Sunday, July 13, 2014

Smoky Mountains Quilt

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A long time ago, maybe thirteen years or more, I started making this quilt.  I realized quickly that sewing those curved seams on a machine, while possible, was an aggravation I did not wish to endure, so I cut out all the blocks and commenced to hand-piecing them.  I probably worked on it sporadically.  Then, as now, this was not a project that required any kind of creative input—just the two colors, and the layout already determined, so it was pretty boring. 

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Because I am that way, I cut out all the pieces, sorted them into piles by block, tucked each pile into its own plastic baggie, and put the pattern pieces carefully away.  I put a needle and three pins into a strawberry pincushion, and that, along with my spool of thread and a pair of collapsible scissors went into a zip bag in the workbasket.  Neat.  Orderly. 

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We went camping, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.  The kids were still really little, which is how I am scientifically dating the origins of this project—I had it with me in 2001.  It felt so right to sit beside the campfire with a little piece of handwork on my lap, stitching away while the children played tag and built fairy houses in the poison ivy.  I got a lot of sewing done.  That’s the best thing about camping; when you’re all done catching your own dinner, struggling to light the stove, sitting in the open trunk of the car while the rain extinguishes your fire, swatting mosquitoes while you eat, and washing it all up again in a bucket of tepid water, you have nothing to do but work on your quilt.  Which I did. 

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Once home, though, away from the griddle cakes and country music, this project lost all its panache.  I folded up the fourteen hand-pieced blocks I’d finished, along with the remaining two baggie packets of cut shapes, the pattern pieces, the needle, the thread, the collapsible scissors, the strawberry pincushion, and a huge piece of 90” wide muslin to be used for the backing, and stuffed it all into a bin in the attic, where it quickly disappeared beneath several layers of debris strata.

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I thought about them a few times.  Wondered where they’d got to.

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Then, a few weeks ago, in the process of ransacking cleaning the attic, I found them.  They needed a wash, so while they tumbled in the washer, then flapped on the clothesline, I made the last two blocks. 

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I hand-sewed the blocks together and scrounged enough wool batting pieces from the stash to fill it.  I hand-quilted it in my usual way, with #8 pearl cotton, using big stitches, right across the pattern in both directions.  My quilting stitches are kinda in your face. 

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I hand-sewed the binding--three out of four good miters this time, a step backwards—and it was done.  The pattern, in case you are inclined to go hand-stitching into the mountains, is the traditional “Drunkard’s Path”—you can find a free tutorial here—and there are as many ways to piece the individual blocks as there are blackberries in the bramble.  I’m pretty pleased to have this one done.  Finally.  That’s two hand-pieced quilts in a row. 

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Here I go again!