Saturday, September 3, 2016

Pickle Quilt


My dyepot simmers as I type this. I am boiling up a reeking vat of early-season goldenrod, hoping to achieve this color, or as close as I can get to it. Seriously, this color. I am helpless before it.

It occured to me awhile ago that while I have a metric ton of finished patchwork quilts, all lovely, in every possible size, with both wool batting and cotton batting, piled up all around the place, I didn't really have one that I wanted living on the bed. The every-night quilt wasn't among my quilts. The every-night quilt has to be a quilt that is not only delectable for sleeping under (wool batting, please, in all seasons. I am right about this.) and big enough for Doc and me to share (he totally steals the covers) but it also has to look just right, too, because I walk past the door all day long and I can see the bed, and I want it to look smashing. I like to look in there as I go by, and think, "Ah, dang. That looks great." It also has to be interesting for me to sew, and also finishable, if you know what I mean. If the pattern is too ambitious, I will probably make seven blocks and then abandon it.

So I turned to my quilt guru (and possibly yours, too) Denyse Schmidt, and in her beautiful and inspiring book "Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspirations" I found this design, called "Shoeman's Puzzle." I know, triangles. But I loved the graphic slam-dunk of the two contrasting colors, and the dizzying way the pattern moves around as you look at it--the triangles together, sewn into squares, making larger circles--I loved it. I decided to use Kona Cotton, and after being temporarily paralyzed into indecision by the glut of color choices, picked out two: "Pickle" (not quite green, or yellow, or chartreuse either, exactly...) and "Limestone" (a greenish taupe). This color, pickle, is The Color. I went in looking for something a lot more subdued and ordinary, but Pickle wanted to be the one, and I was ready to accept Pickle into my daily and nightly life. Pickle, come on home to me, darling. I'm hoping that the cauldron of weeds stinking up my kitchen right now will yield a color close to Pickle. Goals.

I made about half of the individual blocks by hand, slow-crafting while watching television and all that, and it was fine, but then I realized that what I wanted was not a project, but a blanket. I already have enough big projects lurking in my work baskets and also in my imagination to keep me going indefinitely, and this didn't need to be one of them, so I finished the rest on the machine, and then started quilting it by hand.

I quilt by hand because dragging a queen-size quilt through the ordinary-sized arm hole in my sewing machine is excruciatingly frustrating, and it is probably how I have ruined several fancy sewing machines. [RIP, Bernina]. Also, I think hand-quilting looks fantastic. I am not, however, committed to spending the rest of my days painstakingly executing 12-stitches to the inch [sorry, Grandma, you did try...] I love the look and, frankly, the speed of utility quilting; big, clumsy, uneven stitches on done in #8 (or sometimes #5) perle cotton, with a big needle, right on the worktable, which is by now completely scratched and beat from hand quilting (tip: if you want to preserve the surface of your table, put your cutting mat down between the table and the quilt, and then go ahead and go to town. It's too late for me, but you can still save yourself.) I used a ceramic marking pen like this one to mark the top, tracing around cups and plates from the kitchen cupboard, and then just put The Monkees on repeat and started stitching. It took me about a week, what with also knitting and, you know, making dinner and stuff. I think I could've done it all in a day if I'd had a whole day, which I hardly ever do. Anyway, there wasn't any rush, other than the fact that every time I walked past the table, where it was draped and in-progress, I'd just kind of clutch my pearls and go all dreamy-eyed, breathily whispering Oh, Pickle. How I adore thee.

It was so pretty there, and I loved it already, even before it was finished. How great is it when that happens?