow with the quilt.
I don’t know any more how long I’ve been working on it, and it is very slow going. However, last winter I got sick and while sick is no fun, it did give me lots of time on the couch. Suddenly the quilt, as quilts do, started taking shape. The moment when you feel you’ve moved from “a bunch of pieces of fabric” to a single, cohesive piece, is wonderful, and very gratifying.

Another plus to hand-piecing is that I can take it with me: portable project! Around this time, I brought some pieces to my parents’ on a night we were having dinner there. I was talking about it with my mother, and sister-in-law, and the subject of a recipient for this piece came up. I said I don’t have one in mind and that I am waiting until the recipient makes her/himself known. At this point my mother said that since the bed spread I made for her and my father (one of my first pieced pieces) is going on 14 years old, she’d like to ask for this one as a bed spread. And I found my recipient!

In order for the piece to cover my parents’ queen sized bed generously, I needed to cut more pieces, and keep enlarging the piece. Back I went to the template and my fabric stash. I cut some fabric from more recent projects and started sewing them together.

This past week I was ill, and on the couch, again, and in between naps I did some sewing. I hope to have the piece done this winter, by my parents’ anniversary month.
I’ll post pictures, and more of this quilt’s journey, when it’s done.

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